Just this afternoon, on my way to a Nasi Padang lunch at Keong Saik road in Singapore’s Chinatown, who should I come across but Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver, along with a friend, M, sitting at the corner road kopitiam and having tiger beer. Like a star struck groupie, I shook his hands in awe, for eating at St John was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. This inspired me to drag my lazy ass and finally do a new blog post on this meal.
A few continents, delayed flights and man on train tracks delayed this long awaited meal at St John for a few years. Any restaurant that has the balls (pun intended) to serve the spare parts of any animal drives me wild. Booked a few weeks in advance, finally, we had a chance to see if its been a meal worth waiting this long for.
People think that pates and terrines are the domain of the French, but these preparations have existed on the British isles for centuries. What the French called Fromage de Tete de Porc, the British call Brawn. What the French call a Civet de Lièvre, the British called Jugged Hare, basically, a hare stewed in wine and its own blood.
Here, we have a Hare Terrone, roughly chopped bits of bugs bunny (I would like to think, inclusive of the spare parts), bound togather by a flavourful aspic jelly. The gherkins are not there for decoration, as they provided crunch and acidity. These gherkins probably did not come out of a bottle, as they were odd-sized and most importantly, did not have that metallic taste of bad vinegar. These crunchy bits were macerated in good quality vinegar that didn’t make you pucker.
Crab mayonnaise on house made sourdough bread. St John’s in house bakery churns out really great, authentic breads and this sourdough toast was no exception. This crab DID NOT come from a pasteurized can as most restaurants who serve any mashed crab use. This was fresh crab, either steamed or boiled, with the meat painstakingly hand picked. The mayo was not from some industrial sized tub in the fridge. Simple, honest and absolutely delicious. Behind this dish lies a lot of hard work, unseen to the customer.
This attractive looking dish is rolled pig spleen, and its got a great crunchy texture that melts in your mouth. The flavour of the spleen is not gamey or livery but surprisingly gentle with a meat flavour with a tinge of iron. Really really nice! Where the heck can I get this here?????
This sexy little bird is Teal, a game bird related to ducks, which happened to be in season. The first thing that struck me was not the bird, but the vegetables. These veggies are not a garnish, because they really hold their own against the Teal. Cabbage with some carrots and chard (I think), gently sauteed in butter until they were just cooked, yet crunchy. Beautiful.
The Teal was cooked rare, and it was bloody delicious (pun intended). Gamey, irony, livery with a tinge of bitterness, this is what meat is all about, not those tasteless parcels of protein from intensive farming. Hands up, I am guilty of buying cheap meat from battery farming for daily meals, and that makes me really look forward and appreciate the true taste of an animal who lived a fulfilling life of freedom…..until now!
The best dish of the night goes to the Roasted Berkshire Pork. Said to be Britain’s oldest pig breed, this heirloom breed is thankfully making a comeback, along with the more commonly known Gloucester Old Spot. If you ever go to Borough Market, you will come across a pork butchery dedicated to promoting rare breed pigs. These are not your usual pigs.
Once again, the veggies stopped me in mid-fork, as they were so flavourful and beautifully cooked. Being ignorant on European veggies, I think this was Chard, and damned that I can’t get this back here in Singapore. Back to the pork….
EXREMELY juicy and tender, this porker definitely had been lightly brined (Confirmed by Fergus Henderson today!), and slowly roasted till it was pink in the middle, how pork should be done. The thing that puzzles me is how they got the crackling so honeycombed and crunchy! This crackling was exquisite, the stuff of food porn wet dreams of porky adulation. Slow roasting = low roasting temperatures. Crunchy crackling + low roasting temperatures is not possible, unless its a HUGE chunk ‘o pork.
If anyone knows the secret, please let me know, I’m dying to recreate this at home with battery porkers.
Hold your breath, this is not steak, but ox heart. Usually chewey, rubber and cooked till the death, these thin slices proved no challenge to the least adventurous person of our party. These were probably sauteed really really quickly on a smokingly hot cast iron pan, as they were sooooooo tender and scrumptious. This did not taste at all like offal, but offering, dare I say, hints of Wagyu? Need to score some ox-heart….
Hey, its game season, so this Patridge ain’t nestling in some pear tree anytime soon. This sexy bird was more akin to duck then it was to the Teal before. However, it was cooked rare and you could taste that this was a bird from the wild. Its intriguing that the two sexy birds that night tasted so different from each other, and though really delicious to me, they might be a challenge for less adventurous eaters.
Isn’t it sad that we are so used to commercially produced meat that we no longer have the stomach for the real thing? Its unrealistic to think the world could change to such a diet, but we should really have a more open mind to food and treat ourselves to the real thing once in a while. Its a pity really, but with more of Europe undergoing the ‘Slow Food’ movement, I hope this ideology would flow over to Asia and perhaps we can start appreciating how real food should taste like.