St. John Bread & Wine

16 Jan

Working on a Sunday is unnatural. Sundays are made for waking up around midday, staying in your pajamas and eating stodgy meals that will promptly send you into a coma until Monday morning. So imagine my disdain as I sat at my desk on a drizzly Sunday morning in December, fully dressed and with an empty stomach. No matter how many times I repeated ‘I’m hungry’ and ‘I’m starving’ I still felt as if I wasn’t getting my point across, so it was with some surprise that I heard my boyfriend ask ‘Do you think we should go to St John Bread & Wine after work?’ Naturally I leapt at the opportunity and my protestations of hunger became optimistic as I anticipated my upcoming meal.

By the time we arrived we had about 10 minutes to decide what to eat before the kitchen closed at the end of lunch service. Luckily I had obsessively perused the menu before we left so I already had certain expectations of what I would be eating. I went for a glass of cheeky white as well, only because I didn’t notice the red wine list on the back of the menu.

We gratefully scoffed the bread provided as we both ordered a main course that would take 40 minutes to prepare which meant that our starter also arrived later in order to shorten the gap in between courses. I am a big fan of bread from St John – it pops up in restaurants everywhere, probably because it is so nice. While we tucked into the freshly baked goods we chatted about the difference between black pudding and blood pudding as our impending starter consisted of the latter and a poached duck egg. Based on our one experience of blood pudding at The Fat Duck I deduced that it would be soft and red, though I was fully aware that our previous taste of it may not necessarily bear any resemblance to the original product. However, my prediction was right. It was a musky red colour and was rich with fatty flavour. The egg was just cooked so that the yolk coated every bite with eggy glaze.

Although there were few diners left at this point, the restaurant surroundings are relaxed and small enough to encourage conversation. Although, it did mean that the group of yummy mummies with rich husbands and screaming kids in tow were just that little bit too close making gaps between courses just that little bit painful. However, once our mains had arrived we were able to divert our concentration on to the food in front of us. We both went for Mallard which came with a beautifully crisp salty skin. The meat is richer than your average duck and metallic with iron in a very pleasant way. Some of it was incredibly tender and melted away in the mouth, yet some of it was very chewy and a bit of a chore to masticate. It was while I was munching away on a particularly tough bit that I nearly broke my tooth on a bit of shot. This made me very excited because of the good luck that apparently comes with finding shot in your mouth – a tasty pudding maybe? Or perhaps the screaming kids to magically disappear?

We were re-presented with the menu and I was immediately enamoured with the idea of rice pudding with quince jam. My belief is that rice pudding can’t ever be bad. Whether it comes from a tin, from a school dinner tray or Gordon Ramsay’s oven my taste buds are always guaranteed that they will have a good time. A somewhat signature pud of St John are the madeleines that come in either a full or half-dozen, so to avoid missing out on anything I encouraged my boyfriend to order them.

The rice pudding arrived school dinner style – at room temperature and with a generous dollop of jam in the middle. Of course I enjoyed it, though I found the jam to be a bit sickly sweet. The madeleines were warm, soft and comforting, though after a couple just a little bit on the dry side and slipping on the flavour excitement scale… the jam, however, made a wonderful accompaniment which brought them up a notch. My good luck from the shot was fulfilled though the children still screamed and had taken to running round the tables in a frenzied manner.

We left St John Bread & Wine full and with our earlier shift at work almost eradicated from our minds. Stepping out into the rain and the ice would have been a sad parting if it weren’t for the fading cries from the bored children that I contentedly left behind.

St John Bread & Wine
94 Commercial Street London E1 6LZ

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