St John Bar & Restaurant (EC1M)

St John Logo

There are more things to eat between the nose and the tail of a pig than are dreamt of in our philosophy. HITCitizen Billy No Box (not Hamlet) ventured to Smithfield and expanded his culinary vocabulary. Pig time.

Having been to Spitalfields' St. JOHN (apparently it is capitalised) Bread & Wine, it was time to try out the original one in Smithfield. The fact that a friend was leaving the country and wanted to meet us for dinner was a welcome opportunity to head for the restored townhouse/smokehouse on St. John Street for a bit of culinary adventure.

The fact that the owners have published books on 'nose to tail eating' and that the restaurant's logo is a pig with all parts clearly labelled set the tone for the dining experience. Aberdeen Angus Steakhouse this is not. And we all know, this can only be a good thing.

The interior of the old Georgian building is sparse, with furnishing and decoration in the bar and the restaurant nicely kept to minimum. It achieves its purpose of making you feel like you're eating in somebody's kitchen. Adding to this scheme, a fully-prepared suckling pig was neatly arranged on the counter ready to be served to a lucky group of 16.

The menu features body parts of animals I always thought might exist, but never deemed edible. The very attentive staff helped with a rather long list of questions about what certain things might be. Trotters? Chitterlings? Offal? Pig's Cheek? They must be used to similar questions from foreigners who feel like they are in an English for Culinary Purposes language class.

Apparently the bone marrow salad is the signature dish, so it had to be tried. It is delicious, but diners should be aware that it requires a fair bit of self-assembly since the marrow comes in fact still IN the bones. The lamb as a main course was probably the most middle-of-the-road dish on the menu, but nevertheless very good. Our friend was more adventurous and went for the offal (kidney and liver in this case), which he loved. The selection of puddings we shared was simply divine.

As a dining experience, and as an experience as such, it makes for a great night.

And on our occasion, it was appropriate as a farewell for someone moving to the US, since he is unlikely to be served anything like this where he's heading.