Monday, November 03, 2008

Bread, Wine and the Museum of London

St John Bread and Wine

Visited the little brother of St John Restaurant with Elaine. Sitting over the road from Spitalfields on Commercial Road, it's known for meat, and Fergus Henderson, the co-founder, has been quoted as saying "If you're going to kill the animal, it seems only polite to use the whole thing..". The restaurant itself is smallish, but they've made the most of the space, with one large room partitioned into dining area and kitchen. Hardwood floors and tables without table clothes gives a spartan feel. Of more concern to me is the lack of space, though this was mostly due to the lady sitting behind me!

At the time we arrived (booking is via time slots), several of the specials were finished, something which online reviews also complain about - if you're going to have daily specials, at least have them in quantities where they'll usually last a fair part of the evening, or have some held back for later perhaps.

Our strategy was to order several of the smaller starter dishes rather than go for one of the bigger mains (eg chicken and pork pie for two, 30 quid!). Thus we went for the following:

Deep Fried Pig's Head was delicious, like a really intense porky fishcake. Elaine was suspicious about the texture though.

Roast Shallots, Goat's Curd and Mint were sold to us by the waitress who described the flavours, texture and process of eating it with almost orgasmic delight! My take is that is was very nice, although the mint was so fresh and intense that it overrode the sweetness of the shallot and the very light creamy curd.

Terrine was good but of course we had a slab of it which would last a week or two in my fridge. It was just too much for two people. More on this later!

Blood Cake & Duck Egg was delicious, perhaps partially because I'm a black pudding fan anyway. The blood cake was bursting with flavour, and light in texture - I suppose it has less grain than black pudding.

Stinking Bishop and Potatoes was what it said on the tin - a large pile of melted Stinking Bishop cheese, with new potatoes. Now I like cheese, and I like Stinking Bishop, having purchased it on occasion from Selfridges. However, the quantity of cheese on the plate was absolutely silly, and supported with far too few potatoes.

Food was washed down by a bottle of the house red, a Cab Sauv Shiraz blend which was very drinkable.

Even those who cast aspersions on the restaurant cannot deny the quality of the desserts. We end up with:

Clementine Jelly & Shortbread


Ginger Bread Ice Cream

..both of which were delicious. In review, the food is good and interesting, but I would not advocate going for starters only. The starters are too rich, and contain too much of each item for a pair to share. In a larger group, any of our dishes would be fine. For us? Too much, and way too rich. In future I'd just order a couple of starters then go for a main, ideally whole baby pigs ordered in advance.

Museum of London
The Jack the Ripper exhibition at the Museum of London was clearly not advertised too well, as I only came across it via a leaflet I picked up in Dirty Dicks in Bishopsgate. When was it finishing? The following day! Therefore I charged down on Sunday the 2nd to visit, just as it closed (literally!). Would they be flexible about kicking us out on the final day? Oh no, the staff were busy rounding us up a good twenty minutes before closing time.

I've always harboured something of an interest in the Ripper, not least because one of my favourite lunch spots when working at Aldgate was on a bench in Mitre Square which was location pretty much right on top of the spot where Catherine Eddowes was murdered in a really quite nasty way. In fact reading the wiki page I've just learn that where I would sit is called Ripper Corner!

The exhibition itself was full of interesting material, well documented and explained. There were notebooks and logs from the police and homes for the "unfortunate class" as prostitutes were known then; newspapers from the time, including laminated full-sized copies that one could read; ound recordings of residents who could remember living around the area at the time; videos, explaining the background and social situation, or showing prints of life around the East End, and fascinating maps of London colour-coded by class.

I note that my street, Randolph Avenue (then called Portisdown Road) was a decent street even in the 1880s! :)

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