What is going on with St John Street in Clerkenwell? There must be something in the water. Or perhaps it’s the food. Great restaurants are literally popping up left, right and centre on a considerably small stretch of the street between Clerkenwell Road and Charterhouse Street. Locals are spoiled for choice from quality cuts of steak, to burgers & lobster (or both, at once!), authentic Vietnamese or Mexican street food, funky wine bars with great grub, and, of course, one of the top 100 restaurants in the world.
It used to be that those who worked in the Clerkenwell area might stick around for a Friday evening dinner, but St John Street was always quiet by around 9 pm (I know because Pho has been open there for nine years), and it never really came alive again until 9 am the following Monday. In 1994, St John Street pioneer Fergus Henderson opened the now world-famous St John Bar & Restaurant at the bottom of the road and for about ten years, it was one of the only great restaurants in the area.
But things have changed. Over the past few years we’ve seen openings in EC1 from popular restaurant groups like Goodman (Burger & Lobster, below), Workshop Coffee Co., Polpo, Benito’s Hat, The Modern Pantry, and Hawksmoor (Foxlow), following trendsetters like Vinoteca and Pho (below) who opened their very first restaurants on St John Street in 2005. Now, foodies travel from near and far to Clerkenwell on the weekends to visit the recently opened and most buzzed about restaurants in London.
Fresh donuts, St John:
Spicy Chicken Pho, Pho:
Lobster Rolls, Burger & Lobster:
Also located on this gastronome thoroughfare is the famous Farmiloe Building. The gorgeous old Victorian building (y’know, the one right next to Burger & Lobster) has been vacant for 15 years, but it has served as the hub for Clerkenwell Design Week for the last several years and as a film set for many movies including the Guy Ritchie Batman films. I was recently given a tour of this landmark building after learning that the owners have applied to refurbish and extend it, giving it permanent use, and to build a brand new building on the adjacent site (see rendering below). The architects, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, have an international reputation for design quality, environmental expertise and architectural innovation, with a strong background in heritage and conservation projects.
Although the building won’t house any new restaurants or cafes, there will be two retail units and office spaces that will most likely attract tech or media companies, who will employ about 700 people. As of today, an application for refurbishment of the Farmiloe Building has been submitted to the Islington Council. After having seen the inside of the gorgeous building and learning about plans for the upgrade of the site next door, I think it’s safe to say the local restaurateurs will welcome the proposal with open arms, if only for the extra 700 bums on seats that will come along with it.
The gorgeous atrium inside the Farmiloe Building: