This is one half of a special comparative piece I am doing between one of London’s more established gastronomic restaurants (St. John) and one of Cardiff‘s most recent editions to its less established restaurant portfolio (The Potted Pig).
St John Bar and restaurant, founded by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver in 1994, has a distinct feel of a butcher’s to it.
The walls were all white, with little decoration, apart from a few coat hooks. The lights resembled the kind you would get in an industrial slaughterhouse.
It felt as though I was eating from a meat-production line.
We ordered a selection of four starters (between three of us), which included: Widgeon Legs, Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Rabbit Offal and Braised Squid.
The Widgeon (a small duck) was rich and gamey. The Broccoli, by chance, complemented the more powerful tastes of the Widgeon legs and the Rabbit Offal (the cooked organs of a rabbit).
The squid was a nice addition, as a comfort dish.
While deciding which mains to have, we attempted to understand the seemingly straight forward decor, or indeed the lack of it.
We came to the conclusion that they had tried, with success, to recreate the atmosphere of a butcher’s.
The chef was in full view, preparing, or rather butchering, the meat.
Two of us, myself included, ordered the Smoked Herring, Bacon and Mash, while the other ordered the Lop Chop, Turnip and Trotter.
The Herring was also quite rich and oily. This was not a problem, I had clearly chosen a first and second course, aimed at a more resilient stomach!
Nevertheless, it was tasty and despite it’s rich taste, was not overly filling.
At some risk of over-indulgence, I ordered the Steamed Treacle Pudding.
This was merely average, but then when has a butcher’s ever claimed to make a perfect treacle pudding?
St. John boasts a Michelin star and with obvious justification. The experience and the aura of the restaurant, is what you would expect from such an establishment.
The modest building, St. John is located in, resembles that of a local butcher’s- a theme that is consistent throughout the dining experience.
St John will no doubt prove to be a fierce contestant against The Potted Pig, which I will be reviewing in just over a weeks time.
With a similar menu and, perhaps more trivially, a very similar logo The Potted Pig has a lot to compete with.