eating pig at st john

One of my foodie friends realised his gastronomic dreams when he booked himself and 14 friends in for a feast of Whole Roast Suckling Pig at St John Bar and Restaurant. St John is unlike any restaurant I've been to. Located in trendy Clerkenwell, the entrance to the restaurant is tucked away around the side of the building (an old smokehouse) and through the bar. The dining room is large and open with high ceilings and lots of white: white walls, white paper table cloths, and white coat hooks that encircle the entire room. It has an industrial feel with rows of metal lamp shades hanging from metal poles and a stainless steel kitchen in the corner. Although nice and simple, some of the atmosphere was lost amongst all that whiteness and it felt a bit cold. In saying that, the interior made it very clear that the focus at St John is firmly on the food.

We were seated at a long table and could see our wee piggy waiting for us in the kitchen. To start we feasted on large platters of Roast Bone Marrow & Parsley Salad and Whole Crab & Mayonnaise. The marrow, scooped out of the bones and onto toast, was fatty, buttery, oily goodness. Most of the hard work had already been done on the crabs, but we were given all the necessary tools to crack into the claws and scrape out the delicious meat.

Next up was the main event: PIG! I had emailed St John beforehand to make sure that our pig had been ethically farmed and (after chasing them) they assured me that the pigs were outdoor reared in North Yorkshire and were "the happiest pigs we've found". 

The whole pig was placed on a nearby table and carved up by one of the waiters. Fergus Henderson, the owner of St John, is famed for his nose to tail eating and makes sure that none of the animal is wasted. The head was presented to us first. The girls had requested to be seated at the tail end of the pig so we didn't have to see its face, but it turns out eating a pig's head is an experience not to be missed. We lifted up the crackling skin, scraped out the cheeks, pulled out the tongue, scooped out the brains, ripped off its ears, and ate it all. The cheek was tender, gamey and delicious. The tongue tasted a bit like pate, tasty! The brain was a creamy white moose and tasted fairly foul. The ears were crackly, chewy and hairy. The rest of the pig had been stuffed and was brought to the table on two huge sharing platters. We were told that our pig was very meaty. I'm not a big pork eater, but this meat was so tender it fell apart and melted in my mouth. We ate pig by the pileful accompanied with sides of boiled potatoes and cabbage. The food was so simple, but cooked to perfection. It was hearty British fare at its best.

My favourite course (unsurprisingly) was dessert. Bread Pudding & Butterscotch Sauce and Trifle. I don't think I've ever had bread pudding before. I always thought it would resemble rice pudding, but with stale bread instead of rice. Yuck. But OH MY GOD it was amazing! Moist, fruity, rich, Christmassy, saucy amazing. The trifle was top notch too. Hats off to my foodie friend for choosing such a spectacular feasting menu. I was still full at 3am.

1 comment:

  1. love the pics - particularly of dessert! YUM. x