I have a feeling that I reviewed Johns’ formal hall at this exact point last year. Every year Mark Francis has a birthday dinner and every year it is Johns formal. Last year I was particularly scathing about the unnecessary silver service which resulted in a cold, mediocre meal. Since I was more impressed this time round, he Johnians around me requested I write a revised view of Johns’ formal hall so that their college didn’t retain the bad name on my (I’m sure) celebrated blog. One thing I will always say about Johns is that they are always going to be above some formals as they offer wine with the meal for no extra cost, and it is decent wine. While I am sure that those who see formal as a chance to have a whole bottle of wine with a meal will be disappointed with 3 glasses; for the majority this is a nice addition to the meal.
Another nice touch at Johns is an individual menu card for each person, potentially un-environmental; for a birthday, a nice touch. We started with crab bisque which was impressive. A usual economically friendly version of this most colleges would use to make a profit put of students at formal, would be to serve a thin soup with a touch of crab flavour. At Johns I was impressed to see pieces of crab in the soup, no corners shaved here. It was a balanced and delicious starter.
The main course was a roast lamb, which I have to admit was roasted very well, melting off the bone. It was served with alright roast potatoes (sorry Johns I’ve had better), basic mint sauce and red current jelly, an exciting gravy (there wasn’t enough) and sautéed carrots. I am still not satisfied ( and probably never will be ) with the silver service approach to presentation but overall it was tasty and a lovely version of the Sunday roast favourite.
Dessert was classic pannacotta with a rather odd coulis but the most buttery,crumbly shortbread biscuit that made the dish. A good light ending after the rich main course. Nothing overly fancy but still presented better than the other courses. After the 3rd glass of wine had been finished, and coffee (or for Mark Francis, tea…..why he just got given a coffee machine is beyond me) Johns ended on a high. I would tell you how after this my shoe was left (and a month later still is ) at the porters lodge in St Johns – disclaimer, I did leave with shoes on- but that’s another story….