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Going the whole hog at St John Food and Wine

by Ross Bruniges on November 2nd, 2010

Feasting is something at which I think I’m rather good. Order food, invite guests, drink some beer and start eating, or if you must gorging on the delights that were ordered. It always gets me thinking of the olden days; medieval halls, castle courtyards and palace gardens though I’m thankful that food preparation has progressed to the level were all this feasting will, all things being well not cause any long or short term illness (at least that I’ve been made aware of).

I was therefore extremely happy to get an invite to such a modern day birthday feasting session at St Johns Bread and Wine where myself, my girlfriend and a good 20 other people got to eat an entire suckling pig; real nose-to-tail eating, the type that St John are famous for!

Barry the pig – ready for eating

With a healthy selection of bread and butter to start us off while we waited for everyone to arrive and get settled we had a couple of starters to eat on; skate, cobnuts and green sauce and crab on toast while the final piggy preparations were made. Anticipation was high as we could see the pig (who the organisers boyfriend named it Barry) in the kitchen whenever we went to freshen up and I felt they strung this out a little bit more than they should have as it felt like we were waiting (and drinking) for a while after the final plate as taken from our tables but when the restaurant was ready the pig was walked through the restaurant on a silver platter tray and carved up (after photographs were taken) and split across 4 plates. The head was presented with it’s head but the initial interest was with the more standard pieces of meat and delicious crackling; and a few bits of offal that I was rather happy to grab a kidney of.

Pig on a plate with spuds and salad

After the ‘proper meat’ was devoured I was allowed to get started on the head! A few brave folk had already had a go at the ears (essentially big ear shaped pieces of cracking) but I had a knife and wanted to get to the meat. The cheeks were carved off and distributed, the snout (not as edible as we were told) was cut open before heading to the jaw bones, some nice meat around the mandibles and finally hooking some brain out of the back of the skull; well it was Halloween and I think because of this other people thought that they’d give it a go too – to what I would class as mixed results nice for a change no one really liking it.

Food wise it was nothing overly special but the fact that the feasting nature was portrayed marvelously well by the front of house staff made the evening one of my yearly highlights, and for £50 a head very good value – we did drink a fair old bit! The feasting menu is available for groups of 8 people or more and I would highly recommend it. Just make sure that you do attempt to eat the whole animal as if you don’t you’re missing out!

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