Within the troubled arena of the pub and restaurant sector and the concomitant skirmishes of the financial world, the hard pressed customer can be forgiven for not knowing which way to turn when seeking the practical or sensual rewards sitting down to eat can provide. Do we stop going out to dine and allow our eateries to decline, buy the cheapest supermarket offerings and boost their margin and the increasingly unpopular powers they command, or do we shop as a stakeholder within our community to tick all the moral and eco-delicate boxes?

I am sure for many the choices have become as blurred as the dilemma that occurs when we try to decide which savings account might now provide us with some suspicion of  interest. From the former political mantra encouraging us to save for Britain, we are now urged to spend as much as possible to keep the high street and a few estate agents alive. Trouble is most of us have probably disposed of our disposable already.

These thoughts shadowed my visit to one of UK’s most famous restaurants to meet a couple of friends in London recently. Famous worldwide that is amongst a few afficionados and every chef worth his or her salt from New York to Norwich. The restaurant, being the second in a tiny chain called St John, is on the edge of City near Liverpool Street station is known as St John Bread and Wine. The chef proprietor Fergus Henderson is a benchmark in almost every professional kitchen around the globe. A modest unassuming guy, with an almost Dickensian turn of phrase in the two highly acclaimed cookbooks he has released over the last few years.

Why a benchmark, why the fame? Well, he cooks offal with edifying success. Not just offal mind you, our colleagues that day were both unreconstructed vegetarians and it’s their favourite restaurant in London.  His sustainable fish selection was focused and intelligent, the non-meat component of the menu was a delight, with fresh podded peas and slices of Ticklemore cheese or beetroot, horseradish and wood sorrel a triumph of simplicity over the simplistic, and a selection of British desserts at around six pound a pop was a triumph. The combination of cheese and Eccles cake having become a personal favourite.

But I was there for the offal, or at least some of it. My lunchtime options ranged from sweetbreads, faggots, spleen, kidneys, pigs cheek and tails (think sweet pork scratchings here if your stomach’s beginning to turn), followed by roast bone marrow with parsley salad and capers, duck liver on toast or rabbit with bacon and onions. As the house style encourages guests to share their chosen dishes I am afraid my chums got the thin edge of the wedge here but I found their plaice and samphire utterly delicious.

Why all the universal fuss then? Most of us have memories, albeit passed down the generations for most of us, or have gleaned from reruns of Dad’s Army, of war-time rationing and sea born embargos, where the scarcity of meat forced many a housewife to become ever more creative with ever less provisions. I suppose one answer is the correlation of the inherited experience of our two World Wars with our present teetering economy. But this is clearly a serendipitous time, with less funds we still seek delicious nourishment and begin to comprehend what every Italian grandmother or rural French housewife has known since time immemorial, that every part of what we cull can and should have a use. The only hurdle is the address to care and passion in our cooking procedure. However achieving such skills, if they are not there already, is the least expensive part of the equation. It is the mindset and the innate desire to return to good and simple things that may just be lacking.

But there is surely some silver in the cloud lining here, as an abiding experience for the future of British cooking. Fergus quietly lit an unassuming beacon at St John some years ago when we all felt that the banking industry was run by Nobel prize winners and our savings were secure in wise and reliable hands and furthermore, that our dividends could easily purchase a Japanese kobi beef fillet or a brace of Lobster Thermidor at the drop of a napkin. How much more we know now and how little we have to spend to deify the new found understanding. Avoiding the prime cuts, we are now increasingly reminded of what is good and noble about our demised beasts, more aware perhaps of the former disregard and landfill waste for which some animals gave their fond but often wasted farewells. With more concerns about transportation of animals, the irresponsible mistakes which gave us BSE or Foot and Mouth, or the simple costs to the world of flagrant and formerly wealthy diners, St John’s beacon may well appear brighter as the seasons pass.