It's well known among those who
know me that one of my favourite
ressys in the world is Terre a Terre in Brighton. It's entirely
vegetarian and has the longest menu descriptions to be found, each dish
being landed with 15 adjectives and 20 obscure ingredients. St John is
diametrically opposed. Each menu item consists of no more words than
are absolutely necessary for the decision making process and most of
them relate to part of an animal. So, I started with Smoked Eel Fillet,
followed it with Mallard and Lentils and ended with Lancashire cheese
and Eccles cake. For lubrication we demolished a truly superior MOULIS
EN MEDOC (2000) Chateau Poujeaux Cru Exceptionnel and a perfectly
decent CAHORS (2000) Chateau du Cedre. Oh, and a couple of Taylor's 10
yr old Tawnys while we were desserting.
This is a high quality, serious business, fine dining, posh, expensive restaurant. But, crucially, it maintains a light, bright, noisy and good-time atmosphere. Not the slightest hint of a stuffy dining room here. It's loud, it's busy, it's fun. The staff were of the efficient, no nonsense school of table waiting and they were present when we needed them, invisible when we didn't and their knowledge of the products could not be faulted.
If I'm going to have a whine with my cheese I suppose there's 2 minor problems and they're kind of related. First, the prices are high, to some they could appear frighteningly ludicrous, especially Tripe and chips for £14.00 and a wine list that goes up to £1,200. Second, prices like this in the southern reaches of Clerkenwell attract a specifc range of my least favourite wot-wot punters. One delightful specimen close by managed to smoke continual cigarettes wearing a gaudy jumper thrown over the shoulders while making sneering comments with the voice of a strangled goose (lucky they didn't put him on the menu, smoked poshtwit liver is quite a delicacy I hear).
The menu changes every day, it's up the road from work, the drinks list alone is enough to keep me happy ; I think I'll be going back before too long.