Drake’s and St. JOHN: A Festive Lunch in Smithfield
On a Tuesday afternoon on the cusp of December, we find ourselves around a table set just off the St. JOHN main dining room — a fairly appealing situation to find yourself in on a Tuesday winter lunchtime.
A white paper table cloth, a group of friends and the promise of something special. Fergus Henderson, Trevor Gulliver and the good people of St. JOHN have invited us over for a festive lunch. A Christmas-time summit, and not a turkey in sight. A wine list has been expertly picked by Trevor: Crémant into Grenache Gris, followed by St. JOHN déclassifié Paulliac. The good stuff.
Whole radishes are dunked in butter and salt. A starter of dark pickled herring with crème fraîche and rye bread. Call me Gustav and move me to Norway. It’s enough to make you feel like Scandinavian royalty. Giant serving plates of seasonal roasted squash, pickled walnuts and goat’s curd. Loads of potatoes and vegetables lead to a steel platter of Rothko-red roast beef. Someone pass more of that Paulliac, please.
Dessert is steamed sponge with a choice of cream, or custard, or cream and custard. We talk, we laugh, we go back for thirds. As anyone who has ever had the pleasure of dining in Smithfield, or Shoreditch or - most recently - Marylebone will testify, a white-washed room, a wooden chair and a paper table cloth can be the scene of a perfect meal. Time moves differently. Have we been here for an hour... or 10?
Eventually we roll out, blinking into London at dusk. Maybe we'll give dinner a miss tonight.
Same time again next year?