Editor's note: the establishment changed ownership in July 2014; at this point it is inclear what this means for the restaurant itself.
The St John Hotel may have gone into administration in 2012 but the One Leicester Street restaurant has arisen from the financial ashes (the hotel was bought by Singaporean hotelier Loh Lik Peng) with the same head chef. Tom Harris was previously head chef at St John, and this shows in his menu, with an uncompromisingly British selection of dishes such as native oysters and potted pork. There is a three course set lunch menu at £24. On the a la carte menu starters ranged in price mostly from £7.50 to £9.50, main courses from £17.50 to £20 with vegetable side dishes from £4.50 to £6.80, and desserts from £6.50 to £8.50. The ground floor dining room seats up to 53 people at capacity, with an open kitchen at the far end.
The wine list had around 80 wines on the list, ranging in price from £20 to £225, with a median price of £49 and an average mark-up of 2.7 times retail, which is pretty fair for central London. Terra d'Alter Branco' 2011 was £20 for a wine that you can find in the high street for £8, Arnaldo Caprai 'Grecante' 2011 was £39 for a wine that retails at £15, and Domaine Paul Pernot Puligny Montrachet was £89 for a wine that will set you back £32 in a shop. The mark-ups were distinctly kinder at the high end of the list, with a couple of bargains tucked away. Mineral water was £4 a bottle for Hildon.
Bread was made from scratch in the kitchen, and was excellent. Slices of dark rye with treacle had good texture and plenty of flavour, a sourdough with a nice hint of acidity (15/20). You can buy the loaves to take away, at £6 apiece. Fish soup is one of those simple dishes that is quite an interesting test of a restaurant. It is tempting for the kitchen to skimp and produce a watery concoction, but the best of the breed use plenty of fish (which can be a relatively expensive ingredient) and have deep flavour; I will always remember the version that Nico Ladenis served, made with lobster, several types of fish and a fine stock. This one, made from gurnard and brown crab, was not in that league but was nonetheless very enjoyable, looking rather pale in colour but actually having plenty of flavour and being accurately seasoned (14/20).
My main course was duck leg with puy lentils, garnished with shredded celeriac. The duck was pink, the lentils cooked to just the right texture, the celeriac adding a bit of earthy contrast to the meat, with a hint of mustard that lifted the dish: ideal for a cold autumn day (15/20).
Tart of brown butter and honey had a delicate, wobbly but understandably rich filling, the pastry cooked perhaps a fraction long, but still enjoyable. This dish cried out for something like a citrus ice cream to provide balance, but was still very good (14/20).
Coffee had a mild, smooth taste, a Sumatran Gajah Mountain blend from Union coffee. Service was friendly and efficient. The bill came to £30 for one person, with just water and coffee to drink. With a modest wine, a meal from the a la carte would come to around £65 a head. I enjoyed my lunch here; the food was simple but hearty and carefully cooked, the skill of the kitchen coming through well in these dishes.