Harden's survey result
Home of “possibly the best bacon sandwich in London amongst all the faddishness and superficiality of modern Spitalfields” – this “carnivore heaven” is “more accessible and less full-on than the original (and still best) St John”, but still serves “excellent nose-to-tail food” from breakfast to dinner. Its white-walled, canteen-like quarters are echoey and not especially comfortable, but somehow avoid seeming as grimly utilitarian as they otherwise might. Top Tip – the baking is gorgeous: “an Eccles cake here will offer all the benefits of a warm hug”.
“You can’t beat a great bacon sarnie and a range of other delicious breakfast specials” at this long-established spin-off from Smithfield’s St John, near Spitalfields Market. At other times this utilitarian canteen serves its “very good, if sometimes overly quirky” offal-centric British menu alongside a “wine list full of vintages you’ve never heard of, but which are always enjoyable”.
“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”.
|Wine per bottle||£28.00|
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
|Number of Diners:|
|Monday||12 pm‑4 pm, 6 pm‑10 pm|
|Tuesday||12 pm‑4 pm, 6 pm‑11 pm|
|Wednesday||12 pm‑4 pm, 6 pm‑11 pm|
|Thursday||12 pm‑4 pm, 6 pm‑11 pm|
|Friday||12 pm‑4 pm, 6 pm‑11 pm|
|Saturday||1 pm‑4 pm, 6 pm‑11 pm|
|Sunday||1 pm‑4 pm, 6 pm‑10 pm|