I've been hearing a lot about John Salt in recent months, and living close by in Angel, I was keen to check it out. Unfortunately, by the time I got round to eating there, Ben Spalding - the chef who made John Salt famous with his innovative12-course tasting menus - had already moved on, and while the a la carte menu still looked very appetising, I was concerned as to whether the food would be as good as originally reported.
Ham and egg: a tasty reinterpretation of this classic pairing
I needn't have worried: our meal there - a casual date night, after a few sunny post-work drinks - was excellent. The food was delicious, the decor was cool, and the prices were pretty reasonable too.
Raw crudites with bagna cauda
A plate of tender cured ham, topped with a golden egg yolk and a generous scattering of Parmesan was my favourite starter. Summer vegetable crudites - completely raw and paired with a tasty, intensely anchovy-flavoured bagna cauda dipping sauce - were also good. Our third starter - two plump scallops, swimming in tangy N'duja butter in their shell - was also well executed; although at 7 pounds for two it was probably less good value than some of the more interesting options.
Skirt steak with that incredible kimchi hollandaise....mmmmm
For the main course we split the skirt steak (served with an exquisite kimchi hollandaise sauce, which merits a return visit in itself) and the smoked featherblade, which was topped with a crisp tangle of battered onion and finely sliced red chilli peppers. Neil Rankin, Ben Spaldings successor, is formerly of Pitt Cue, and the excellent standard of the steaks - charred and slightly caramelised exterior, perfectly rare interior - reflected his expertise in this area.
Smoked featherblade with battered onion and red flannel hash (behind)
For sides, we ordered a portion of the "aged dripping fries" (nothing special, these were barely distinguishable from the McDonalds variety) and the red flannel hash - an interesting (in a good way!) mix of beetroot, peas and sweetcorn, and crisp roast potatoes.
Our shared dessert, the (slightly comical) banana dog, ellicited mixed opinions - I liked it, although it didn't quite live up to the hype it has received in other blogs. It was basically a banana fritter, similar to what you would get in a Chinese restaurant - nothing exceptional, but enjoyable none the less. My boyfriend, on the other hand, didn't like it at all - he thought the batter was too heavy and flavours too plain. We both agreed, however, that the (unfortunately tiny) scoop of ice-cream that came on the side was exceptionally good - a bit bowl of this on it's own would have gone down a treat!
All in all, it was a great meal - even with a bottle of wine it still didn't come to much more than 70 for the two of us, and the spacious, trendy interior would make this a great spot for drinks (and bar snacks!) with friends.