Sometimes being a blogger is a hard life! OK, stop laughing, I was kidding! There are some bloody marvellous invitations…

In the biting cold of early January I made my way to John Salt in Angel to attend a test and review evening by chef Neil Rankin, two nights before he opened to the public. As it was a test night, I won’t do a full review as dishes may be tweaked a little in the first few weeks. (But I hope they aren’t tweaked much as I thought they were bloody fantastic!)

Instead, here’s an appallingly badly photographed run through the menu that my fellow lucky bastard diners and I were treated to.

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Deep fried oysters with beef fat mayo

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Crab and fennel on pork skin – yes, beautifully fresh crab on a large slab of puffy crunchy crackling, and one of the most popular dishes of the evening.

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Raw bass, apple and bergamot – one of the only dishes that wasn’t universally loved on the night, the bergamot flavour was too overpowering for some but I loved how it was the first thing to hit followed by chilli heat and finishing with the sesame, though I understand comments that it masked the bass itself a little.

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Raw beef, pear and sesame – this was another very popular dish; based on Korean yukhoe (beef tartare), the simple flavours allowed the quality of the ingredients to shine.

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Pork floss, popcorn, bay and smoked loin – one of my favourites; though it sounded a bit “cheffy” when Neil described it, the moment I tasted it I wanted to grab the plate to me and keep it all to myself.

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Grilled salad – who knew grilled vegetables could have such texture and flavour?

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Frites with pulled pork, kimchi and cheese – meaty, fermented cabbage goodness!

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Scallops with peanut and shrimp – served in a superbly refreshing ponzu dressing.

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Half or whole coal baked crab with bisque – fresh, fresh crab simply grilled, lifted further by the most phenomenal thick, rich and very intense crab bisque sauce to dip.

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Chicken skin hash – billed as a side this was comfort food for the win; lots of carbs, lots of flavour and an oozy egg yolk for extra richness.

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Skirt steak with kimchi hollandaise – there are other places in London making a big deal of their £10 steaks but I’d be amazed if the quality of their beef could rival this Cornish beauty, set off to perfection by the spicy hollandaise.

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Whole megrim sole in bone sauce – I was so incredibly full by the time this arrived, all I could do was taste one bite. The sauce was rich and the fish tender, but I was too full to give it fair attention.

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Bacon panna cotta – somehow I found my second (or perhaps third or fourth) wind when this came along; a rich, greasy savoury cream full of sweet crunchy bacon; it sounds utterly revolting but it was absolutely addictive.

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The banana dog – a banana coated in corndog batter, served I think with brown butter ice cream. Good but the batter was a little soggy on ours.

And lastly, without a photo, an Old fashioned trifle with clementines which was full of boozy cream and rich fruit.

 

Hopefully you have a good impression, in spite of my appalling images, of just how excellent Neil’s food is. Describing it on the night to a friend who wasn’t there, I said it was “innovative without being wanky” and I think that’s a very good summary; it’s all about great ingredients presented simply but with Neil’s own twists and style.

Pricing is very reasonable, in fact much of the menu is an absolute steal.

And it can only get better and better. So go, soon! I know I’ll be going back as soon as I can!

For far better photos of both the space itself and the food, do look at Paul Winch-Furness’ portfolio. His images are sharp, colourful, lively and beautiful… and actually do justice to the feast.

 

Kavey Eats attended the test night as a guest of John Salt.

(It’s not common to write about a test night so I did check with Neil before sharing this quick overview of the menu).

  16 Responses to “Neil Rankin at John Salt – Innovative Without Being Wanky”

  1. Hooray for the great review, we originally booked for Ben Spalding, but decided to keep our booking for next week to give it a chance – very glad we did now! x

  2. Dear Kavey,
    Thanks for putting this place on my radar!
    Your pics may not be up to your own high standards, but they amply get across the feel of the dishes.
    I may end up thinking about the wonder of crab on pork skin for the rest of the day now…..
    Best wishes
    Snigdha

    • Definitely check Paul’s photos via the link, for some really great images of the food.
      Yeah, been dreaming about so many of those dishes since… not least crab on crackling!

  3. Innovative without being wanky is probably my favourite expression ever.

  4. “Innovative without being wanky.”
    I can’t stop laughing! The food looks amazing, I wish I could take half as good food pictures as you!

  5. I have to admit that I watched all of your evenings unfold with more than a smidge of jealousy. Looks absolutely fantastic! I look forward to trying some of these dishes myself.

  6. Bloomin’ ‘eck! How did you even MOVE after all that??!!

  7. Hi Kavey, I remember going on Instagram and seeing your pics about halfway through – I went back through them all as it all sounded so good! Looks like you had an amazing time :)

  8. This is the best title for a restaurant review ever, you actually do not need to read more for the details.

    I am, however, very jealous!

  9. thats so yummy,,,

  10. Did you really mean to put Wanky in your title. LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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