|Last Orders||10.30 pm, Sun 9.30 pm|
"well designed and constructed dishes ; a most enjoyable lunch"
"To say that the menu was idiosyncratic would be an understatement. Many unusual dishes, but pleasantly surprised at how good the were. Lively atmosphere and generally efficient service."
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.
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