London's St John Makes My Shit List

Written by Katie Parla on February 17, 2010

I am finally ready to talk about it. It would be a stretch to say that I am totally over it, but at least now I can breach the topic without blaspheming. I am speaking of my trip to St John two weeks ago. I know I am supposed to love this place. Everyone gushes over it shamelessly, but it’s got two strikes in my book. Perhaps you remember this post about strike one, the abysmal service at St John Bread & Wine, from earlier this year? But back to the matter at hand. On February 1 at 7:00PM, my dining companion and I were seated at a table in the middle of the dining room. I had a view of the kitchen, which always puts me in a good mood. We perused the menu and placed our full order: roast bone marrow and parsley salad, fried tripe, and pickled mackerel for starters; mutton and braised hare for mains.

The starters were very good. Not surprisingly, the tripe was my favorite. Our plates were cleared and we chatted for a while. Others were seated beside us. They got their starters. Then their…mains? At this point I am getting slightly agitated, as it is clear that both the server and the kitchen have forgotten about us. (The time is now 8:30PM.) I attempted to get our server’s attention, but Charlie was very busy folding napkins and chit chatting at the wait station for a good long while. (Sister, a word to the wise: don’t do your side work in plain view of the customers unless you plan to adequately serve them.) I called over the manager and asked him to look after our order. I saw the chef rummage through some tickets as they spoke, pick one out, and fire our mains. A few minutes later the mutton and hare arrived, almost an hour after our stater plates were cleared.

The mutton was perfectly seasoned, impressively tender, and insanely delicious. My braised hare was cold. The gravy was hot, but the closer I got to the bone, the chillier the meat got. This is unfortunate, as the flavor and texture of the meat suffered from not being the correct temperature for service. The manager graciously comped our desserts for the evening’s slip-ups. Charlie didn’t make eye contact after that. Nice touch. I will probably return to one or both of the St Johns eventually. I am hoping for a home run instead of a third strike.

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