I turned 32 yesterday. It just sort of snuck up on me. I think with every year I’m more and more resigned to the fact that age cannot be controlled and no matter what I will begin to sag and wrinkle and that is okay, really. And, you know, being “in your thirties” means that you start to do more grown up things. Things you always thought in your 20s sounded a bit lame and boring, but now you enjoy because it means it doesn’t involve queues to get in to late bars with horrendously loud music and subsequently being on the receiving end of an equally horrendous hangover the next day. (Please note, I know how old that makes me sound. I am aware.)
So in this civilised vein of adulthood, my other half took me to dinner at St John in Farringdon to celebrate being “in my thirties”. I have never been to St John, despite lusting after it and its sister restaurant on Commercial Street, St John Bread and Wine, for several years. For me, it is one of those places which the gastroworld always seems to return to; a beacon of solidarity against new faddish restaurants which come and go as quickly as they start. So, now, 10 years of lusting later, I am sat in the dining room and perusing the menu with maybe a little too much excitement for someone my age.
With its reputation for nose to tail eating, I really want to go for the offal because I pride myself on being adventurous and completely unfunny about less-than-popular foods, but I seem to be unable to get over the idea of eating brains or intestines. I think it is partly because I have never made them myself so I cannot really visualise the process. So, I settle for the Roasted Bone Marrow to start. My boyfriend, who is feeling far more adventurous than I, goes for the Chitterlings and Dandelion.
The bone marrow was phenomenal. Served with toast, grey salt, and parsley, the flavours sang together in unctuous harmony. The amount of marrow perfectly matched the amount of bread served, unlike an unfortunate pâté order, when you are left looking for something to accompany the remaining slab on your plate after your single slice of toast has been exhausted. This attention to detail was really appreciated. Chitterlings, despite sounding a bit twee and like something out of a Disney cartoon, are, for those of us who are unsure, pig intestines and in fact were delightful. Served with chopped up dandelion and cornichons, they were lovely and piggy, slightly sweet and very tender.
For mains, I went for Smoked Haddock, Saffron and Parsnips, and Boyf went for one of the specials, Blood Cake, with a side of Greens. I had heard good things about the Blood Cake, but still, despite the amazingness of the Chitterlings, I couldn’t commit to something so off piste! Even so, the haddock was firm, not hard or dry, and perfectly cooked. It came with a buttery saffron sauce, which heightened the taste, albeit made it a tad on the salty side. The parsnips were a salve for the salt, and amalgamated the flavours in a wonderful balance of savoury, sweet, and buttery goodness. Delightful, but a conservative choice.
The Blood Cake was like black pudding with an Ivy League education. Bigger, richer, more refined. Served with two fried eggs on top, in a manner similar to the parsnips, these eggs tempered the flavour, giving it a deeper, smoother and more rounded taste. I had never experienced anything quite like it. The Greens were cooked well, but incredibly salty, and with my haddock already being on the top end of the salt spectrum, it was a bit much as an accompanying side.
And finally, we moved on to the puddings. Again, I am now kicking myself with my pansy ordering. I ended with chocolate mousse and a single of Auchentoshan with some ice. A safe bet. An easy bet. But dammit! It was nothing compared to Boyf’s Apple Sorbet and Polish Vodka. This, people, could easily have been the most amazing thing I have ever tasted. The sorbet was clean, fresh, light, smooth, and then, with a little sip of the vodka whilst the sorbet taste was still in my mouth, the flavours turned to perfume and my whole nose and mouth became an explosion of flowers and fruit. Wonderful.
I wish that I had been a bit more brave at St John. My meal was wonderful, but I wish that I had really grown a pair of balls and gone for what they do best at St John: blood and guts. Perhaps now that I’m a little older, and a little wiser, the next time I go, the calves brains and lamb sweetbreads will seem a little less daunting and I will jump on the nose to tail bandwagon a little more readily than I did last night. Until then, black pudding anyone?
Three course meal for two including wine, not including service, £112.90.