St John

  • Restaurants
  • British
Critics' choice
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Two decades on from its founding, this minimally decorated Clerkenwell pioneer is as good as ever: gutsy but sophisticated British cooking, puds a strong point.

Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver’s restaurant – now the heart of a mini-empire with branch, bakery and wine dealership – has been praised to the skies for reacquainting the British with the full possibilities of native produce, and especially anything gutsy and offal-ish.

Perhaps as influential, however, has been its almost defiantly casual style: a Michelin-starred restaurant for people who run from the very idea. The mezzanine dining room in the former Smithfield smokehouse has bare white walls, battered floorboards and tables lined up canteen-style; the downstairs bar, with superb snacks, is equally basic. The staff are able to chat without allowing anything to go off-track.

St John’s cooking is famously full-on, but also sophisticated, concocting flavours that are delicate as well as rich. Black cuttlefish and onions was extraordinary, arriving in a supremely deep-flavoured ink-based sauce with a hint of mint; ox tongue was perfectly cooked to bring out every taste and texture, and served with fantastic horseradish. This is powerful cooking, so if you go for a full dinner, including the great neo-traditional puds, leave time for digestion.

Wines – all French, many under St John’s own label, are on the pricey side, but you can also order good beers from the attached bar. Many diners prefer the no-bookings bar for its more casual vibe and reasonable prices.


Venue name: St John
Address: 26 St John Street
Opening hours: Lunch served noon-2.45pm Mon-Fri; 1-2.30pm Sun. Dinner served 6-10.45pm Mon-Sat
Transport: Tube: Barbican tube or Farringdon tube/rail
Price: Main courses £13.50-£23.80

Average User Rating

3.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:4
  • 4 star:5
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:3
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Sarah G
Staff Writer

The daddy of the St John Street restaurant scene is still the best place in the area to have a drink, a snack, or a full meal – the bar retains its buzz, and the restaurant keeps the faith with pared-down plates of British food.

Staff Writer

St John is somewhere I just have to keep going back to. Having enjoyed its delights for 20 years, it continues to please. Always delivers and good to see they keep some of the classics on the menu. Friendly service and good ambience. Those that have not enjoyed St John, it is a shame. 

Staff WriterStaff Comp

I had a birthday meal here and it was truly wonderful. Just the right ambience, attentive service (but not overly so) and a great menu make this a firm favourite.

Martin C
Staff Writer

Have eaten in the main restaurant lots of times and always been wowed not just by the food but the friendliness of the staff. Most recently a group of us ate in the bar ('like granny's whitewashed outhouse' was one comment) and the food was of the same great standard and pretty reasonable. The eccles cake and cheese is worth a visit on its own.

Tom C

I was tempted to give this 5* just to bring up the average, this does not deserve 2 by any means! The interior is different and a interesting space the whiteness provides the blank canvas for the star attraction- the food. I had the Rabbit offal and Roast Middlewhite, trotters and prunes. We had the salted chocloate caramel tart. The food was truly excellect. The waitress was knowledgable and passionate. We went a while without a top up so 4*.

oliver l

Brilliant place for much and dinner. Friendly service, good ambiance.

Fresh and simple.

Jo Halliday

We have been going to this, our local restaurant, for over ten years. Others come and go but St John Smithfield is always outstanding: the ingredients are superb, the dishes sound simple but are extraordinarily full of flavour, and the staff are consistently efficient and pleasant. We always return here for special occasions and just whenever we can!


This place is wonderful. The bone marrow salad was delicious and plenty for two as an appetizer. I had the calf liver with shallots for a main and it was so tender if practically melted as I ate it. The atmosphere is exactly as I hoped - unpretentious, intimate, with staff that ran the place like a ship. Excellent food and wine at prices very much within reach for the quality. And it certainly was far from shabby, unless you're used to dining at glitzed out places like Nobu. I'll be coming back soon.


Was excited to be taken to lunch by a friend just before Christmas. What a major let down. Decor was tired and shabby (not chic). Service disinterested. Food was poor - toast with my crab starter was cremated. The rest of the food was average at best. Even wrote to the proprietors and they had a good reason for everything. Michelin starred - no way!


Had a really poor meal here, pigeon was hugely overcooked and had to be sent back, another dish was not properly heated. The St John is clearly resting on its reputation of old


We recently ate there. Food novel, service excellent. Attitude of management typical. We brought a surprise birthday cake for a family member (which was the reason we were eating there) and we were told that there was a cakeage charge of 6.50 per person. Quite riddiculous. On reflection, no atmosphere and not the place to celebrate birthdays.


Myself(a chef) and 3 foodie friends were all excited to visit st John restaurant,, on arrival, it seems quirky, quite neutral but different and cosy... the menu was simple, the food also simple... I had bone marrow to start and was kinda hoping it would surprise me a bit especially for 8 quid, when to make that dish would of cost 50 pence... Roast bone marrow.... is roast bone marrow, not a lot you have to do with it really... they cooked simple food well.. no complaints there... and i suppose they are honest with this and don't claim to do anything else other than cook game/meats well.. but... I don't know.. it just needed a little bit of excitement,, a little bit of a spark!!! it has such a great reputation that it should and could raise it's level a little higher... any good house cook could do what they did at St John... also my massive let down was the desert... Chef can obviously cook a good bird.. but has no idea of desert,, the chocolate terrine was dry and pretty gross, the only other choice that i wanted was a lemon posset- cream set with lemon and sugar?? Come on!!!! and some other random non exciting deserts..... gave it 3 cos they cook the food well and waiting staff were great, knowledgable and helpful, although slow.... London has so many awesome restaurants,, it's great they change the menu often... always nice to go back and see whats new!!! But I won't,, as once again, it will be a bit of a let down.... Sad really... the concept was so exciting... the execution... non inspiring....