It seems a while since my oldest friend Liz and I have dined out together. Our usual plan is to fit in a bit of "culture" and then go and feed our faces but there haven't been any exhibitions recently that either of us has fancied. By chance I read a review of Rude Britannia at Tate Britain and decided that we both might enjoy it. And what better way to celebrate American Independence Day than by lunching at a very British restaurant, St John in Smithfield.
All train routes into London last weekend were very restricted by ongoing engineering works - such a cliché - so I decided that, as the weather was so hot, I would take the car into town. Parking is easy (and free to Blue Badge holders) at both venues so it made sense.
The exhibition was really entertaining, I particularly enjoyed the Gerald Scarfe bit whilst Liz is always a sucker for Beryl Cook. We then headed along the Embankment and the Sat Nav promptly got us lost even though we knew where we were going!! It appears that road menders/contractors in the City have taken their lead from Transport for London - many roads were closed and there were silly detours because it was the weekend. By the way London was absolutely heaving with people. Recession? What recession?
So we were hot and a bit late when we arrived at St John for a 1.15 lunch. The place was empty
and I wondered why I'd bothered to book. By 2 pm however every table had been taken and there was only room to dine in the bar. Most of our fellow diners were Japanese.
For the first time in five visits I did not begin with the Bone marrow and parsley salad. But I wish I had. I had an extremely tasty piece of home-cured trout with a punchy cucumber and mustard sauce, but the bones are better. That will teach me to deviate, and poor old Ozzie didn't get a doggy bag when I got home. Liz had smoked sprats with red cabbage and loved them. I nicked a sprat, very gamey taste. It reminded me of the bloaters I used to eat when I was about nine which seem to have disappeared from the British menu. Health and Safety probably have something to do with it I expect! We used to be sent bloaters by an aunt holidaying in Great Yarmouth.
For mains Liz chose calf's liver with chicory. It was enormous and absolutely fantastic, she reported. I was very adventurous and opted for chitterlings with broad beans. I really only had a
vague idea what they were but I surmised that as they are on the menu practically every day then they must be popular. My goodness they were absolutely bloody gorgeous. I may never eat another main course there again either! Very bacony, very tender and perfectly matched with the starchy beans. We shared a bowl of greens too.
I found out about chitterlings after I'd eaten them. Intestines boiled for ages and then fried. I wonder who thought that was a good idea? They were, of course, absolutely spot-on!
For pudding I had a baked cheesecake with marc-soaked raisins which was really, really good but was trumped by Liz's nectarine jelly with poached peach and clotted cream. So pretty as well. (And because she is dairy-intolerant I got to eat the clotted cream).
The bill which included 3 glasses of claret came to £90 including service. Expensive, yes. Worth it? Absolutely.