April Bloomfield, co-proprietor and Head Chef of hip New York eateries The Spotted Pig, The Breslin Bar and Dining Room and The John Dory Oyster Bar, has been making a name for herself in the Big Apple ever since she arrived in 2004 to start up life there alongside her business partner and co-owner of all three restaurants, Ken Friedman; prior to which she spent the summer of 2003 at the legendary Chez Panisse in California. Both the Spotted Pig and Breslin have earned Michelin stars over this time and this food loving Birmingham lass doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. April hails from the kitchens of The River Cafe, the breeding ground of many a great chef; her many years of hard work and study in some of the worlds finest kitchens, including Bibendum and Kensington Palace, have earned her a place on the foodie wall of fame. Having recently released her new book ‘A Girl and Her Pig’, April Bloomfield is fast becoming one of the worlds finest, most respected celebrity chefs; and not the annoying ‘tv-chef’ type either, she is a true celebrity among her own, among the foodies and chefs who flock to her restaurants from all over the world to eat her food and admire her craft. It’s no surprise then that on her recent visit to London, her 2 night pop-up at The St John Hotel was packed to the rafters and sold out almost two months in advance; it was really by chance that I was even there.
I first experienced April’s cooking on a whirlwind trip to New York back in 2008 where I tried her infamous Spotted Pig burger during a night out in in The West Village; since then I really have struggled to find a better burger, and believe me, I have tried. There have been a few which have come close; Clarke’s Dining in Cape Town makes a down-and-dirty burger that packs a real punch and The Rockpool Bar and Grill in Sydney does a Wagu Burger to die for; full of flavour and well rounded, if a little pricey. There’s just something in the way April makes her burgers that is truly unique and I can’t quite put my finger on it. It might be the Roquefort cheese or the sumptuous meat she uses, or maybe it’s the smoky char-grilled buns, or perhaps there’s some secret ingredient I’ve yet to discover; in any case, it’s still one the finest burgers out there.
A few months back my mum and I went for dinner at the St John Hotel in Soho, London; we’d both been dying to check it out and both have an admiration for Fergus Henderson and his ‘use-it-all’ policy and offal themed menu, which ensures that not only is every part of the animal used, but you are guaranteed to find some rather intriguing dishes on the menu. I love good offal, and I love the St John restaurants, so when my mum told me she had booked us in for a surprise pop-up dinner in the coming months I was already excited, even before I heard who the guest-chef would be. I’ve heard that Fergus and April are good friends and often do guest-spots in one another kitchens during their travels, so when I eventually found out that she would be cooking her legendary burgers at the St John Hotel in October, AND that we had a table, I was almost beside myself.
To a non-foodie that might sounds like an over-reaction. I can assure you, this is a perfectly normal reaction; I know people who have travelled the long and expensive journey all the way to New York JUST for THAT burger. Now, for those of you who know April Bloomfield’s restaurants and her cooking, you will know that there is a lot more to it than just the burger; bucket loads more in fact; on this particular evening I also indulged in the devilled eggs (a standard favourite) while my mother worked her way through not one, but TWO starters, both of which were delicious but probably far too much to eat if you’re having a burger as a main meal. We ended on an extremely sweet note; now I’m not the biggest dessert person, but April’s banoffee pie is, quite simply, spectacular. Back to the wonderful Miss Bloomfield and her cooking though; I’m not going to prattle on about it, I will just tell you instead to buy her book. A girl and her Pig is a fabulous exploration of one woman’s obsessive love of food; the perfectionism in her preparation and reverence for sourcing only the finest quality produce, coupled with her charm and the personable manner with which this book has been written, only make it that much more enjoyable a read. If you happen to be in the area though, try any one of her three award winning restaurants; I assure you they will not disappoint. If you are in London and fancy a little nose-to-tail eating, any of the St John restaurants will serve up equally good fair and with exceptional service – I’ve been surprised on both occasions and will definitely be back for more.
The St John Hotel |1 Leicester Street London, Greater London WC2H 7BL | 020 3301 8020 | https://www.stjohngroup.uk.com/