Ok, so I didn't have the suckling pig at St John's last night but as I didn't take my camera, I rooted around their website and I think this image pretty much covers the approach they have to the food itself and the presentation. Also, it looks damn good!
Firstly, I love the dining room, a oddly shaped white space with the pass of the kitchen open to view. The chefs write notes for the waiters and each other on the white tiles of the kitchen which adds a slight sense of the canteen as do the plates and cutlery, no nonsense, utilitarian stuff, white and simple. The tables are close together to give a sense of communal dining but your never feel cramped or hemmed in. Another nice touch is the waiters are all in chefs whites giving you a sense that there isn't a separation between kitchen and front of house.
I went with the signature starter, Roast Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad whilst the girlfriend went for the Brown Shrimp Salad. The marrow is a great bit of theatre, these four great chunks of bone are presented to you with toast, wet grey salt and the parsley salad and you are handed a spoon and a lobster pick to get busy with pulling the lovely, silky, wobbly marrow onto your toast. It's one of those moments of sheer moaning pleasure when you take a bite. There's a great sense of camaraderie amongst the diners too, with looks of comic horror and sheer carnivorous intent. The brown shrimp salad was simple and just delicious. The tiny whole shrimp tasting strongly of the sea.
I thought the pause between starter and main was a touch long, the couple next to us had it even worse, actually. I sensed something had gone a bit wrong with the service. But, then again it was worth the wait, so I didn't care that much. I'd gone for the Roast Lop and Turnip and the girlfriend for another starter, the Rabbit Broth. Lop is an English rare breed of pig ( you can see one here) not a kind of rabbit as I had believed before the waiter put me right (he was a funny guy). Again, the dish was presented simply, two slabs of beautiful pink pork with snow white fat and three turnips. No garnish, no fucking about. Just simple beautiful meat. The Rabbit Broth was screamingly intense, with masses of meat and veg. The girlfriend wolfed it down and kept saying "this is so good for me...".
Dessert was freshly made Madeleines, which were great, soft and light and they smelt wonderful. I wanted to take most of them home for breakfast but they proved too good to leave alone. The girlfriend had a Berry Pavlova and thought the meringue too hard but the berry slush delicious.
There is a sense of playfulness in Fergus Henderson's food, a sense of humour and an almost "go on I dare you" sensibility. However, the reputation for frightening food is unfounded. Taste and flavour are everything here and you can order even the most bizarre sounding cut of meat or piece of offal in the certain knowledge that it will taste beautiful.