Last updated: 11:00 AM ET, Wed April 29 2015

Opinion Home | The Main Course

  • Gabe Zaldivar | April 29, 2015 11:00 AM ET

    Enjoying a Pilgrimage to St. John, Fergus Henderson's Meat Masterpiece Spot

    Enjoying a Pilgrimage to St. John, Fergus Henderson's Meat Masterpiece Spot

    Image courtesy of Melissa and Gabe Zaldivar

    Much like stepping into Wrigley Field or finally making it to the Eiffel Tower, visiting St. John seems like a lifelong journey finally completed.

    At risk of highly comedic hyperbole, you don’t exactly eat at Fergus Henderson’s London restaurant so much as you pay homage to the master’s meat-centric menu.

    This isn’t the place to satisfy that hunger you have for organic greens. Sure, they have a bevy of veggie accoutrement, but here the formerly living animal is the star.

    Lamb, fish, pork, beef, duck, and other fare are nearly presented like a culinary all-star team ready to showcase their talent. So it was with great awe and a slightly awkward level of excitement that my wife and me finally made it out of the Farringdon Station off the Circle Line and immediately got lost.

    It seems that hunger and enthusiastic anticipation makes for the antithesis of an explorer’s sense of direction. While we were lost for all of a few moments, our embarrassment was exacerbated when you consider St. John is on St. John Street.

    Let’s chalk this up to London’s bewildering brilliance and move on.

    Now the use of mobile phones is prohibited in the restaurant, or so sayeth a rather stern menu. Luckily my travel companion scoffs at stalwart menus that dare impose absurd prohibitions. It makes for quite the awesome experience as well as an image of that night’s menu:  

    Now the menu changes seasonally, which just means we have to frequent the place with varied sets of wardrobe. The one above reflects the night we found out what all the fuss was about, March 10.

    Picking from the menu is like trying to name your favorite Avenger. They all have their merits and should be considered, except for the Hawkeye-esque Rum and Raisin ice cream. That was right out.

    We settled, after much consternation and hangry bickering, on the grilled ox heart, crispy pig skin, bone marrow, and duck breast.

    Revisiting the food tour is like listing off all the reasons it pays to be a carnivore. The ox heart came lean and tender like a juicy and unforgettable piece of steak.

    It’s the kind of meat that sits on the palate and reminds you that you really should have more red meat in your diet — not for health reasons, but for general life enrichment.

    The crispy pig skin was reminiscent of chicharrón in a rather vibrant citrus sauce. I never previously considered a pork salad as anything all that appealing, but have since changed that notion with what was a crunchy, dynamic, and joyous dish that had me smiling like a complete idiot.

    By the time we got to the duck breast, the pangs of an overextended stomach stepped in. It’s at this point that you ignore your stomach, as it’s only a stomach and doesn’t actually know anything.

    So we forged ahead and finished a tender breast that was so downright savory that it had hints of a heavier cut of meat.

    The star of the show, however, was the bone marrow, which was presented like some dinosaur dig: four big bones from which to pick. I half felt like Fred Flintstone in a refined setting.

    But this actually isn’t about what St. John did right, (at least in regard to this dish), as it is with what so many restaurants do incorrectly.

    We were served for our hard-earned money a sizable portion of marrow that was well cooked and buttery in consistency. The marrow wasn’t flashy nor did it need to be.

    While so many restaurants over the world treat this one dish as a reason to overcharge for what was once something relegated to the soup pot is seen here as an opportunity to delight the patron.

    Serving size, texture, and taste were commensurate for the absolute best that each cut of meat could have been or ever will be. It’s because thought and passion have gone into cultivating each.

    Each cut is treated with respect and creativity but never with any hint of ostentatious designs.

    Oh, you will pay handsomely for a fantastic meal, but it will never be from a menu that reeks of pretension and haughtiness.

    Instead, you get marrow that melts satisfyingly over bread, reminding you that it’s so very good to be at the top of the food chain.

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Gabe Zaldivar The Main Course

Gabe Zaldivar Born on the rough streets of suburban West Covina, I learned a great many things, some of which has proved useful: knowing the tell-tale sounds of an ice cream truck and crafting a world-class burrito come to mind. You have seen my work on Bleacher Report and possibly my mug on CNN. Perhaps, if you are into archaic modes of entertainment, you have also heard me on the radio. Pop culture is my beat. If it has to do with the intersection of travel, entertainment and pop culture, I'm your guy.
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