Swine and Cheese

A passion for Pigs and Food

Murano’s and St John – London restaurant visits

without comments

In November we visited London on business and decided to try St John restaurant in Smithfield having been meaning to go there for years. We love Fergus Henderson’s books “Nose to Tail eating” and “A Kind of British cooking”. Both have been well thumbed and sit on our desks at work where we refer to them from time to time and get inspiration for some of our development at Dukeshill. Sadly we only had time for a one course lunch. The restaurant was light, buzzy and well laid out with a mixed clientele. I suppose I had been expecting it to be full of city Mr Creosotes but in fact there were some glamourous ladies too, a young and old crowd, ‘suits’ and ‘jeans’ all talking loudly and animatedly. As we were only having the one course I decided to go for it and went for the ‘Blood Cake and Fried Eggs’ which was my idea of heaven and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Absolutely delicious and I didn’t leave a morsel. Neale true to form went for the ‘Pigs Trotter stew’ made with beans and bacon which was unbelievably tasty, rich and unctuous. Washed down with lashings of red burgundy it was a most pleasing lunch.

The following night I had booked to go to Murano’s, part of Gordon Ramsays empire run by Angela Hartnett. At the time of my booking it was voted the number one eaterie in London on the Trip Advisor website so I had high hopes. Neale and I have only ever been to one other of Gordon’s restaurants, La Noisette a few years back. During that meal I did what I’ve never done before or since and that was to fall asleep at the table. La Noisette was dimly lit with no atmosphere, the tables too spaced out, and we were kept waiting for an hour and a half before our first course arrived, having drunk the glass of champagne offered with the delectable savouries, the Sancerre and most of the bottle of red burgundy we had ordered to go with the starters and main courses. Having said that the food was sublime when it did arrive but we declined the pudding course at 12.40am having been there since 9pm! Interestingly La Noisette has since been closed down as it had been getting poor reviews for its decor and lack of atmosphere! I just hope the talented chef and his team have found work in a better venue.

Despite Angela Hartnett’s absence the whole operation at Muranos was slick, the front of house lady very impressive and professional but again the decor and lighting was drab. We were put at the top end of the restaurant on a platform with only one other table nearby but we did have a view of the kitchen to keep us from falling asleep, plus it was quite chilly up there. The food was good but nothing like as impressive as at La Noisette. When asked if we wanted to see the kitchen we politely agreed but felt as if we were just going along with a formulaic approach to fine dining where we’re supposed to be wowed by lots of pretension. Don’t get me wrong, the staff did nothing wrong, everything was professionally done but it just wasn’t working for us. A bit like an experience that’s been spoilt by Health & Safety or is just plain jaded. Give me St John or a tapas bar over this any day or a hearty cassoulet in a cosy bistro, or even just good old fish and chips anywhere. I know where I’d rather spend my weeks wages!