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Friday, April 23, 2004

St.John Restaurant Smithfield and the Revenge of the Piggy


At St.John (the restaurant, not the B&W this time) last night with a big gang of friends to top up my fantastic eating week in London with a roasted piggy at St.John.

I had been waiting for this meal for weeks, ever since my London friends suggested we get a gang of us together for a pig feast for me when I'm in town. St.John helped us assemble a menu to compliment the pig.

Here's what we had:
Langoustine Langoustines and Mayonnaise
mussels Mussels and Cabbage
StJBone St.John's famous Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad

Main course:
piggie pork Whole roasted piglet

potato New potatoes and greens
monksbeard Monk's beard
watercrest Watercress salad

Puddings: (English for desserts)
sorbetvodka Lemon sorbet and Russian vodka
biscuits Biscuits
marmaladebbpudding Seville orange bread and butter pudding
rhubarbfool Rhubarb fool

The meal was simply St.John at its best form. Pure and simple. Every single dish was extremely simple, yet far from one dimensional. Every ingredient shone in its own right, I could taste every single one of them. I can't possibly pick a favorite, as everything was simply superb.

The langoustines were extremely fresh and sweet, barely needing the mayonnaise. But then again, the superlative mayonnaise was fantastic in itself, eaten with a spoon, or swiped with bread as I saw Jay do it. The simply named mussels and cabbage was anything but simple. The cabbage provided a lovely crunch, in a tangy vinaigrette and laced with sweet mussels. What can I say that hasn't already been said about the marrow bones, just classic.

The roasted pig was absolutely beyond description, the skin crisp, the meat like BUTTAH. I wept. Seriously.

The side dishes could have been the star of the meal in their own right. The new potatoes were creamy and buttery, the greens crunchy and bittersweet. The monk's beard was indescribably good, despite, or perhaps because of, the simple preparation. The watercress salad would win over even the most ardent haters of watercress. The dressing was sharp and mustardy, with little bits of shallots and crunchy gherkins throughout. Superb.

Then came the puddings. None of us thought we could manage any more, but St.John surprised us with a complimentary palate cleanser of their famous lemon sorbet served with Russian vodka. It was sublime, simply sublime. I poured the vodka shot on my sorbet. A few people around me raised an eye brow, but then quickly followed suite. Half way finished, the sorbet disintegrated beautifully into the vodka, at which time I picked up the sorbet bowl and down that baby in one swig. I had trouble focusing my eyes afterwards, but managed to see a few blurry figures around me doing the same thing. I love my friends.

We also had a plate of the most addictive little butter biscuits. Them little biscuits were like crack, I tell you.

Then it was time for the real puddings, a mah-velous Seville orange bread and butter pudding and a lovely and tangy rhubarb fool. These desserts were classically English, and so typically St.John, that is to say just fantastic. Not fancy, not dressed up, just simple honest-to-goodness homestyle dessert. The bread and butter pudding was also served with a giant mug of the creamiest custard, overkill really, but none of us complaint, instead obediently licking every drop of the custard right off the mug!

P.S. Why The Revenge of the Piggy? Oh, you don't want to know.

P.P.S. Forgot to add that at St.John last night, true to form, was an assortment of celebrities from far and wide, including none other than Jamie Oliver and his Jules, Nicole Farhi and her playwright husband David Hare. Not to mention, ahem, the esteemed food critic from the Observer, Jay Rayner, ahem. :-)


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