Thursday, 9 August 2012

St John Bread & Wine - Madeleines

 St John restaurant has always interested me, but the Barbican / Farringdon area is so out of place to me that I can rarely find an excuse to visit. St John Bread and Wine, on the other hand, is so conveniently located opposite Spitalfields Market. I was finally in a mood for some British fare in a lazy Sunday afternoon, and so we found ourselves pedalling our way here. 

Decor is, er, lacking. It reminded me of the sanatorium in Shutter Island; white tiles, unvarnished wooden tables and the steel counters at the open kitchen. But the atmosphere was bustling. While we were munching on bouncy sourdough from the famous bakery of St John, I had already decided on my dessert - madeleines.

Crispy Pig's Skin, Chicory & Mustard 

The pig skin was sliced into thin strips; more hard and crunchy than crispy, but softened as it soaked up the dressing. Fresh veg with a gently prickling creamy mustard, rich yet refreshing.

Snails, Back Fat & Oakleaf 
The snails were very different to what I was expecting. Stripped of the usual parsley and garlic butter, simply poached to springiness; the earthiness is even more pronounced. Perhaps not overly exciting by themselves, but together with lumps of spongy batter, oozing with the slightly sweet dressing, they made an oddly good couple.

Rabbit, Carrots & Aioli
Rabbit was in both 'today's special' starter and main course. It's always a dangerous choice, as rabbit meat more often than not gets overcooked and becomes parched and grainy. St John does it quite well, muscles remained firm and succulent, not dissimilar to the textures of chicken thigh. It's still a long way from the rabbit dish I had back in Pied a Terre, but as far as honest, straightforward cooking goes, this was adequately good.

Pigeon, Beetroot & Watercress
This came very pink, and became scarily red as the beetroot spilled its juices. A safe combination with the sweetness of beetroot taming the metallic hints in the bloody game. It was quite one-dimensional, however, perhaps it wasn't powerful enough, the dish didn't quite punch through to leave much behind.

Madeleines (15mins)
These were insanely scrumptious, likely crazily insanely scrumptious. We had them in a takeaway paperbag because I wanted to eat them with a macchiato in a coffee bar next door. I resisted, trust me I really did, but that divine buttery smell of freshly baked madeleines penetrated through my will power and my resistance was in vain. I had to reach in for one as I was tapping my pin in.

The warm madeleines were airily light, like whiffs of rich buttery breaths that diffuses throughout the body, with just enough substance to hold its bounce. The sweetness was spot on too, just sweet enough to keep me reaching for another one. My god these were so good they should be illegal.

I think the madeleines may have overshadowed the main part of the meal, because they were too good. Or perhaps the mains were simply not that remarkable or memorable to register in my little brain. In hindsight, I should have gone for something porky, afterall that cute pig associated with the St John franchise must mean something. I'll save that for my visit to the Michelin-starred Restaurant.

94-96 Commercial Street
E1 6LZ
Tel: 0203 301 8069

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