Four and a half days wasn’t nearly enough time for me to do all the eating I wanted to get done in London. I mean, it was a good little chunk of time and let me tell you, I made the best of it, but really, I needed days more.
I knew that going into it though, which is why as soon as I had dumped my bags at the hotel, I headed straight out the door, hopped on the tube (which by the way, is precisely a million times better than the rat-infested NYC subway) and made my way to Fergus Henderson’s St John Bread and Wine across the street from Spitalfields Market just in time for lunch.
While musing over the menu, wondering how many plates I could order by myself and not blatantly give myself away as a fat American on vacation, the server came by with a plate of bread and butter. I’d show you a picture of what was a stack of beautiful, thickly sliced fresh-baked bread with a pale yellow butter so perfectly rich and salty I wanted to dig into it with my fingers, but I was so famished that I hoovered it before I could think to pull my camera out. So yea, sorry about that.
Crispy pig skin, for the record, is a fantastic way to start a vacation
St John’s is all about nose to tail eating, the idea of not wasting any part of an animal and using all the odd bits for making delicious meals, so I felt the crispy pig’s skin was an obvious choice. And this folks, turned out to be an excellent example of phenomenal decision making, because that damn pig skin was de-freakin’-licious. Crispy, crunchy strips of fried pig skin mixed in with tangy, sweet cooked red onion, sweet and slightly bitter chicory, all tossed in a spicy, mustardy dressing made for the best welcome to London lunch I could’ve ever asked for.
Good looks to match its deliciousness
To go with it I also ordered the goat’s curd and mint, a gorgeous green heap of big, fat mint leaves drizzled with a bright green, spicy olive oil (not that it had spices in it, but just spicy in that way of really good, new olive oil) all on a thick, creamy spread of tangy, cream cheese like curd from goat’s milk on a crunchy slice of toast. Vibrant, bold, fresh flavors and a great mix of textures made me one very happy fat kid on vacation.
A most delicious end to a great first lunch
To be completely honest, I could’ve easily put down another plate or two but I was feeling a bit self conscious as it was, sitting at a table alone, so I just skipped to dessert and at the suggestion of the server, ordered the rhubarb and ice cream. Any hesitation I’d had (and there definitely was some since bread pudding and butterscotch sauce was also on the menu) disappeared when the server said it would be a few minutes while the kitchen prepared the brioche. YES, I thought, there’s brioche involved? YES YES YES. Not long after, she came back with a fat scoop of creamy, spiced ice cream, a small dish of warm, rosy, poached rhubarb and a golden, glistening, perfectly-toasted brioche. I chomped into it, making it ooze with a mix of butter and honey, and then spooned some of the rich, creamy ice cream and the tangy, warm rhubarb into my mouth, and well… there were fireworks going on in my head.
I can’t say enough how much I loved this place. Simple, unpretentious and casual, and with food so good it made me weak in the knees, I think I’d go here once a week if I lived across the pond. I was really looking forward to eating at his other restaurant, St John, the first one in the bunch, but like a moron I showed up when they were closed. (I forget that outside of New York places actually close from time to time.) But really, St John Bread and Wine was so good and I loved it so much, that it might just be enough to hold me over until the next time I get over to London.