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St John Marylebone

  • Restaurants
  • Marylebone
  • price 3 of 4
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. St John (St John)
    St John
  2. St John (St John)
    St John
  3. St John (St John)
    St John
  4. St John (St John)
    St John

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

Stunning yet relaxed central London dining from one of the capital's most respected restaurants

The cult of St John is a powerful one. Since opening in an airy old smokehouse by Smithfield meat market in 1994, Fergus Henderson’s innately chic white-walled restaurant has become a byword for all that is good and decent about British fine dining. Some off-shoots have sadly floundered – RIP to Chinatown’s St John Hotel, which now only lives on in repeats of St John superfan Anthony Bourdian’s ‘The Layover’ – but the hallowed Spitalfields’ Bread + Wine has been offering an alternate location for hearty nose-to-tail feasting since 2003.

A couple of small bakeries aside – one in Covent Garden, one in Bermondsey – St John Marylebone marks its biggest opening in an age. It’s as if they were biding their time in order to find the perfect location. If so, it’s paid off. Eschewing nearby Soho for something a little more low-key, St John’s third London restaurant is opposite the fabulous Golden Eagle boozer and far away enough from the main drag of Oxford Street to make you feel like you’ve stumbled across a secret, but close enough to make getting there easy. 

A braised cuttlefish stew came on like a lost folk-horror masterpiece

Reminiscent of a bijou version of the Smithfield location, St John Marylebone benefits from its intimacy – upstairs there’s an open kitchen and big windows, but downstairs is a cosy basement, where the lack of natural light might just lead to that brilliant thing – a lunch so lavish that you forget what time it is, only to stumble out at 5pm, pleasantly dazed and happily full. Unlike the other two restaurants, the menu here is small and seemingly ad hoc. Chalkboards explain the day’s offerings. There’s only a handful of starters and mains up for grabs. All are made for sharing, but by God you don’t have to if you don’t want to. The brevity of such a menu is never an issue; everything is exceptional. And we went twice, just to make sure. 

A menu staple is one slice of immaculate anchovy toast, a small but powerful parsley-scattered pescatarian successor to St John’s iconic bone marrow and parsley toast. Mussels and aioli – also on toast – was outrageous: seven bright orange bivalves dolloped on top of a thick smear of pungent aioli, laced with pickled red onion and, visually, like something you could use to scare a particularly annoying small child. 

Bigger plates saw no dilution in flavour or willingness to be a bit weird. A braised cuttlefish stew came on like a lost folk-horror masterpiece, incorporating the beastly murk and oomska of the sea with a suggestive dollop of house-made mayo in the middle. Roast lamb was accompanied by chubby turnips and a sea of bewitching green sauce. A mound of beetroot and red cabbage topped with crème fraîche was almost dazzlingly pink. 

The food alone is enough to impress, but there was also youthful and extremely charming service to add to the experience, as well as the ever-excellent St John wine list. It’s long and showy, but it’s entirely possible to stick to glasses of house plonk for an extremely reasonable £5.50 and come away content. 

If there’s any complaint, it’s that the much-vaunted deep-fried welsh rarebit that accompanied the restaurant’s launch seemed to be missing from the menu on both our visits. Yet there was plenty to distract us from going down that particular rarebit hole – another round of anchovy toast, anyone?

The vibe A semi-secret back street bistro for the St John faithful and some lucky tourists who've strayed from Oxford Street. 

The food British plates which pretend to be traditional, but are actually thrillingly modern. 

The drink Endless good value wine, St John lager or the highly potent Dr Henderson cocktail. 

Time Out tip If it's on toast, order it. 

Leonie Cooper
Written by
Leonie Cooper


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