Mar 8 2013

John Salt

John Salt is a pub in Islington (no idea if it is named after the English artist called John Salt) and late last year a new chef, Ben Spalding, was invited to cook food there. After only a few months during which he attracted a lot of positive reviews, he suddenly left and now the main chef is Neil Rankin. Neil used to work in Pitt Cue Co in Soho, the amazing meat restaurant, and people say he has an obsession to grill things which you can see in some of the dishes he creates in John Salt. All their fish comes from Newlyn Fish Market, meat from Warren & Sons in Cornwall and greens from Keveral Farm (on the menu they even have a dish called “Keveral Salad” which just has greens from this farm)

I had booked a table for dinner for me and my boyfriend on a Friday evening, but when we arrived and when we left the dining area was only half full so I think even if you have not booked you can come here and easily get a table (they explicitly say walk ins are welcome). The downstairs area is a large pub like place (one side has tables for walk in people that want to have food) and upstairs is where you go if you have booked. When we first sat down I wanted to order a Bloody Mary but the waitress said they don’t do cocktails upstairs (even though they have a bar and I am sure can find vodka and juice in there) and I had to go downstairs to order it and then bring it up myself. After a while I did persuade her to bring me one but later when I wanted to order more Bloody Marys she refused and said I have to go downstairs and she was too busy upstairs serving people. The waitress was also quite slow at other times, so my boyfriend did not like the service at all. The Bloody Mary once I got it (the first and only time) was lovely and topped with a cracker that had cheese on top of it. Very cool to do it like this and very tasty to eat the cheese cracker and drink the Bloody Mary at the same time.

The menu at John Salt is very interesting and I had read they had a great baked crab dish which I wanted to order but it unfortunately was not on the menu that day. As a starter we ordered potted shrimp which was served with toasted rye bread and pickles and also “Crab & fennel on pork skin”. They gave you a huge glass of potted shrimp, and I have never seen this much potted shrimp in one dish and it was nice although extremely fattening. The pickles that went with the potted shrimp were very similar to the pickles I have had in Pitt Cue Co, so you could definitely feel Neil’s influence. The crab and fennel fish was just pieces of crab and fennel on a huge pork skin crackling and once again this dish felt quite fattening to eat. The crab and fennel together were nice and I liked how they had presented the dish with a half grilled lemon on a side and whilst it was an interesting combination dish I can’t say it was extremely tasty. I had read a review where Fay Maschler liked the “Green chilli poussin” so for our main course we ordered this as well as the “Skirt steak with kimchi hollandaise” and to go with this as sides chose the “Frites with pulled pork, kimchi and cheese” and “Grilled salad”. The chilli poussin was just a whole chicken in a sweet and sour type of sauce with a few pieces of chilli on top. I was a tiny bit disappointed with this as it was not spicy as the name of the dish would suggest and there were so few chillis not sure they even deserved a mention on the menu in the name of the dish and it just felt like eating chicken with an average nice sauce. The skirt steak was a good piece of steak and just like it should be it was not that tender and had nice flavour and the kinchi hollandaise was good as it had a strong flavour and quite interesting to use kimchi in such a way and it did go with the beef. But my favourite dish were the fries. It was so clever to put them together with pork, cheese and kimchi, and it worked so well. This is not the best thing for your waistline but superbly delicious. I also quite liked the grilled salad which had broccoli, kale and other green vegetables grilled (like that smoky/ grilled flavour) and it was served with some soft cheese.

My main observation about John Salt is that I love the creativity of the menu and when you read the menu everything sounds very interesting. The execution is also superb and you can’t fault the way things are cooked or how fresh they are, it is great. But my problem with this place is that sometimes these creative things are just not as tasty and enjoyable to eat as maybe some plainer versions or different versions of the dish, so because of this, this place scores a tiny bit lower than some other similarly creative food restaurants. Also as I said service was not great and my boyfriend complained that the men’s toilets were not that clean.

Date: 08/03/13
Price for 2 with some drinks: £72.56
Location: Islington


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Maija rated: 




John Salt
131 Upper Street, N1 1QP
United Kingdom
John Salt Reviewed by Hungry Bee Maija on . Rating: 3.5