When one talks about food, the word decadent is usually reserved for things like rich chocolaty desserts and expensive ingredients like truffles or foie gras. It isn't usually used to describe dishes like ox heart or pig's head—and yet after a recent meal at Fergus Henderson's St. John Restaurant in London that included both of those things, I can't think of another word to use.

If you are going to consume a meal entirely of pork fat and offal (pronounced "awful" by those who both love it and hate it), there is really only one place to do it. Opened in 1994 by Henderson, St. John Restaurant has become a mecca for eaters looking for a bit of "nose to tail" eating.

As a lover of all things pig, I knew I was in for a treat when we walked into the converted smokehouse and were greeted by three fully roasted, beautiful-looking suckling pigs. One was in the front room, waiting to be picked apart and made into sandwiches for a private cocktail party happening later in the night, and two others were just relaxing above a stove in the open kitchen.

The suckling pig has to be ordered a week in advance, and is enough for 14 to 16 people. We were only four, and while I would have liked to attempt it, we unfortunately did not have the foresight and were forced to stare jealously at the delicious-looking piggies meant for people who clearly had better planning skills (and more friends).

Thankfully the menu was full of other options. Here were the highlights:


Warm pig's head with white beans: Melt-in-your-mouth chunks of pork fat that is described by Anthony Bourdain as "so Goddamn amazing that it borders on religious epiphany." I can't disagree.


Bone marrow with parsley salad: The bone marrow dish of all bone marrow dishes—and possibly the restaurant's signature dish. Having the word salad even appear in the title is a crime. I've never consumed so much glorious fat in all my life.


Roast middlewhite with lentils: Described by the waiter as the dish that will show you how good pork can be. The Napoleon of pork. The three layers combined to form the perfect bite of pig. Meat + fat + crackling = a porktastic good time.


Ox heart and celeriac: Believe it or not, we were told this was one of the least adventurous items on the menu, and, in retrospect, I think that's a pretty fair asessment. Easily the highlight of the meal, especially when you consider that they've taken an organ that most American restaurants would throw away and have made it taste like delicious thinly sliced steak. A masterful preperation.

Henderson will be in New York City all week long promoting Beyond Nose to Tail, the sequel to his first book, The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating. He'll be cooking at Savoy on tonight and at the Spotted Pig Wednesday. Both are open to the public, but Savoy is already fully booked for Tuesday, so your best bet is to show up to Spotted Pig as early as possible.

More photos: St. John Restaurant, London [Flickr]


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