I was shocked to hear that the St.John Hotel had gone into administration; on our visit the place was positively packed and the food on offer was great. I wasn’t totally convinced that it was deserving of its first Michelin star quite so soon after opening however. Either way, sadly the St.John Hotel is no more but the head chef has stayed on and runs the kitchen of the new restaurant; One Leicester Street.
The open plan kitchen remained the same but gone were the St.John bare white walls and instead it was a very ‘battleship grey’ affair. It was a nice and intimate space with tables packed quite closely together but on our visit for dinner on a Saturday night it was surprisingly empty.
The menu was fairly small and apparently changes quite frequently and the dishes are designed for sharing so that’s exactly what the four of us did. We decided to start with some smoked cods roe and devilled pigs skin (£7). The cods roe, or taramasalata, was really strong in flavour and cut thought the rich fattiness of the crackling. It was bloomin’ lovely.
Next was crab with fennel and monks beard (£9). Monks beard is a type of chicory common in Italy. Fennel featured a lot in our meal at One Leicester Street and here it was used perfectly; it didn’t overpower the delicate crab one bit.
Grilled onion with goats curd and wild fennel was next (£6.80) and was one of my favourite dishes. The onions were sweet with a slightly bitter burnt edge to them and the goats curd was a creamy and tangy contrasting favour.
Pigs cheek ham, asparagus and egg yolk (£9.50) was slightly disappointing. We thought the pigs cheek ham would be the main ingredient but it was barely noticeable and it was the asparagus that provided the substance of the dish. It was under the ‘meat’ section of the menu but would have been far better suited to the ‘vegetables’ section.
Snails, duck hearts and lovage (£8.50) was a dish that we’d previously eaten at St.John Hotel and loved. This wasn’t the same however and was quite disappointing; the snails a touch chewy, the hearts overcooked and the lovage sauce too overpowering.
The smoked ox cheek, beetroot and horseradish (£14) was very pleasant indeed. The chunks of beetroot were cooked well and the ox cheek had a subtle yet very present smokiness and was extremely tender.
The cod, sea beet and anchovy (£16) was a fishy ol’ dish and not for the faint hearted; the anchovy sauce was a very strong and intense flavour of the sea. The sea beets were as chewy as they have been on every other occasion I’ve tried them – I think it’s time to say that sea beets are not for me!
Both desserts excited me in terms of flavour and presentation. The strawberries and wild fennel ice cream (£7) (there’s fennel again!) was delicious. The ice cream sat in a little pastry basket which provided texture and the fennel tops added an even stronger aniseed hit.
The warm chocolate, puffed barley and malt (£8) was a chocolate lover’s heaven. It was a warm chocolate fondant sprinkled with Sugar Puffs and scattered with honeycomb. It was a sweet and sticky end to a pleasant dinner.
There were highs and lows during our dinner at One Leicester Street but when it was good, boy was it good! I hope that it stays around as long as St.John Hotel should have, as the head chef Tom Harris obviously has a lot of talent in the kitchen.