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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

“but the food in England is terrible!”: St. John Bread and Wine

I cannot tell you how many people who, upon hearing late last year that I was moving to London, wrinkled their noses and said something along the lines of, “But the food is terrible there!” That the cuisine is awful is one of the most pernicious misconceptions about Britain, right up there with the notion that the Brits all have bad teeth. So, to counteract this ridiculous notion, I give you Part One in a potentially endless series about the gorgeousness and deliciousness of food in the United Kingdom.
St. John Bread and Wine is a lovely little spot in Spitalfields, in the East End of London, where the chef, Fergus Henderson, operates under the philosophy that if you’re going to be a meat-eater, you should go, er, whole hog: the entirety of the animal should be consumed, from tail to snout, as much as possible. I’ve eaten here twice, once with bronxbee in 2009, and again with my brother Ken last month. Here’s a look at what Ken and I ate, which is served small-plate style, for sharing, like tapas or dim sum: lots of little bits of amazingly yummy things.

We began with razor clams, fantastically tasty:

And then came asparagus with rock salt:

Duck pate on toast (the bread had been baked in the restaurant) with cornichons:

(Of course there was wonderful claret throughout the meal.)

Incredible raw angus steak with bone marrow, as well as another piece of that amazing toast:

A sort of lamb meatball with a bit of mashed potatoes and gravy:

Medallions of venison with some beautifully slivered root veggies:

Did we eat absolutely everything?

We did.

And then came dessert. Apple crumble with custard cream, with the most amazing sweet chilled red dessert wine:

We ate (and drank) all of that, too:

This was the meal about which, on May 22, I tweeted and Facebook’d:

Intense multiple gastrogasms achieved…

(See what you’re missing if you haven’t followed me or liked me?)

Now, do people eat like this every day? Of course not. St. John Bread and Wine is a fairly expensive restaurant and certainly not the sort of place one would visit daily. But still: this is uniquely English cuisine. And it is absolutely representative of the cuisine that is readily accessible in London.



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