The fact that John Salt is already booked up till the end of February says a lot about Ben Spalding’s reputation. Despite the fact the guy hasn’t even hit his thirties yet but has already headed up a kitchen like Roganic tells you everything you need to know about what a talent he is.
As great as Roganic was, Ben’s cooking feels like it’s changed a lot since then. His Stripped Back series introduced me to a lot of interesting combinations and ingredients; there was always at least one word of each dish I hadn’t heard of but the end result was always brilliant. You really started to get the sense that Ben was starting to find his own unique take on food that you wouldn’t find elsewhere.
And so he’s landed at John Salt; half bar, half restaurant. Last week we were upstairs to attack the tasting menu but I’ll definitely be back for drinks and nibbles downstairs to work my way through the craft beer and potent cocktails.
Things started well upstairs with a refreshing cup of miso soup and a perusal of the tube map menu that consists of 8 courses. While we waited for things to kick off we were served with a selection of bread. And what a selection it was; some of the best bread I’ve ever had with an interesting range of butters, this is a course in itself.
We kicked off with “Hen of the woods” which turned out to be poached and roasted mushroom with lettuce; earthy, woody (duh) and quite delicious.
The second course was the already famous “Chicken on a brick”. You are presented with a brick that has been glazed in syrup and has a topping of chicken parfait and berries. They give you cutlery but you quickly dispose of that and get down to licking. Some people may say it’s a bit of a gimic, and I suppose it is, but it’s a pretty tasty one.
Third we have probably my favourite course of the whole evening: Macchaevelli egg. This is no more complicated than a fried egg, watermelon and parsley sauce but I can still taste it even now, so warming, so good. If you told me that egg and watermelon went together I’d be pretty surprised but it worked a treat.
The next course was another one that requires no cutlery, you’re presented with the scallop and kiwi sandwich drowned in cider and truffle butter. I don’t think you need to hear any more than that to get the point, do you?
Rainbow trout with rotten mango juice was something I’d had at stripped back;. It’s a lovely blend of different flavours and textures and a great example of Ben’s cooking. He has an amazing way of taking something familiar and completely re-assembling it into something completely new and different.
I wasn’t quite so keen on the Vacherin risotto. Despite it being one of my favourite cheeses, I’m not sure it worked with the vinaigrette and duck skin. It wasn’t bad just not up to the high standard set before it.
Final savoury course was heel of beef with kimchi; dark, rich, and spicy, I was pretty full by now and this pushed me over the edge. It was brilliant, but I was tiring and only just got through it.
We finished up with fennel in absinthe, a savoury sort of pudding that lifted me out of my beef slump and gave me the energy to get home.
John Salt was as good as I expected it to be, with Ben at the helm you wouldn’t expect anything else really, he’s got some great ideas and an eye for detail. Get your name down for a table before the 6 months fills up (which it will).