St. John Bread & Wine, Spitalfields
A cute, rustic venue, St. John Bread & Wine is acclaimed chef and author Fergus Henderson’s dining room specializing in simple classic british foods that may have been in danger of being forgotten amongst the celebrity chef emporiums and guerrilla popup restaurants that are common in today’s London.
Open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and supper, the menu changes as the day wears on. You can enjoy a simple bacon sandwich for breakfast (easily big enough for two unless you’re in training or manual labor), amongst other simple options, at a reasonable price. If you like, and your morning commute/wander will take you past St. John, you can phone ahead the night before to order your bacon sandwich for take away the next morning. Lunch and supper dishes often include organ meats and offal, which stands to reason seeing as Henderson is the author of The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating (Amazon affiliate link). Daily menus vary, but are known to include items such as foie gras and duck liver toast, bone marrow, and my personal favorite, the super-rich blood cake. If you like black pudding or other blood sausages, it’s a must! The blood cake is so rich that a fried egg with its runny yolk is used to cut through the richness.
Another favorite and British regional specialty that Henderson is reintroducing to London foodies to is Eccles cake. Similar to a mincemeat pie (Aussies, it’s not meat, but fruit – ask a Brit or American), and named for the town of Eccles where they were creates and are still served in small bake shops. Eccles cakes are a flaky pastry dome with a spiced and brandied filling of currants. The cake is usually paired with another hard-to-find-outside-of-England-item, Lancashire cheese – sort of similar to Cheshire or Wensleydale, but unique in its own right.
Of course, as the name suggests, you should absolutely try the breads and wine. The bakery produces all manner of baked goods, which may just make you want to include St. John in your grocery shopping routine. Aside from Eccles cakes, St. John has crusty rustic loaves and fresh madelines on offer.
The restaurant sits opposite Old Spitalfields Market and makes for a glorious pre-or post shopping meal or snack. The address is 94-96 Commercial Street London E1 6LZ.
Breakfast dishes will set you back about £5. Entrees (appetizers to my fellow Americans) tend to run about £9 and mains £18. Order ahead for a whole suckling pig that will set you back £420 and feed 50 people. If you want to put together a suckling pig party, call me anytime!
Eccles Cake and Lancashire Cheese