Twenty years ago, hosting foreign visitors in London could be an embarrassment: where to take them for good local food that was contemporary rather than preserved in aspic?
Fergus Henderson’s St. John, which opened in 1994, helped to change all that. With his emphasis on fine local, seasonal ingredients and the clean eye of an architect (his original profession), Henderson seasoned nostalgia with clean-cut modernity, fused traditional recipes with a gastronomic sensibility that often seemed more Italian than British.
The roast bone marrow and parsley salad—a simple, pleasing dish—is one of his most acclaimed, and typifies both his aesthetic approach and his famed “nose-to-tail” attitude to eating.
Sections of calves’ leg bones are roasted in the oven, and served with hot toast, flaky sea salt, and a salad of parsley, shallots, and capers. Diners scoop the marrow onto the toast, season it with salt and then top with a refreshing little spritz of salad. Eating the dish is both elegant (those long-handled spoons) and supremely carnal. It’s a small masterpiece of culinary pleasure, and a suitable symbol of the transformation of London from international gastronomic embarrassment to gastronomic capital in a few short years.
Fuchsia Dunlop is a cook and award-winning writer. Her most recent cookbook is Land of Fish and Rice: Recipes from the Culinary Heart of China. She lives in London.
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