Restaurant St Barts review, Smithfield, City of London

Nestled in the courtyard of St Bartholomew the Great church in the City of London, Restaurant St Barts is an appropriately near religious experience. And, for someone who seems to have an uncanny ability to get hopelessly lost around the back streets of Barbican and Smithfield, there’s more than an air of pilgrimage too, but that’s not important right now. 

Restaurant St Barts is the latest creation from Johnnie Crowe, Luke Wasserman and Toby Neill, the team behind Nest in Hackney and Fenn in Fulham which: a) shamefully I’d not heard of; and b) I’m assured by substantially cooler friends are both rather splendid. As it happens, if a night at this new spot is any indication, my lack of knowledge is very much my loss because, frankly, Restaurant St Barts is a cracker. 

Huge picture windows provide stunning views

The interiors 

First off, it’s beautiful in that very Scandinavian style or, indeed, a style that straddles the church’s medieval history and the restaurant’s very 21st century approach. It’s clean and bare, and stone and wood dominate, frequently in very natural form: the tables, for example, are shaped like cross-sections of trunks. Huge picture windows provide views across to the stunning church – and must flood the room with Instagram-friendly daylight at lunchtimes. The open kitchen is sparkling and calm (although they do admit it’s mostly for assembly, with the busier prep kitchen hidden away downstairs). And, in what could be a tongue-in-cheek reference to that whole “hygge” thing of a few years ago, much of the bar seating comes adorned with sheepskin throws. 

Restaurant St Barts

The food 

It’s the bar where things kick off, and where you’ll be served the first six courses (of 15). Or, possibly, if you write those all off as “snacks”, the first of ten courses. Various members of the team appear to talk you through each little mouthful which are, at the very least, creative and, at the very best, utterly delightful. For a restaurant that so obviously channels the likes of Noma, and appears to be gunning for very prompt Michelin-recognition, there’s also a tremendous sense of fun. 

Cod fritter, for example, is an ethereal little cod croquette in an oh-so-crisp coating of scraps, those addictive little bits that collect at the bottom of your chips. It is, basically, a firm nod to fish and chips, while golden cross and onion tart is a pretty and punchy tribute to the joys of cheese and onion. The house Mangalitza cures are also little stunners, ditto beetroot, duck liver and tea, the East End seafood cocktail and, particularly, the “offal and cures” kebab. Indeed, the only slightly dull note comes, surprisingly, from the Wagyu tartare. It’s not that it’s bad; far from it. The meat is clearly excellent, it’s a beautiful little bite, it’s just that, after the remarkable flavours that have preceded it, it feels oddly pedestrian. 

Restaurant St Barts

But then, frankly, the hits keep coming. And coming. And coming. Moving to the dining room, with views of the church and the oh-so-chilled kitchen, the menu continues to celebrate great produce, clean flavours and the sort of cooking that looks to be minimal intervention, but clearly takes incredible precision and preparation. Mullet broth comes first, and performs a little CTRL/ALT/DEL on your tongue, and then it’s into confident dishes that celebrate great produce and clean flavours, and also occasionally defy their simple menu descriptions.

Sweetcorn and girolles, for example, turns out to be buttery, smoky, porridge-like corn, topped with pickled mushrooms. Crab, mace and nutmeg is flecks of seafood, under a little slick of warming, spiced foam. Duck and berries, on the other hand, is a straightforward dish of duck, alongside sharp berries. But dear deity of your choice, the cooking! The sourcing! The duck is a perfectly cooked slice of meat, still richly purple but oh so tender, there’s a layer of what can only be called duck fat granola, and the berries are just the right side of sharp, cutting through the fatty richness with aplomb. Or, very nearly, a plum. Cough. I’ll get my coat. But not before the honey and lavender tart because, well, it’s a stunning dessert. 

The honey and lavender tart is a stunning dessert

Wine matches are possible and go off in some pleasingly eccentric directions. However, dining with a non-drinker, the bar created a couple of interesting alcohol-free options, with vinegar and soda and assures me there are more on the way because, well, it’s very much a thing these days. 

The verdict 

With dinner coming in at £120 per head and a shorter lunch menu at £60, pricing seems remarkably keen for both the postcode and the level of ambition. Restaurant St Barts already feels like somewhere very special and, one suspects, it’s only going to get better. You might want to book a table while you still can…  

Restaurant St Barts, 63 Bartholomew Close, London EC1A 7BG;

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