Hunting season is in full swing and many of London’s restaurants are upping their game, rolling out seasonal menus celebrating the tastiest meat on the market. The carnivorous members of the Luxury London team have been wolfing down the top dishes to ensure that if you’re tempted to try venison, pheasant or partridge, you’re doing it in the right places
Hunter 486 at The Arch
As you might expect from a restaurant serving up a game menu to celebrate the changing of the seasons, Hunter 486 has a simple and rather masculine interior design scheme with modern twists (like the stunning bulb chandeliers over the bar seating) which suits the menu to a T.
Staple ingredients such as pheasant, wild duck (sourced from estates in East Anglia) and venison (from Royal Park or Thetford) make up the bulk of the menu, though each dish is enhanced by unusual flavours courtesy of head chef Gary Durrant. On our visit, on the menu is roast loin of Royal Park venison with creamed Savoy cabbage and bacon, spiced poached pears and redcurrant jus.
The venison is, quite simply, divine.
Perfectly cooked and tender, the meat melts in the mouth, surrounded by the bolstering butteriness of the creamed cabbage, the salty accent of the bacon and the tart sweetness of the pears and redcurrant jus. I’m stuffed to the gills, but should we be given the chance to eat this meal all over again right this moment, we would jump at the chance. Judging by the success of this dish, we’d rather like to return to try everything else on the agenda between now and 13 December, when the game, so to speak, is up.
If you’re tempted to try something seasonal, the restaurant will be serving up the following dishes over the coming weeks:
- 2–15 November: Roast wild duck with braised red cabbage, fondant potato, orange and cinnamon glazed figs and spiced jus
- 16–29 November: Roasted goose breast with brussel sprouts, smoked bacon, goose fat potatoes and caramlised apples
- 30 November – 13 December: Traditional roast Norfolk bronze turkey with chestnut stuffing, chipolatas wrapped in bacon, roast potatoes, parsnips and carrots, gravy, bread sauce and cranberry jelly
The Game Menu is available until 13 December at Hunter 486, The Arch, 50 Great Cumberland Place, W1H. For more information or to book a table, call 020 7724 4700 or visit www.thearchlondon.com
So passionate is Le Caprice about its game offering that upon hearing the theme of my review a chef was dispatched to find a fresh partridge. By this stage, we had already tried the pheasant and cep soup, and a butter-soft cut of venison with caramelised plums and chestnuts.
Le Caprice is known for its hospitality, and traditionally its fish. The salmon with miso and roast cod dishes see this classic Mayfair eatery full at both lunch and dinner time – when a live pianist is responsible for entertaining the sophisticated clientele.
During game season you should stray from the favourite choices, however, as Le Caprice brings its flair for simple dishes done well to its autumnal classics, too.
The pheasant soup was hearty and could serve as lunch alone, seasoned with thyme and chestnut mushrooms. In a soup, the pheasant gives a little earthiness and substance to a creamy blend: it was, as our friend put it, “a hug in a bowl”, and well-suited to being paired with a zesty white wine like the house Picpoul de Pinet. But our top recommendation for Le Caprice is the venison – a tender cut of meat that works so well with little more than sweet and tart fruits and a roasted vegetable or two; it is softer and has more depth than a traditional beef steak and is heavenly with red wine.
The partridge did not disappoint. For those who prefer a lighter option, it is well worth requesting in advance. Golden and succulent, the bird has a slight saltiness and more flavour than chicken. Again, the chef sets it against seasonal vegetables so as not to detract from the star of the show. We were thoroughly impressed.
The game specials are on the menu until late January, subject to availability. Le Caprice, Arlington Street, SW1A. For more information or to book a table, call 020 7629 2239 or visit www.le-caprice.co.uk
The Jugged Hare
On a Sunday afternoon near the Barbican, this is a part of London that virtually shuts down at the weekend, The Jugged Hare is an unexpectedly warm and welcoming, bustling restaurant. Given its suit-heavy city location, we can’t vouch for the weekday clientele; however on a Sunday it is knee-deep in groups of friends sinking red wine and a variety of carnivorous delights.
We enter under a rack of fine taxidermy, and if that doesn’t give the game away (no pun intended) for the restaurant’s theme, another clue lies in the rabbit and bird-themed artwork that lines the exposed brick walls, or the imposing stag's head protruding from a corner.
Opened by brothers and gastropub experts Ed and Tom Martin, The Jugged Hare celebrates hearty British food at its finest. The menu boasts mallard, venison, teal, veal and all shades of grouse (black, grey, red). At this point we are reminded of the word’s shortest joke by Jimmy Carr: “Venison’s dear isn’t it?” Dear and deer, venison was unfortunately sold out on the day I visited, so we opted for partridge and pheasant.
Before the main event, we shared haggis croquettes with whisky sauce and wild boar Scotch egg as a starter, both large enough to be a main and tasty enough to rival one. They arrived on inscribed wooden boards which many sneer at but we happen to like, and they fit the rustic, walnut tones of the restaurant.
Next up, we were treated to a sample dish of the restaurant’s namesake and piece-de-resistance, Jugged Hare. Constance Spry referred to it as the best of British dishes, and we have to agree, it is delicious. Spry also recommended that the hare should be hung head downwards for a week to ten days before cooking. Our attentive waiter couldn’t vouch for this, but he did confirm that the dish is a labour of slow-braised love.
And now for the star of the show: the pheastival. My pheasant was tender and bang full of rich flavours that can only come from a life lived in the wild.
The recommended celeriac and potato Dauphinoise and roast butternut squash were tasty accompaniments and we were just sorry that we couldn’t finish them. No matter; we did find a little wriggle room for rice pudding with rum and raisin custard and it was yet again, a triumph. There really is nothing better on a cold Sunday, than to set foot in a restaurant that knows what it is doing and does it well. This place takes the very best produce of these islands and cooks it properly and with flair.
Will we be back? Well we're game if you are. Oh dear, or should that be oh deer...?
The Jugged Hare, 49 Chiswell Street, EC1Y. For more information or to book a table, call 020 7614 0134 or visit www.thejuggedhare.com
Best of the Rest: Tamarind
For something a little more exotic, the Mayfair institution has created a two-course game menu designed by head chef Peter Joseph, which includes guinea fowl, red deer and pheasant and reflects the restaurant’s food philosophy; to present eclectic and expansive Indian dishes derived from traditional Moghul cuisine, cooked in authentic tandoor ovens. “Game is wonderful to work with,” the chef commented. “The complex and bold flavours lend themselves well to gentle layers of spice that can beautifully infuse with the meat.”
Available until 31 March, £34 for the two-course menu at Tamarind, 20 Queen Street, W1J. For more information or to book a table, call 020 7629 3561 or visit www.tamarindrestaurant.com