They say: John Salt must be one of my favourite new dining experiences this year nestled in the heart of Islington’s food and drink mecca on Upper Street. With rave reviews from the who’s who of the eating world, it’s little surprise that you’ll need to book a table at the restaurant a few months ahead at a time (or try your luck at the downstairs bar for a taster or Sunday roast which is walk in only and no reservations). If you’ve ever been to Roganic (we went for his birthday last year!), you’ll find some similarities in creativity of dish presentation and the inventive use of unusual ingredients – Ben Spalding, the brains behind John Salt was former Head Chef of the 2 year pop-up in Marylebone. From the get-go, you know you’re in store for an amazing ride with a funtastic London tube inspired menu that takes you on a journey of 11 stops from unassuming nibbles to a Hen of the Woods adventure and beyond, plus a complimentary palate cleanser. If you haven’t heard of John Salt’s infamous ‘chicken on a brick’ yet, let’s just say that being in a room of grown adults licking bricks was a true sight to behold and brought back fun, childish feelings. Something that Heston would try. And word of warning, make sure you wash your hands before eating, as the scallop dish can get a little messy and finger licking!
The food: We first heard about John Salt on Twitter, so decided to write a 140 character ‘tweet up’ style post of the dishes from the 8 course tasting menu inspired by this.
- Nibbles of miso soup in teapot & bite sized short rib beignet dipped in garlicky aioli were tasty, perfect before main affair #grazeworthy
- Bread & butter 3 ways – normal, whipped, soured. Warm muffin-like grape bread and crispy chestnut flat bread were favourites #emptycarbs
- #40ingredientsalad – superb knife skills & citrusy blend of flavours– could taste the grapefruit, pomengranate and pineapple.
- Hen of woods mushrooms with dehydrated douglas fir dust looked earthy and rustic. Accompanied by ketchup with umami soy sauce like flavours
- Scallop burger, seafood lovers dream. Paired with kiwi, unusual choice. Taste of cider butter and truffle added creaminess to dish
- #Chickenonabrick, fun dish with a nice shine and great texture – crispy skin & berries! Toffee to cover the brick was uber smart and creative!
- Salmon dish, infused with thai flavours like the kaffir lime. Simple and subtle.
- Risotto had an awesome crunch. Cucumber vinaigrette poured elegantly over, broke down the creaminess.
- Heel of beef, like a gingery asian beef stew. Unstrained cooking juices amplified meat’s flavours. Carrot powder – new foam of 2013?
- His and Hers palate cleanser with matching blue and pink straws. Cute. Like warm mulled apple cider.
- Dessert – refreshing & beautifully prepared. He thinks it tastes a bit like soap. She loves fennel. If you like licorice this is good!
- Warm chocolate cloud with milk jersey sorbet, fresh Clementine and walnut. Tempted to lick the small bowl #guiltypleasures
The verdict: Amazingly friendly, smiley and knowledgeable staff that take the time to have an occasional banter with you about the dishes served throughout the night and little unknown tidbits, like one of the young chefs Oli is on the current season of Masterchef UK: The Professionals. We paid about £80pp for the 8 course tasting menu plus a bottle of the Jimenez Landi Bajondillo red wine to share. John Salt is a great unpretentious setting to celebrate a special occasion, whether it be for a romantic candlelit dinner, or on the other end of the spectrum it’s fanstastically fun for a group date with friends – lots of chuckles in store, particularly when each person attempts to politely lick their brick (we saw many groups laughing, pretending to smash the brick and taking photographic evidence of course with iPhones in hand). You can experience John Salt for cheaper if you decide on the 4 course tasting menu served in the restaurant (£28 for four courses, £56 for eight courses) or their ‘any 6 dishes for £34′ taster menu in the downstairs bar. Their Sunday roast is also reasonably priced at £14.95 or £19.95 with pudding. With so many options, we’ll most likely be back again in the new year to try the roast and the blowtorched crispy chicken skin sandwiches on the bar menu.