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St John and the art of the long lunch
Everyone I know who’s into food has a soft spot for St John. True, it has/has had its ups and downs but It’s easy to forget just how groundbreaking it was when it opened 19 years ago. And how absolutely right its values still are in terms of serving great ingredients simply,
I’ve posted about their lunches before but that's not going to stop me doing it again (that’s the whole point of having a blog - right?) and I want to tell you about what we ate at the winemakers’ lunch they held last Saturday. Actually there weren’t that many winemakers there, more like back room staff, suppliers, fellow chefs and assorted media bods like me. Any excuse for a party.
So we started with sea urchins. Soft, velvety, infused with the taste of the sea. One each. All you needed.
Then one of St John’s great salads - a mixture of skate, capers bread and rocket. Doesn’t sound too great, does it? Well it was bloody marvellous, not least for the restraint of the seasoning and lack of oil which would have made it too heavy. It’s on page 210 of Fergus's book The Complete Nose to Tail if you want to make it though I sensed there was vinegar there rather than lemon. And look at the lovely way it’s all jumbled together (below, right). A meal in itself . . .
Which of course it wasn’t . . . It was followed by a pheasant and pig’s trotter pie which is on p. 187 of the book which you obviously need to buy now. “A rich and steadying pie” as Fergus delightfully puts it. I love the way it was baked on a large serving dish and served with abundant buttery mash and deep leafy greens.
Dessert was a scoop of very good chocolate ice cream, presumably the one on p. 387.
Then cheese. English of course. Innis brick (goat), Wigmore (sheep), Montgomery cheddar and Beenleigh Blue (sheep) which I tried with a Domaine Boudau Muscat de Rivesaltes*. A terrific, almost Sauternes + Roquefort-class match.
Then prune eau de vie. That was possibly a mistake..
Fortunately I had to leave ‘early’ (after 2 1/2 hours) and go to a wine tasting before too much damage was done.
So, a reminder to go back and have lunch at St John if you haven’t been for a while. And of how to cook a meal for 50-odd friends should the mood so take you ....
*The other wine that stood out was a grenache gris that Fergus and Trevor are producing in the Languedoc with Benjamin Darnault. It’s called Boulevard Napoléon and is bottled as a Vin de Pays de L’Herault and costs £19.01 off the website - not cheap but then St John was never one to skimp and it’s considerably less than the £55 you’d have to pay for it in the restaurant.. Terrific with that skate salad too.
I ate at St John as a guest of the restaurant.
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