St. John Regular Sam Neill Bemoans the French Wine List
Actor Sam Neill has been frequenting London’s St. John restaurant for nearly 20 years, and while he’s obsessed with the place his greatest passion is reserved for New Zealand vineyards.
“Neill is an oenophile and vigneron: two words that strike cold terror into the Observer’s bean-counters in advance of our lunch at St. John in Clerkenwell,” Tim Lewis writes for the newspaper.
“These fears are not allayed by the 66-year-old’s rather jolly Twitter feed, which for the week before today’s encounter has detailed the adventures of an assiduous bon vivant, matching food and fine wine in some of London’s smartest restaurants. ‘Try to steer him towards the less expensive bottles,’ suggests my editor.
“‘I’ve been coming here for almost 20 years; I’m obsessed by it,’ Neill says. ‘I like paper on table. I like rooms that are painted white. I like food that says what it is and no more. I like British food, which is mostly terrible, but when it’s good it’s fantastic.’
“His gaze shifts to the wine list and his lip curls like a king unamused by the entertainment. ‘Let’s talk about this,’ says Neill, jabbing the A4 sheet with his finger. ‘This is the one terrible blind spot of this restaurant. Look at this wine list: 100 per cent French! That’s like going to a really, really great travel agent and the only place they’ll send you to is the Balearics: ‘That’s it, whatever you want, but you can only go to Ibiza.’ Has Neill ever had a conversation with Fergus Henderson, the owner, or anyone else at St. John? ‘I have,’ he replies. And how would they defend their policy? ‘They’d say, “Do we look like we give a fuck?”’
“As we wait [for apricot cobbler], he reflects again on how his career might have been different if he had moved to Los Angeles. ‘The other thing that is regrettable about America and one reason not to live there is that they tend to put cinnamon in every possible pudding,’ he says. ‘I just think that’s disgusting.’”
Neill plays sadistic Belfast policeman, C.I. Chester Campbell in Peaky Blinders. Series two airs on BBC2 in autumn.
Original article by Tim Lewis, The Observer, August 16, 2014.
Illustration by Lyndon Hayes.