Restaurants

British food and French wines at St John Maltby

02/09/2015

St John Maltby is a place I have written about a few months ago, before the summer when it was still known as St John Bakery Room. I had visited the little cafe for breakfast with my Instagram Brunch Club and raved about their bacon sandwich and custard cream doughnuts.

As the popularity of this small neighbourhood cafe grew over the months, St John’s owners decided to extend their food and wine offer, launching a dinner service.

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The first St John restaurant was opened by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver in Smithfield in 1994, originally it was intended to be a bakery (they make a fantastic sourdough bread) serving snacks and wine glasses. But it was so successful that just one venue was not enough.

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Smithfield was followed by Spitalfields in 2003; there is also a bakery on Druid Street and a bakery counter in Selfridges.

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St John Maltby is located underneath a railway arch in Maltby Street, a vehicle-free street famous for its bustling Saturday food market.

The arches on this street are home to different food businesses, some only open during market hours, others open also during the week. St John is open from Wednesday to Saturday (17:00-22:00), offering a smaller selection of dishes than the other two St John restaurants, but with the same outstanding quality.

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I was at St John Maltby with my friend Valeria Necchio, a talented blogger and photographer who knows a great deal about good food and wine. We both enjoyed our dinner very much, not just for the quality but also for the intimate setting.

On a rainy mid-week evening, what’s better than escaping the office to spend a few hours with a friend in a cozy, quiet room, being served delicious food and wine? I found it very relaxing and enjoyable! And maybe that’s not for everyone, maybe you prefer a trendy eatery in Soho or a fancy restaurant in Mayfair, and that’s fine. But if you’re looking for really good British seasonal dishes and amazing French wines, then you know St John Maltby is there for you.

The menu changes daily, often exploring unsung and under-appreciated British ingredients, with a nose-to-tail motto. We tried almost everything that was on offer last Thursday (except for the ox liver and kidney):

Brown Shrimp & White Cabbage Salad – Smoked Mackarel & Pickled Red Cabbage

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Kohlrabi

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Skate, Fennel & Green Sauce

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Braised Veal Breast, Borlotti Beans & Aioli

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Salt Beef, Carrots & Horseradish

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As I had been invited by restaurant to try their dinner menu, they prepared small tasting dishes of the salt beef and veal breast. Normally the main course portions are much bigger.

All the dishes at St John are prepared with a focus on quality, seasonality and simplicity. It’s all about using the best ingredients to create great simple dishes every day.

Eccles Cake & Lancashire Cheese

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Toasted Brioche & Poached Apricots

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St John always placed a strong focus on the food menu as well as on the all-French wine list.

Over the years, co-founder Trevor has forged close relationships with growers and winemakers, buying wines directly from them rather than going through agents. And now he produces St John’s own wine too: the winery sits in a little village in the Minervois, France.

That’s how they can offer an outstanding wine list, featuring small producers and unusual wines often rarely seen elsewhere, at exceptional value. The wines are available to drink in and take away and they have more than 25 wines by the glass.

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I know little about wine: I know what I like, but I often struggle to choose a bottle from a long list. Luckily at St John the waiters are knowledgeable and will help you find the right wine for you.

St John Maltby also offer a free glass of wine to taste on Open Bottle Wednesday. The concept is simple: the restaurant chooses a bottle, an interesting one often with a great back story, and on Wednesdays they give a glass for free.

It’s a great way to get to know their wine list, with no commitment. Then if you like it, maybe you can have another glass, stay for a bite, buy a bottle, or just walk off with your newly acquired knowledge!

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I think now you know where you should be tonight! :)

Disclaimer: I was a guest for dinner at St John. All opinions are my own.

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