St. John Restaurant: Go For The Woodcock. Stay For The Madelines

St. John in London has been on my radar for the past five years, ever since Anthony Bourdain glorified the restaurant and its owner in his book Medium Raw.  This 15 year old restaurant located in the meatpacking district in northwest London is also home to some of my favorite bars and eating spots.

Co-owner Fergus Henderson is long known for using neglected cuts of meat from all types of animals such as brain of woodcock and veal hearts.  He has authored  three “nose to tail” books guiding the adventurous home chef in all of us. Vegetarians, beware of what follows.

Choices on the menu such as rabbit offal, rolled pig’s spleen (rolled in bacon, mind you) and grilled ox heart make you feel like you could be on Fear Factor, but the civilized white tablecloth and stark interior remind you that you are willingly here to taste uncommon treats.

Since the roasted bone marrow is one of the dishes Bourdain says he would select for his last meal, I order it as a starter hoping this tiny gesture brings us closer to being BFFs.

The menu rotates with the seasons, but as one of the signature items, the marrow is a constant.

In Henderson's "Complete Nose to Tail," he recommends cozying up to the butcher and securing 12 inch calf legs

Starter #2 - Cured beef and celeriac

As mains, we order the woodcock (bird) and kid (baby goat).  The first is a land wading bird meatier than most small fowl I have encountered, served medium-rare with its malt ball-sized brain sliced open for easy consumption.

At 35 pounds (~60 USD dollars), this bird doesn’t come cheap, but it is game season and the woodcock trumps its fellow pigeons and quails in the mind-blowing- flavor-department.  And if you are Cracker Jack lucky, you may just find a lead shot still intact in the bird.

The bottom of the menu warns diners about the lead shots so don't even think about suing

Although my main motive is to get jiggy with the meat, the experience would not be complete without the wine pairings, the coffee (which was the best coffee we had consumed outside of Italy)…

…and the Madelines.  You order them 15 minutes and they come out plump and warm.  If you want to explore a traditional British dessert, go for the classic eccles cake.  It is a round cake with a dense fig newton type filling encased in pastry and topped with demerara sugar.   It is oftentimes served with Lancaster cheese to help offset its sweetness.

Half dozen madeline cookies and two cups of coffee are just what I need to coat my stomach before hitting the pubs in London

Tip: With a side-view of a pig as its logo, it seems dysfunctional to not try the suckling pig.  Guilty as charged.  Unbeknownst to me, the piggy has to be ordered one week in advance.  Don’t let this happen to you.

If you can’t make it to London soon for the bone marrow, check out Renee Erickson’s The Whale Wins for dinner as you will find a similar dish.

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2 Responses to “St. John Restaurant: Go For The Woodcock. Stay For The Madelines”

  1. Kari Mar
    December 3, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

    I love this. I am so excited about the menu that I had to read this right away and have to admit, I’m a little hungry for rabbit now. How was the bird brain?

  2. December 3, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

    I would pay $60 to eat the Woodcock just so i could make jokes about it later.

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