Harden's survey result
For 25 years we've been curating reviews of the UK's most notable restaurant. This year diners have submitted over 60,000 reviews to create the most authoritative restaurant guide in the UK.
“It looks basic, but that’s because every single dish speaks for itself, or should that be SHOUTS!” – the accepted view on this engaging, if slightly “bleak” Spitalfields canteen – “younger sibling to the Smithfield veteran”, whose “lip smacking” menu of offal-centric British “delights” has long made it “a real favourite”. Several meals this year however “didn’t live up to its reputation”, and ratings have dipped as a result.
This “stark (very St John)” white-walled canteen near Spitalfields is arguably “reminiscent of a public convenience”, but it’s “always a treat to go there”. The often “wacky” and offal-centric British dishes are “exceptional” – “mouth-wateringly good” – and “they always seem to have a wine that you’ve never tried before, and it’s always first class”. Top Tip – breakfast comprises “bacon sandwich heaven”.
“The finest bacon butties in the universe” are but one highlight of the “otherworldly” small plates (majoring in “offal-y wonders”) served at this marvellously “vibrant” (if “noisy”) Shoreditch canteen; “service can be prickly, but hey ho”.
“A new and fantastic experience every time”; with its menu of “quirky” small-plate dishes (usually meaty) and “cheapish and unusual wines”, this “noisy” Shoreditch canteen is “always a joy”; indeed, the survey rates it more highly than its fabled Smithfield parent.
St John Bread & Wine Restaurant Diner Reviews
"I'm told we have St John to thank (?!) for the current mania for sharing plates. However, a lot of the food is just too good to share! Excellent ingredients, well paired and well treated."
"An old, old favourite that serves reliably good food. Although St John has spawned generations of chefs who take the style and ethos of St John - and a jolly good thing this is - Bread and Wine is where I go with friends for good food, good wine and great conviviality."
St John Bread & Wine E1
One of the London's odder facets is the dearth of restaurants specialising in traditional British scoff. You're more likely to get risotto in your classic central London pub nowadays than steak & oyster pie.
Two years ago, St John - one of the few places serving exciting and genuine British food - launched this spin-off establishment, east of ever-more chichi Spitalfields Market. Five minutes' walk from Liverpool Street, it offers some of the best food easily accessible from the Square Mile.
As at the Spartan Farringdon original, the room couldn't be more functional: a white-walled square, with bare tables and a kitchen at the back. Staff wear white. It all seems reassuringly no-nonsense and professional.
"Challenging" is how St John's food is often described: a reflection on how alien dishes using offal seem to some people nowadays. "Chitterlings & Mustard", for example - seared pigs intestines snaking around the plate, brought 'The Quatermass Experiment' to mind. Delicious, though. And the enjoyably blunt menu (descriptions seldom exceed four words) offers numerous vegetarian and fish choices, so you really don't have to 'do that to yourself' if you don't want to.
The 'Bread & Wine' of the restaurant's name are available to take-away. Given the difficulty of finding 'artisan' bread in London, the former is particularly worth knowing (and for no more that a nice loaf from Waitrose). There is an interesting and eclectic choice of wine - I drank a good dry, fruity white from Irouleguy in the Basque Country.
There's something about the timeless, refectory-style of the room, the honest food and the professional, no-nonsense service that feel set to endure. Perhaps in 100 years' time, when the proverbial tourist wants to visit a quaint, traditionally British institution, this will be just the place.
94-96 Commercial St, London, E1 6LZ
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lunch noon - 4 pm, dinner 6 pm - 11 pm
Last orders: 10.30 pm, Mon 8 pm