John Salt, formerly The Keston Lodge, is the new venture from 580 Ltd (The Owl and Pussycat, The Defectors Weld) and is home to 'hot chef of the moment' Ben Spalding's (ex-Roganic) culinary vision. I was lucky enough to enjoy a preview of some of the amazing bar menu that will be served downstairs. His 4,8,12 (and a rumoured 18 course whopper) course menus, including the now famous glazed brick, are now booked up until well into 2013. And if the bar menu is anything to go by, it is not surprising in the slightest.
I started off with the dish I'd been most excited to try, the Greasy Chicken Skin Sandwich. 2 wafer thin slices of, well chicken skin, sandwiching paprika mayonnaise, cucumber, baby gem and red onion. This is a bit of a wonder if I'm honest. Two pieces of chicken skin manage to retain moisture, texture and flavour regardless of the fact they're completely flat, combined with the crunchiness of the salad and kick of the paprika mayonnaise.
Next up was the Spiced Wagyu Beef Wraps. With blowtorched lettuce and minted sour cream. Unfortunately the picture doesn't do these any justice, as even from the seemingly 'normal' looking wraps, they're spongey and delicious. These wraps, in their simplest form are like a chilli beef with minted cream sauce. But they're more than that also.The depth of flavour is such that the simple ingredients do more than if you or I attempted the same thing. It comes from Ben's complete understanding of the ingredients he uses.
I veered off course for a short while and sampled a dessert before heading back into savoury. Chantaclaire Apple and Lemongrass Crumble. This came with a miniature individual bottle of beautifully green basil milk. This was yummy and tasted as a good crumble should. The basil milk, resplendently green in colour added a savoury edge to the more traditional custard. And it works.
Next up, and back on the savoury course, is a great example of simple ingredients joined together to make something utterly delicious. Ciabatta bread, with a homemade BBQ sauce. This was topped with the smoothest and creamiest pomme puree (thats a kind of mashed potato for the uninitiated) with shaved truffles on top. I'm a girl of simple tastes and this was comfort food on another level. I could have eaten it all night, and believe me, I tried. And it was good I didn't event get a picture of it. Oops sorry.
Last but my god no means least, the Fried Macchiavelli Egg (Called Macchiavelli because the hens are brought over from Italy where they have feasted mostly on almonds. I THINK. I am sure I will be corrected on this if its wrong.) served with smoked watermelon, mash, aromatic ketchup, golden crumbs and garnished with thinly sliced radish. The egg was so thick and silky, combined with the mashed potato and watermelon each mouthful was an utter delight.
All in all, John Salt is a labour of love for these guys. Its evident from the second you walk through the doors. From the in house design of the building itself, to the cocktail menu devised by Soulshakers, to the selection of beers you wont find in any 'craft beer' style place thats popping up across the capital these days. Every element has been painstakingly thought over and it really shows. I loved every mouthful at John Salt and cannot wait to go back to try their newly launched Sundy Roast. Not an Aunt Bessie's in sight.
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