Today I made an excellent decision. I decided to take myself off to Islington for a solo lunch at John Salt.
This may seem rather crazy on a work day (especially given that it’s a 20 minute bus ride away) but I was having a rather quiet day at the office and I’m all for making the most of things!! As it turned out, it was the perfect solo dining destination.
If you haven’t already heard of John Salt, it’s a new restaurant on Upper Street run by Ben Spalding, ex head chef at Roganic. It opened on Friday and the 26 seater restaurant upstairs is already booked up until February 2013. However, the good news is that the lovely downstairs bar serves food at lunch and dinner Tuesday to Saturday and it’s first come, first served.
My advice would be to get your ass there before the secret gets out.
The bar area is a really gorgeous space
I arrived at around 12:30 and was delighted to see that a mini cooking station was set up at the front of the bar where I could sit and chat to the sous chef, Nathan Holmes, as he cooked my lunch. If you would rather chat to your friends, there are plenty of tables away from the cooking station but as a solo diner this was a massive bonus.
Everything needed to make the 10 dishes on the bar menu was right there
and it was great to watch Nathan tutoring the commis chef as they cooked
There was plenty to choose from on the menu. I went for a mozzarella starter, a half portion of the spiced wagyu beef wraps for main and the warm original bean chocolate for pud.
Each dish was amazing and it was fantastic value – a gourmet 3 course meal for under £20.
Today’s bar menu.
I imagine the menu will stay the same for the time being, whilst they find their feet, but I would hope for some new dishes in a month or so.
A pre dinner nibble – perfect with a cocktail.
The standard of the food was what you would expect in a fine dining restaurant, not a bar. Each dish was well thought out and interesting, with great flavour combinations. Most importantly it was yummy, the sort of food that makes you want to lick your plate (note I say want to, I would never be so uncouth and I certainly wouldn’t want Marina O’Loughlin referring to me as a member of the tosserati!)
with warm maple and persimon dressing, brazil nuts and turnip tops.
I knew I wanted the beef but other than I that I asked for a surprise and this was what I got. It was a perfect starter. Simple, light and delicate. A pretty big portion as well. I really loved the sweet dressing and the depth of the brazil nuts with the milky cheese. A few more turnip tops would’ve made it even better.
Spiced Wagyu Beef Wraps
with minted sour cream & blowtorched lettuce
I’d heard good things about this dish on Twitter and I was not disappointed. If you were in a rush, two of these (a full portion for £9) would be an excellent lunch on the run. It was like a homemade burrito but far more delicious than any burrito I’ve ever made.
Warm Original Bean Chocolate
with jersey milk sorbet and salt baked pineapple
I barely had room for pudding (and was slightly conscious that I have a 3 course meal planned for tonight) but how could I resist. Again this was the choice of the chef and it was amazing. It was deliciously rich and really needed the accompaniments to cut through. The chocolate came out of a can like squiry cream and the flavour reminded me a bit of of the middle of a chocolate fondant, almost like uncooked cake batter. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to finish it but before I knew it, it was all gone. Every last drop.
So there you have it, my most successful impromptu solo lunch to date.
In a nutshell, I’d happily go back and try everything on the menu. Luckily this is something that Nathan is also happy to offer. He suggested that those who can’t get in upstairs should come along on an evening and have an impromptu tasting menu. What a brilliant idea!
I am giving ‘The John Salt Bar Experience’ 9/10 and I have a feeling that next time I go I’m going to enjoy it even more.