Just before Christmas, yes, remember Christmas,seems months ago, well back then I wrote a post about Ben Spalding at John Salt. I was lucky to have eaten there twice and loved the food. Time moves quickly, as it seems does Ben, and now John Salt has a new man at the stove, Neil Rankin.
Rankin comes from Pitt Cue Co that massively successful barbecue place just round the corner from Liberty’s . It strange really walking through all those elite fashion shops and then noticing the smell of smoke and meat on the air.
That heady scent has now come to Islington and I’m so very pleased. You might ask why my obsession with John Salt? But wouldn’t you welcome a really good chef, arriving a short walk from your front door, and one who cooks excellent ingredients in a edgy way, often putting the food right onto the fire.
I have only eaten in the bar downstairs but I believe the menu is much the same in the mezzanine dining room. First off the staff are lovely, all trying hard to recover from what must have been rocky few weeks. The waitress was charming and the bar manager actually turned down the music when I said I though it was a bit loud!!! No pitying glance at the saddo, just less volume. For that alone I love the place,but then we got to the food.
And the food is excellent. I went with a girlfriend and we shared four dishes. The crab with fennel salad on pig skin is all that twitter would have you believe. The rich creamy sauce cut with fennel is a great foil for the crackling. I hope the use of the words”pig skin” are a direct effort to remind folk that we should be honest about what we eat and not try distance ourselves from the animal by calling its meat by another name.
The monkfish cheeks served with tempura mandarin segments was less successful. Pine is a new hot flavour, but one a little close to disinfectant for my palette. The salad was a delight, so often salad is just a side dish, a soggy mess of those ubiquitous little leaves in a house vinaigrette . This was a salad I’d be pleased to serve myself and confirmed that Neil’s commitment to sourcing ingredients is not restricted to his choice of meat and fish.
And then we come to the chips. It has been well documented that I love chips. I order them when ever I eat out, not wanting to faff with them at home and also thus not adding extra inching to my hips even more regularly. We had the frites with pulled pork, kimchi and cheese. This might be my dessert island chip dish it has all the components that work together, meat cheese chips and just enough kimchi to balance everything. I could eat it again and again.
Pudding was a banana dog, good and the bacon panna cotta which was less to my taste, though my friend loved it. Delicious wine at good prices meant that including service we paid £27 each.
Meat comes from the wonderful Warren and Sons Cornwall, fish from day boats at Newlyn Fish Market and greens from Keveral Farm, all top rate suppliers
John Salt 0207 359 7501 131 Upper Street Islington London N1 1QP