Simply one of the best meals of our lives | John Salt, 131 Upper St, Islington, London N1 1QP
A birthday meal has to be chosen wisely. I didn’t choose mine, well, not directly. Instead I hinted on my ‘day job’ blog. Luckily Ade took the hint and got straight on the phone. His first choice for me – Duck & Waffle (where we STILL haven’t been yet, yeah yeah, we know) was booked until 10pm, so he booked John Salt instead. I would have been happy with either.
Birthdays are weird things, the pressure to have a good time is immense, I have better regular days. I thought at least if we went somewhere well-regarded I could roughly ensure we have a great time. I needn’t have worried, we spent the night eating dish after amazing dish and laughing until our sides hurt.
John Salt was way bigger than we expected, it was a relief not to be crammed in as seems to be the norm these days. We sat upstairs in the more formal restaurant area, which also has its own bar with warm and friendly staff on hand at all times. We always give a big tick to anywhere that offers us tap water straight away, the John Salt kind was delivered in a white fish-shaped jug that made a mildly amusing glugging sound when pouring. Crockery was mismatched, the kind your gran would have. No filament lightbulbs shocker, instead there were ‘pipes’ crafted from old fluorescent strip lighting that lit internally – very clever.
It’s not often I say I could eat the entire menu, if it is I have been lying. At John Salt I really could have. Astonishingly, I spotted hardly any cheese on the menu, this makes me more happy than you could know. Cocktails were good value, as was wine, the cheapest bottle is a budget-friendly £15 for a Garnacha Tempranillo, Cantiga. We went for an Angel’s Kiss £7.50 - Somerset cider brandy, Beefeater gin, fresh raspberries, pineapple juice, lemon & sage. I annoyingly totally forgot that happy hour was on, it didn’t state it anywhere and no one told us.
We were advised to order about seven dishes, so of course we ignored the (very lovely) waitress and went for eight. The amount actually ended up being ten as Ade quite righty fell in love with the Smoked ox cheek sausage roll with bacon fat mayo £4. Plus a bonus dish of Lamb chop, anchovy, parsley, burnt tomato £7 was delivered to us by mistake. That sounds like we stole it, we didn’t.
First off was the Smoked aubergine, confit tomato and toast £5.50 – a heavily smoky delight. And most importantly the ratio of aubergine was equal to the toast, win! One of the most simple dishes was presented so delicately and beautifully – Pit roasted onion, razor clams, monks beard £7
The gorgeous N’duja hash £5 was fought over, we almost ordered another. Again, something so simple as Tempura asparagus, charcoal butter £6.50 was stunning. Coated in an almost invisible fragile batter.
The Korean style Bulgogi short rib £6.50 was sprinkled with pear and spring onions and struck the perfect balance between sweet and smoky. Sticky and sweet Green chilli chicken thighs £5 are down as a side dish on the menu. Being a small plate menu dishes arrive as and when they’re ready, sometimes this works out badly, but a nice steady flow of food was delivered all complimenting each other.
I don’t know how we weren’t full, but I’m so glad of we had room in our ever-increasing stomachs. There was only one thing I had my eye on – The Banana dog £5 that Mila Kunis ate on her visit, provoking my ‘day job’ blog post mentioned earlier. A deep-fried banana with the thickest, crunchiest coating, it tasted of fairgrounds and heaven. Oh.My.God. This went straight in my Top 10 Desserts. Luckily for me I also got to share the Oreo, chocolate and peanut butter tart £6.50.
My heart had sunk slightly when earlier in the day I discovered head chef Neil Rankin (ex Pitt Cue) had the day off. But it wasn’t a problem, the food was faultless and perfect without him, he must have a great team in that kitchen. Am so glad we visited with Neil at the helm – however intriguing licking a chicken flavoured brick is. The menu he’s created is truly wonderful, we love how he uses smoke so skilfully to flavour food, sometimes so delicately like with the asparagus and then full on as the aubergine. It’s not often an entire meal is perfect and without criticism, we wouldn’t have changed a thing, apart from wishing we’d ordered more.
Read our interview with Neil Rankin here.
John Salt, 131 Upper St,
Islington, London N1 1QP
020 7704 8955
Opening hours: Monday – Thursday 12pm - 12am
Fridays 12pm – 2am(ish)
Saturday: 10am – 2am(ish)
Sunday Roasts are served until 6pm and then Sunday Steak Night 6pm - 10pm
PLEASE NOTE: No children allowed after 6pm
Nearest tube: Angel or Highbury & Islington, Essex Road (overground)