John Salt started off its life as the Eastenders of the London dining scene; drama, drama, drama. Head chef Ben Spalding sensationally parted company with the establishment before the end of his residency despite being booked solid for months. What possibly could have caused this? Was it the pressure? Did he not like the area? Had the owners made one too many ‘Yo mama’ jokes? It has since transpired that Ben refused to have his food diluted to the stage where he was cooking burgers and chips. With his fine dining tasting menus receiving such acclaim, this is hardly surprising. I like a man who stands by his principles, they’re the best type. Along with hunky ones. George Clooney has principles and is hunky. I wonder if he has a restaurant?
Just as quickly as Ben left, Neil Rankin, ex head chef of Pitt Cue Co was in. His new menu was not in fact full of gastropub classics, but made up of small tapas-like plates.
Our journey to John Salt was also filled with drama. Having no idea what or where ‘Islington’ is, we made the mistake of jumping into a cab with London’s most unconventional taxi driver. Cigarette smoke, expletives and casual racism – this guy was the full package. We were lucky to make it there alive and when handed his business card, I took it with a fake smile, despite knowing I would rather take a Boris bike back to our hotel than get in a vehicle with that man EVER AGAIN.
We arrived a bit early (did I mention our cabbie was also a maniac driver?) and so ventured to the bustling bar area where we were informed by possibly the prettiest bar tender ever that it was happy hour. I quite frankly needed two cocktails to calm down from our smoke filled journey of hate and so had the Blackberry Bourbon Lemonade and St Lawrence. Great cocktails.
There’s an excellent selection of craft beers which the hubby was content making his way through.
Luckily I had been pre-warned about the close table situation by twitter friends Manchester foodies and made my svelte hubby squeeze through the tables as I rested my ample derrière on the spacious side.
The waitress suggested we pick three or four plates each, but we struggled with these numbers and so ordered nine. This proved to be a mistake.
Both tempura dishes were stunning; light airy batter not overpowering its contents.
Tempura asparagus with charcoal butter
Tempura oysters, beef fat mayo
Simple yet flavourful
Green chilli quail
This little chap had fallen to one side as if his death had been brought on by an intense chilli attack. His skin was crisp, his flesh luscious, all with a side of nice heat.
Lamb chop, anchovy, parsley, burnt mayo
Moist and juicy with an insanely delicious sauce.
Pulled pork, kimchi, baby gem
Yes pulled pork is no longer ‘cool’ but when it tastes this good, it’s timeless.
Crab on toast
Creamy and rich with a nice mixture of both white and brown meat.
Spicy and oozy.
Ham & egg
The hubby’s favourite. The egg was perfectly runny with salty ham swimming in a herby liquor.
We were so full towards the end of our meal that it really did become a trial in endurance. Please people, listen to the advice of the waitresses, they do know best.
It’s a very trendy and busy place, but the waiting staff were so lovely and warm that we really couldn’t grumble about a wait for our drinks. They expertly managed to appease our angry table neighbours whose thirst had gotten the better of them; by the end of the evening they were eating out of the palm of their hands. I considered asking them out shopping the day after (the waitresses, not our neighbours. They were a bit intense and shouty).
We had a wonderful meal at John Salt. The food is consistently awesome, the drinks are great and there wasn’t a steak or chip in sight. I would certainly recommend people head to this ‘Islington’ place as it’s well worth the journey. I like chef Neil Rankin - his rantings at bloggers on twitter are always amusing. Hopefully my positive review with save me from his wrath*.
*I have not given John Salt a positive review through any fear of Chef Neil Rankin. I’ve spoken to him through twitter and he really is a bloody nice bloke. And also quite hunky. Did I mention I like hunky chefs?
Since writing this post, it has come to my attention that Neil Rankin is in his last week at John Salt. I look forward to see what he does next.