When St. John Hotel went into administration in late 2012, we thought we’d missed the boat. As it turned out, this fear proved unfounded. It stayed open, changed hands and has now been given new lease of life as One Leicester Street.
Back in 2011, it appeared that the St. John team could do no wrong. When Fergus and co. made the bold decision to open a boutique hotel and restaurant just off Leicester Square, somehow it seemed fated to succeed. Critics have always loved their food and true to form, the hotel duly notched up a Michelin star in its second year.
All was not well though. The public were not flocking through the doors in their droves as anticipated and they were recording substantial losses. Eventually it proved terminal.
Since taking up the reins, new Singaporean owner Peng Loh has tried hard to maintain continuity. Head chef Tom Harris is still at the helm in the kitchen and the food most definitely remains nose-to-tail dining.
Offal is one of the great foodie opinion splitters. That’s certainly the case with us. I’ll eat almost anything, whereas my fellow piggy blogger the Hog is a little more cautious. However, the fact that he wanted to come here shows that he’s making progress.
Rather than dishes being divided into starters and mains, the menu consists entirely of sharing and small plates. As such, we were a little confused and had to ask for some guidance. The waiter said that two to three dishes per person is about right, depending on how hungry you are. Of course, being piggies, we opted for six (and two desserts).
We got the ball rolling with crab, fennel and sea purslane. It’s all served cold, including the piece of crab covered toast. There was plenty of brown crab meat in the mix so it definitely wasn’t lacking in flavour and the greens ensured it had a fresh, clean taste.
Next came the smoked cod’s roe and devilled pig’s skin (posh pork scratching and taramasalata). It was outstanding! The pig’s skin had the look and texture of a giant prawn cracker but it was obviously way better.
Given the Hog’s reluctant embracing of nose-to-tail dining, it’s possibly a surprise that he didn’t veto us ordering the lamb sweetbreads, trotter and carrots, but I’m glad he didn’t. True, it wasn’t the prettiest dish in the world but we both enjoyed it and I’d order it again.
The asparagus, pigs cheek ham, egg and walnut was another accomplished dish. The asparagus and egg were cooked to perfection and it was a great combination with the salty lardo-like ham and walnut crumb.
Our final savoury plate was Aylesbury duck and braised peas. It had a great, crispy skin and had plenty of flavour but the Hog and I disagreed on the cooking. He felt that it was a little too rare but my argument is that I think if it was cooked any more, the thinner end would’ve been overdone.
The desserts were the best we’ve had this year. First up was the brown butter and honey tart. It was a very generous portion but we still made short work of it. It had a lovely just-set texture and tasted a bit like a ‘caramelly’ custard tart.
Alongside it was the salt caramel, apple and hazelnut (or ice cream sandwich to you and I). It was dotted with dehydrated apple and blobs of salt caramel and was delicious! Even though we were full, we were still sad when the last mouthful was gone.
Overall, we were extremely impressed by One Leicester Street. Right from the outset, the service was superb and our waiter’s sense of humour made all the difference to our meal in what otherwise would have been a pretty quiet dining room.
The food was also excellent. Tasty, well presented and original. I have to say, we were a bit baffled as to why the place wasn’t busier on a Saturday night. Perhaps it’s just the wrong side of Chinatown.
If you fancy paying them a visit, you’ll be interested to learn that they now serve working lunch, pre-theatre (three courses for £19) and Sunday lunch menus. If our meal was anything to go by, I’m sure these will offer good food and great value. Just looking at the Sunday lunch menu has me drooling and I’m sure we’ll be back to sample it soon.
Meal for two – £133.31