10 May 2006

"No Squirrel Here"

Lunch at St. John, Smithfield

FURTHER TO 'May Contain Nuts', I today went in search of Braised Squirrel. Despite being warned to steer clear of this site by a prominent critic ("one of my least favourite restaurants in the world") I quite enjoyed what I found, although the squirrel was (inexplicably) "not in season".

Potential diners take note, the restaurant operates a modern wine tariff. This involves listing up to five prices per bin, meaning the liquid is available:
1. by the glass;
2. 1/2 bottle;
3. bottle;
4. takeaway bottle, and finally,
5. takeaway price should you wish to cart-off a case of twelve or more.

My verdict? -An intriguing idea to price off-licence, although I didn't feel retrospectively quenched by the gall of a bill demanding the strangely balanced figure of £20.20 for a banal Alsatian Pinot Blanc. Were we to have taken twelve flutes home we would have paid just £6.90 per bottle (the equivalent of 2.92 restaurant bottles which makes one wonder what the restaurant is paying). It would be cheaper to buy this stuff off-licence then pay corkage in the restaurant.

This isn't a wine you'd want to take home, however, being the sort of distinctly un-sexy, blowsy cardigoned lazer already grazing unimaginative lists all over the show. Type it into Google and you'll see what I mean.

The mark-up percentages settle down towards the top end wines, e.g. Le Montrachet '98 (£420 eat-in, £310 takeaway). If you can afford that outlay, thrifty-thoughts are most likely already banished.

The food, revolving around the concept of 'nose to tail' dining - was splendid. The best scrapings from Smithfield, just around the corner. Abattoir chic. To add atmosphere, rust stains had been lovingly varnished into the steps leading down to the loos, preserved for posterity, the envy of the archeologists of tomorrow... Linen was replaced by Eurotrash paper cloths and laughably small napkins considering the bloody fayre. Odd reflector light bulbs, the same as those in 'Cantina Vinopolis', in appearance an extension to the London Dungeon, provided a furtive alley sodium glow.

The Roast Bone Marrow & Parsley Salad (£6.50) was just delightful, in a goey, slightly nerve-tingling manner, whilst the Venison Offal and Smoked Bacon (£15.20) which followed was accomplished, especially the aorta-like bits, like meat squid. Offcut salad. I attempted to balance the protein with a side order of verdantly Fresh greens, although I disapprove of having to add on what used to be requisite components.