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St. John, London


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#46 Vanessa

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Posted 13 September 2004 - 02:22 PM

But then if you have architecture in your blood as he does, this kind of thing could come unconsciously - you know how architects have that way of living out their style.

v
...it actually comes down to what thrills you - Hugh Johnson

authenticity is a fog that recedes just when you think you may be getting near it - R Schonfeld

The most political act we do on a daily basis is to eat - Prof J Pretty

this city without boundaries we all share - zigzackly


#47 Wilfrid1

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Posted 13 September 2004 - 02:45 PM

Oh, I just assumed they knew what they were doing. Perhaps not. :D
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***Every Monday***At the Sign of the Pink Pig.

If the author could go around the place hitting random readers with a rubber hammer, the Pink Pig would still be worth a visit.

#48 ampletuna

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Posted 15 September 2004 - 08:20 AM

really on form last night but then I was 3 Malmaison cocktails to the good by the time we got there!

Smoked eel with horseradish was a good meaty hunk of flesh with trademark nose tingling horseradish sauce. Cold Middlewhite with green bean chutney was supberb. 5 or 6 slices of rolled loin, excellent flavour, good layer of fat.

Roast lamb with green beans and anchovy delivered on all areas. Two generous thick pieces of perfectly pink lamb with a layer of crisp fat and green beans in an anchovy sauce. Grouse looked wonderful on the plate. A whole bird with watercress, pate of guts on duck fat toast and bread sauce. Served rare and in some places almost raw, the breast much tastier then the IMO bitter legs. Chris devoured it. :D

Apple and Blackcurrent crumble for two with a large jug of custard.

A class act.
Yes, I would not recommend smell, touch or taste when it comes to old cock selection. Opinions differ though. Adam 2/3/05

#49 macrosan

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Posted 31 January 2005 - 08:37 PM

Four months on from the last post about St John, and oh my what a lot can change in four months. I have reached the conclusion that St John has finally lost the plot, and it no longer figures in my list of places I want to go to again :lol:

I need to give a little background for those who aren't treading the hallowed halls of OA :lol:

Some months ago, an impromptu small group dined at OA and was largely disappointed. I remember Anny and I had poached chicken, and Anny sent hers back to the kitchen; mine wasn't any better. That was the first less-than-excellent meal I had ever had at StJ, and it was a mile below less-than-excellent.

Then in early December we held an OA Christmas dinner for 20 people. The level of unhappiness was so great that I was delegated to write a letter to Fergus Henderson (digitally signed copies available by PM to anyone who has a vicarious interest in an OA even gone wrong :lol: ). Having received no reply after four weeks, I finally discovered I forgot to put my address on the letter :lol: but finally we got a reply from Fergus which was broadly felt to be sub-standard.

So today I went to St John for lunch and had a very, very disappointing meal.

Let's start where I started at lunch today, with the maitre d'. This was a young woman I haven't seen before. She greeted me warmly, and I felt most welcome. Later I formed the opinion that she, like all the other staff, had simply been well rehearsed.

I remember posting a year or more ago a glowing recommendation of the then maitre d' (Anne Marie ?), and in particular how she commanded every single detail of the front of house operation. Well the young woman today was the complete antiothesis of Anne Marie. I walked into St John at 12.15 to a totally empty restaurant, anmd left at 1.40 when it was about a third full. In the whole of that 85 minures, this young woman never approached a single table except to conduct new customers there, only spoke to a member of waitstaff onve (more of that later) and hardly ever looked round the restaurant. She spent almost every second of that time studying the reservations book and making the occasional entry in it. Simply astonishing ! I happened to be seated at a table directly facing her station, so I effectively watched her the whole time.

The waitstaff were pleasant, and also well rehearsed in the standard "patter", but clearly they had no understanding of the skill of waiting at table. I had only been seated for about two minutes before a waiter asked, pad poised, if I was ready to order. I sent him away with an order for tap water A few minutes later, he reappeared and I placed my order. He brought the (cold) starter at 12.25, exactly ten minutes after I arrived, and then my main course was served at 12.50 That's just bad pacing in my view.

Not once throughout the meal did anyone ask if the food was OK, nor even approach my table except to clear plates and bring food. Indeed, on the one occasion I wanted to attract attention, I simply couldn't catch anyone's eye, and had to wait until the next plate clearance. I had ordered a glass of Anjou Villages, and didnt' think much of it --- it was sharper than it should have been. Nevertheless, I drank two thirds of the glass before I noticed that there was a significant sediment in the bottom of the glass. On further inspection I realised that there were actually grape stalks in the sediment. I pointed this out to the waitress, who stated quite baldly "It's just sediment". I mean just a one inch layer of sediment with stalks in a glass poured by the barman. I told her to show it to her barman and tell me what he said. I saw the waitress speak to the maitre d', but she said not a word to me on her next two visits to my table. When finally the bill arrived I noted that they had not charged for the wine, and I asked her what the barman had said. "Oh it was just sediment" was her reply.

So overall, the service was of a very low order. These are nice kids who can smile and learn a few words of greeting, but they have zero idea of what the job of waitstaff ought to be. They get zero interest or support from the maitre d'. In a nutshell, the service was no better than as described at the Christmas dinner, except that they weren't busy.

And finally the food.

Smoked mackerel with horseradish cream sauce was good. Nice fish (the tail end eight inches of a whole mackerel) and very good horseradish.

Mallard with radishes, plus boiled potatoes extra was really poor. The potatoes were wet inside, which I think was because they had been frozen (whattt ?) or maybe parboiled and then boiled again. Whatever the cause, I managed to eat two out of eight and left the rest; as you would expect, no comment was made when the plate was cleared. They were tasteless and horrid. Same was true of the boiled radishes --- limp and tasteless. The duck was a pan fried breast with a tiny leg portion beside it. The meat had a gamey tang, but no flavour, and it was very tough. This baffled me , because it was clearly well hung, which normally enhances the flavour and makes the meat very tender --- that's the whole purpose of hanging. Yet this meat had no flavour behind the gaminess The dish was served lukewarm and the portion was miserly. I found a shot pellet on the plate which proved that this had been a wild mallard ... or did it ? Maybe my paranoia is setting in, but the pellet was silver and very shiny. Anytime I've found a shot pellet before, it has been black, not silver Is it possible that this pellet was a plant ? No no, of course not ! Any bird shooters out there who can tell me ?

I only ordered dessert because I thought that while I was having such a shitty meal on behalf of the British Chapter of OA, I might as well go the whole hog (sorry, no pun intended) and have a really shitty meal. So rhubatb crumble and custard it was, and that was comfortably the best part of the meal. Absoutely up to the St John standard of old.

So that was it. £30 before tip wasn't unreasonable for a three course meal, but then £10 wouldn't have been unreasonable either.

I'm truly saddened. St John has lost it, I think. I thank them for three years of wonderful food, but no more for me.

#50 Cathy

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Posted 31 January 2005 - 08:42 PM

Macro, this ruined my day. :lol:
You're only as good as your grease.


When working with high heat, the first contact between the cooking surface and the food must be respected.

-- Francis Mallman







#51 Wilfrid1

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Posted 31 January 2005 - 08:43 PM

I happened to be seated at a table directly facing her station, so I effectively watched her the whole time.

I think this skews the data. It might have unnerved her. :lol:
Elect-a-lujah

***Every Monday***At the Sign of the Pink Pig.

If the author could go around the place hitting random readers with a rubber hammer, the Pink Pig would still be worth a visit.

#52 g.johnson

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Posted 31 January 2005 - 08:54 PM

I happened to be seated at a table directly facing her station, so I effectively watched her the whole time.

I think this skews the data. It might have unnerved her. :lol:

She was probably studying the first aid manual.
The Obnoxious Glyn Johnson

#53 omnivorette

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Posted 31 January 2005 - 09:16 PM

Oh oh oh oh oh. No.
"It seems a positively Quixotic quest to defend food from being used as any kind of social signifier, as if it could avoid the fate of each other component of our everyday lives." -Wilfrid

#54 yumyum

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Posted 31 January 2005 - 09:45 PM

This is very sad indeed. Macro, I'm curious about the tone of Fergus' response to your letter of complaint ... given that this is a group that formerly loooooved St John enough to have various special occasion dinners as well as very special out of town guests there :lol: I would be interested to know what he said.
I like mine moist and buttery.

#55 Orik

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Posted 31 January 2005 - 09:53 PM

The service sounds like your typical US restaurant, Per Se included.
sandwiches that are large and filling and do not contain tuna or prawns

#56 macrosan

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Posted 31 January 2005 - 10:33 PM

I'm curious about the tone of Fergus' response to your letter of complaint ... given that this is a group that formerly loooooved St John enough to have various special occasion dinners as well as very special out of town guests there :lol: I would be interested to know what he said.

I'm loth to publish it here, Yum. We wrote a friendly but pointed letter to Fergus, two pages long, in which we explained who we were, and that we were great fans of St John. The letter mainly concentrated on poor service, but also addressed some of complaints about the food.

Fergus' reply was half a page. He made a defence of his main goose dish, but never actually addressed any of the service issues. He regretted that we had not enjoyed our experience, and invited us to advise his manager when we returned so that he couls accord us some special treatment.

#57 macrosan

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Posted 31 January 2005 - 10:39 PM

I happened to be seated at a table directly facing her station, so I effectively watched her the whole time.

I think this skews the data. It might have unnerved her. :lol:

As it happens, I went to the toilet on my way out and looked at myself in the mirror. I can positively confirm that my data were not skewed.

#58 Orik

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Posted 31 January 2005 - 10:39 PM

maybe he was reading OA
sandwiches that are large and filling and do not contain tuna or prawns

#59 Rose

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Posted 31 January 2005 - 10:53 PM

maybe he was reading OA

Who? Henderson?
curb your god

If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities. (Voltaire)


One is often told that it is very wrong to attack religion because religion makes men virtuous. So I am told; I have not noticed it. (Bertrand Russell)

Believing there is no god gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-O, and all things I can prove and that make this life the best life I will ever have. (Penn Jillette)

CERES GALLERY

#60 Ms J

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Posted 01 February 2005 - 10:36 AM

That's really sad news. I've only been into St John to buy bread recently, but I'd been thinking it was time to go back for a proper meal. Perhaps that's no longer an option. :lol:
Thieves, arsonists and deserters.