Breakfast at St. John Hotel, Leicester Square

Update: St. John Hotel has since closed. St. John Hotel is tucked away behind a building site near Leicester Square station; to reach it you have to pass scaffolding and netting as you slosh through puddles of construction gruel. Maybe once they’ve finished building Leicester Square the area will be nicer but for the moment it’s a grim, discouraging spot for breakfast.

Fortunately the restaurant itself is pleasant and professional; light, airy and staffed with waitresses who recognise Mervyn Peake. At that time of day the place has that sleepy vibe you often get in hotel restaurants as most of the people in the room only put their shoes on 30 seconds ago and haven’t had a chance to have a really good scratch and stretch yet. I always find it relaxing seeing people paying by writing a number on a card and that being enough. It’s as if the entire payment system works on the honour system. Nobody checks the signature, they just add whatever to the bill of Room n at the end of their stay and hope it all works out. I stayed at a hotel once where some wily rogue managed to tag a three course meal for two onto my room, so it’s not a perfect system. Fortunately I was able to prove that on that night I’d been a single man eating cashew nuts out of the minibar so myself and the staff just laughed it off, albeit with somewhat bitter laughter on my part.

The St. John Hotel breakfast menu is heavy on the sturdy, meaty dishes with a couple of offally options for the extreme breakfasters. This isn’t a place to go for the traditional Full English or Eggs Benedict; instead you get devilled kidneys, blood sausage and beans, boiled eggs and anchovy toast or the simple bacon, eggs and fried bread. This is a menu of Hemingwayesque brevity, the simplicity of each listing belying the depth of the flavour. Blood sausage and beans were rich and porky; bacon, eggs and fried bread turned out to be a pile of half a dozen rashers and three fried eggs on a broad slab of sourdough. Devilled kidneys were a generous portion served on thick toast with gravy and a vague sense of Joyce.

There are lighter options; granola, prunes, fruit and yogurt. I’m sure they’re all fine and, in keeping with the rest of the menu, more substantial, interesting and flavourful than they might sound at first but I won’t know until I start breakfasting with or near someone with a significantly smaller stomach. Fruit juice gets its own listing in the food menu rather than the beverages menu which baffles me, though not enough to order it of course. I imagine this is just there to cater for people who are visiting from the ’70s.

St. John Hotel
1 Leicester St