Home Gastro Gastro: St. John (Archway)

Gastro: St. John (Archway)

by Krista

St. John
91 Junction Road
N19 5QU
020 7272 1587

The Vicitms: Al, Louise, Darshak, Abba

The Damage: £35ish because Al was kind and didn't make me pay for the wine. This means that he enjoyed nearly an entire bottle on his own. I'm sorry, Al.

The Background: Ever since Al & Louise moved to Archway and Gerry & Ben moved to Holloway, I've been expanding my geographic horizons. I've been getting to know the London bus system better, assisting me in my "Year of the Bus" campaign. (At 90p, how can you not take the bus???)

I'd heard raves from both couples about St. John, so I was really eager to give it whirl. Al managed to get a late booking for a Friday night, which I felt awful about because it meant bundling up baby Oscar and keeping him up past his bedtime. (To clarify, Oscar is Al & Louise's baby; not mine.) But really, Oz didn't seem to mind and we didn't hear a peep out of him all night, bless him.

So–Entrance: Entrance is good. I like it. There's a bar up front and a restaurant in the back. I like the restaurant decor. There are many portraits on the wall, seemingly by the same artist. It's cool. It's somewhat library-esque too, although it's not a library. I can't explain it. Gentleman's club maybe? Regardless, it was dark and warm and inviting. And it's raining outside (again). So we're all very cozy.

Random Thoughts about Alcohol: So I'm taking a break from alcohol this January. I noticed Girl Dates London is doing the same, although January doesn't seem to be slowing down Stonch over at Stonch's Beer Blog or Douglas over at The Daily Wine. In veto'ing the vino, I've noticed a couple of things:
1. There's a lot of food out there with alcohol in it. (More to come on this in a bit.)
2. People look at you funny on a Friday night when you order a cranberry & soda. (I think C&S is much more interesting than just sticking with tap water.)
3. Some waitstaff can handle the non-drinkers more maturely and appropriately than others. (I will come back to No. 5 Cavendish Square in a few days and highlight how annoyingly pushy they were, and insensitive given that we were dining with a number of Muslims–obviously so. And maybe I was over-analyzing it the other night but I think the servers at Roka were desperate for us to order something besides water and tea.)
4. It's amazing what you can accomplish on a Saturday morning at 8 a.m.

I digress, so let's get back to the food…

The Starters: I order the crab bisque. And then I realize that there's probably alcohol in it. Al tries to reassure me that all the alcohol has been cooked off, but if I'm going to do this no alocohol thing, I'm going to do it right. I switch to the artichoke soup and it is FANTASTIC. I would love nothing more than to come home to this on a Sunday afternoon when it's raining outside, Nina Simone is on the radio, and there's a yellow lab at my feet. (For the record, I'm allergic to dogs, but this is a nice image isn't it?) We are off to a good start.

The Mains: I can't choose. I end up with the ribeye and chips which is odd for me because I'm not a steak person, really. The chips are nothing special. The ribeye is kinda messy. How can a steak be messy? It's almost like it's part braised or something. Or perhaps cooked once to rare and then cooked again to medium? I can't explain it. But it was just not for me.

The Dessert: I ask for the caramel ice cream. They're out. But our server recommends the rum raisin ice cream. No no no…alcohol–it's everywhere! I opt for vanilla and it's served with a little piece of shortbread that almost redeems my steak.

The Loos: Dirty, dirty, dirty. And cold. Cold and dirty is a bad combination. A good power washing, a smelly candle, and a flower or two would do wonders.

What I Learned: Abba assures me that there are NO monkeys in Delhi. This is interesting because my co-workers swear they were mauled by a swarm of wild monkeys in Delhi. 

The Verdict: I'm going to give St. John another shot. It's the artichoke soup. I can't stop thinking about it.

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Helen Yuet Ling Pang January 22, 2008 - 8:55 pm

What a shame about the steak! I had the ribeye with chips and loved every bite of it. It was two years ago though, perhaps a change of chef? Don’t give up on it, and go back, like you said. Helen Yuet Ling

Silverbrow January 22, 2008 - 10:10 pm

I’ve heard really mixed reviews recently, especially of service.

I still go by that old adage that cleanliness of loos mirrors cleanliness of the kitchen.

Bombay Beauty January 23, 2008 - 12:03 pm

Couple of random thoughts. I was a non-drinker for the first twenty-something years of my thirty-something life. I agree that restaurants are really taken aback. In part understandably, since the food is a front for selling alcohol, but they should be more gracious about it. Alcohol is mostly I think about a group dynamic. I find that if no one is drinking at dinner (or for that matter at a party – can you imagine it? I used to give dry parties) then you’re all in the same mood. But if only one isn’t drinking you tend to lag behind the relaxed vibe just a bit. It can be survived, but is real.

Abba has no idea what he is talking about. There are many monkeys in Delhi, because their natural habitats have been displaced by buildings. You see them even the city centre. The deputy-mayor was recently killed when he fell of his balcony trying to shoo some monkeys away…



chrisc January 23, 2008 - 5:30 pm

So many restaurants, so little time…never go back to a mediocre place.
It’s not worth it.

Though, may I ask out of interest, how many places have you been to more than once?
How many more than twice?

chrisc January 23, 2008 - 5:32 pm

PS – what did you think of the Time Out “Top 50” in this week’s new issue?

Glad to see The Ambasador in at 23, otherwise I have to say I have been to fewer than 10 of their supposed faves.

Krista February 9, 2008 - 10:43 am

Chris–you know, I’ve only been to The Ambassador once, but I was less than impressed. Service was off, the place was empty, and my food was boring. But everyone seems to love it so I should go back someday.

I did see the Time Out Top 50…meant to write something on it, but I think I left my mag on a plane somewhere. Sigh.

Michael Atkinson February 9, 2008 - 9:36 pm

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