26 St. John St., London, 011-20-7251-0848
I'm about to tell you the offal truth. Those with delicate palates who blanch at the sight of freshly shucked oysters or beef carpaccio are gently advised to turn the page. We are about to embark on a gustatory tour of the whole hog, from snout to rump and back again. The city is London. The restaurant is St. John.
St. John was created in 1994 by three young Londoners keen on preserving what they call "permanently British food." Restaurateur Trevor Gulliver was already responsible for creating the Fire Station, a popular gastro-pub in a converted Edwardian firehouse on Waterloo Road. As his chef and partner at St. John, he recruited Fergus Henderson, who was running the dining room at The French House in London's Soho, a noted hangout of A-list bohemians such as bad-boy painter Francis Bacon, as well as a newer generation of British-art stars. Some of these regulars naturally followed Henderson to his new digs, helping to make St. John one of the most talked about restaurants in town.
Housed in a Georgian-era smokehouse that Gulliver rescued from dereliction and turned into a milky-white utilitarian space, the restaurant consists of a bar, bakery, dining room, and kitchen, with offices upstairs. If not for the late-model Rovers and double-decker buses droning past outside, you'd think you were looking at an 18th-century menu as you studied St. John's carte du jour. In fact, Johnson and Boswell might have stopped in after an invigorating walk and fallen ravenously onto a dish of braised hare and mash, or a good turbot in green sauce. And what's this? Spotted dick! (Austin Powers notwithstanding, spotted dick is a classic English pudding of dried currants and spices.)