Time Out rating:
Time Out says
Posted: Wed Sep 25 2013
On Upper Street, mostly a strip of uninspiring chains and unashamed party pubs, John Salt stands out. It was opened with chef Neil Rankin, one of the architects of London’s US diner food takeover. He’s no longer there, but the menu still makes full use of the smoker, the fryer and the grill: there’s barbecued sardines with harissa; smoked short-rib cheeseburger; ‘chicken fried’ whitebait; coal-baked onions with yogurt. Even some of the ingredients have the whiff of fossil fuel about them: charcoal butter appears with potatoes and sorrel.
It’s all served on small plates, of course, which doesn’t always work – timings were off on our visit, and the table wasn’t big enough to comfortably accommodate the five dishes we ordered. The cooking is competent, if not exciting, and the drinks list thoughtful; a few craft beers feature, and cocktails are grown-up and fortifying. What stops John Salt scoring higher is the fact that the ground-floor bar gets massively busy – this is Upper Street, as discussed – leaving the upstairs restaurant to contend with the distant sounds of repetitive beats and an ever-increasing hubbub. Good to kick off a night out in Islington, perhaps, but not committed enough to warrant a special visit.
John Salt 131 Upper Street
- Venue phone:
020 7704 8955
- Venue website:
- Opening hours:
Lunch served noon-3pm, dinner served 6-10pm Mon-Fri. Meals served noon-10pm Sat, Sun.
Tube: Highbury & Islington tube/rail
Dishes £3.50-£12. Meal for two with drinks and service: around £65.
- 131 Upper Street
- 020 7704 8955
- 131 Upper Street
- John Salt
Average User Rating
2.6 / 5
- 5 star:2
- 4 star:0
- 3 star:1
- 2 star:1
- 1 star:3
This is by far the worst Sunday Lunch I've had in London. The roast beef came out absolutely blue - there was blood seeping onto the plate. They advised 'this is how we do it', which is perfectly fine, but the menu or waitstaff should advise this when you order. We like our meat rare usually anyway, but this was much more than 'rare roast beef' which is normally pink, the meat was hardly even warm. The 'roast chicken' was actually smoked chicken, but again this was not noted on the menu, nor were we advised this by the waitress. Smoked chicken has a very specific flavour, and some people don't like it. Regardless, putting roast chicken on the menu when it's actually smoked is just adding confusion for no reason. The roast vegetables were undercooked, and there wasn't a green thing - kale, cabbage, beans, peas - in sight. The gravy looked more like tea-stained water. The roasts arrived without Yorkshire puddings, despite them being included in the menu. In a city full of venues that pride themselves on their Sunday Roast, you can do much better than a Sunday afternoon at John Salt. Try The Albion, Drapers Arms, Pig & Butcher, The Crown, Marquess Tavern and countless others nearby for a better dining experience.
Had a wonderful evening eating 12 courses - incredible food, excitingly presented with amazing flavours. Highly recommend.
Desperately overhyped. Minute portions, one or two of which were delicious and innovative but gone in two mouthfuls. The chicken on a brick more or less sums up the experience: a tiny smear of underwhelming parfait with a few tiny berries. Top marks for the bread and butter, which was delicious, but is not, no matter how hip it might seem, a 'course' in its own right.
Fantastic meal last night - 8 course tasting menu - best in London this year. Technically adept, inventive food. Hen of the woods was delicious, turning what can be a rather unexciting wild mushroom into something truly out of the ordinary. The wild salmon didn't do it for me - texturally just too spongy, but everyone else loved it. The scallop "burger" with kiwi and black truffle was a winner all round - a nod to Peter Gordon but none the worse for that. The chicken on a brick is a fine and interesting dish - the lingonberries adding a tart contrast to the chicken skin and the parfait. The vacherin risotto was liked by the alliophiles rather more than by the alliophobe but was, on any view, technically perfect. The beef heel was a well-judged coda to the end of the savoury dishes, adding a rich, beefy, gelatinous hit. The whipped cheese with carrot puree was a very clever re-imagining of a cheesecake - the sort of idea that Ferran Adria would have been proud of before he moved from cooking food to creating art. The wine list was suitably off-piste, with the Domaine Roches Neuves the most mainstream of the non-hedge fund wines. The service was also exceptional. But maybe, as Alan D says, I am just a fawning idiot...
Seriously ? Is this the biggest case of emperor's new clothes in modern food. Are we right back to the days of silly gimmicks passed of as genius. I thought those days had passed. I tried the tasting menu it was pretty tasty... in parts. The guy has some talent but is it just me who doesn't get why a brick covered in caramel with some chicken liver parfait is ground breaking. Isn't it just making the people fawning over it look like idiots. Also has nobody noticed how quiet the place actually is ? Went back for the roast, apparently the chef didn't turn up for work...it showed.
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Incredibly disappointing. This should be a lot better. Amuse bouche and mushroom starter was promising, but it went down hill from there until pudding which ended the meal on a relative high. Chicken on a brick was pure gimmick, a chicken pate of normal quality. The Machiavellian egg was bad... mashed potato and egg with parsley sauce. The smoked watermelon didn't go with it but was the only refreshing foil to the stodge. The scallop burger 'thing' just plain didn't work - overpowering kiwi meant all the subtleness of the scallop was lost - we were encouraged to eat this with our hands which was a messy and unpleasant job. The rainbow trout was actually good, unusual texture which I enjoyed with the fragrance of kafir lime. The heel of beef was average, but was very sticky and had no textural contrast on the plate - although it tasted good I wouldn't be surprised to eat this on a Sunday at a fairly good pub. Ben himself presented this telling us it had "caramelised shallots 'n' that" - yeah thanks for that Ben. Puddings were the highlight - the fennel and absinthe one was balanced well and also had lovely textural differences with nuggets of chewy biscuit and sponge. The chocolate mousse was sweet and chocolately with a black pepper edge which worked to stop it being insipid. But overall a disappointing meal which wasn't cheap. 2 stars.