The UnProfessional Chef

A girl's commentary on food, cooking and all things delicious!

Name:
Location: Singapore

A closet food critic and wannabe chef who loves the art of cooking and enjoying great cuisine in the company of great friends!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Going Native

After several days of feasting on cuisine from all other cultures, we finally decided to have a robust proper English meal. English cuisine has long had a bad reputation for us. For both Mr UnProfessional Chef and myself, English food in our university days meant boiled-to-death vegetables, greasy fry-ups of black pudding and sausage, and tinned baked beans on toast. But English chefs have roared back over the past couple of years with the likes of Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck and Gordon Ramsay of his eponymous restaurants making the headlines for reviving the reputation of English cooking.

We decided to forego both the above since Gordon Ramsay does French cuisine and it was simply too impossible to get into The Fat Duck on short notice. Instead, we headed to St John – a restaurant set in an historic old smokehouse with a striking all-white interior, which prides itself on serving quintessentially English fare with a definite focus on meat, meat and more meat. Indeed, the mantra of its chef Fergus Henderson is ‘nose to tail eating’ and its location, a stone’s throw away from the historic Smithfield meat market, was a significant message that this was indeed what our meal would primarily consist of. Though I was feeling mildly ill by this time given the excessive eating we’d been doing, I looked forward to what promised to be a most interesting meal.

Onion, Squash and Bacon soup

The starting entrèes were superb. I had Onion, Squash and Bacon soup which was bright orange and delightfully robust with huge pieces of squash flavourfully mellowed by the melt-in-your-mouth onion bits and smoked bacon.

Grilled Venison Heart, Beetroot and Pickled Walnuts

Mr UnProfessional Chef had Grilled Venison Heart, Beetroot and Pickled Walnuts. This turned out to be a true eye-opener. Despite its macabre moniker coupled with visions of Bambi and his mother frolicking in the fields of my imagination, the juicy tasty hearts were delectably good and tasted like the best meat possible, not at all gamey or strange. The beetroot and pickled walnuts helped set off the meat with their sweet tanginess.

Roast Lamb and Aioli

Given my unsettled tummy, I opted for the safest choice possible for my main course – Roast Lamb and Aioli. I was a bit nonplussed by the arrival of rather simply done very pink medium-rare lamb but this baby was roasted to perfection. The crisp skin and soft, subtle meat allowed one to taste the purity of the exceptional lamb’s flavours without being too overbearing. The garlic aioli was fairly overpowering but proved a decent complement to the ‘rawness’ of the meat.

Rabbit Saddle and Lentils

Mr UnProfessional Chef had Rabbit Saddle and Lentils. Being a meat lover, he was on cloud nine after this dish. The rabbit tasted not the least bit gamey, yet possessing a unique flavour (I refuse to make comparisons to chicken or pork) and was top-quality. Tenderly roasted and paired thoughtfully with lentils of all things, this was enjoyed tremendously by both of us.

Pear and Sherry Trifle

With all that meat sitting like heavy weights in our tummies, one would expect sensible restraint in regards to dessert. But these were enormous! A Pear and Sherry Trifle so huge it burst out of the picture above. This was topped with the densest, richest cream ever – I’d say quadruple cream at least – and nicely sugared almond flakes. Simply delicious, but even I, the dessert queen, was defeated by the copious amount of never-ending cream.

Butterscotch Ripple Ice Cream

Mr UnProfessional Chef thought he was having the light option of Butterscotch Ripple Ice Cream but the kitchen must have been using bowls as ice cream scoops. Three enormous scoops of ultra-creamy and very sinful scoops of homey ice cream served with crunchy thin butterscotch biscuits were not a light option at all. But, as we had discovered, ‘nose to tail eating’ certainly did not equate to ‘moderate eating’, it was however synonymous with unique and delicious almost-forgotten traditional English dishes.

Stuffed to the brim, we rolled back out into the cold, down the road and into the Tube. Thank goodness for the long walk home from the Tube station which burnt off maybe 1% of the calories gained?

St John Bar and Restaurant
26 St John Street
London
EC1M 4AY
Mon – Fri: Lunch from 12 noon to 3 pm
Mon – Sat: Dinner from 6 pm to 11 pm

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