This season, St James’s Hotel and Club is partnering with British gumakers Purdey on an afternoon of shooting and a luxury dinner in the heart of London. Luxury London joined the shoot and sampled the game menu at the hotel's restaurant, Seven Park Place
The crunch of leaves underfoot, scent of gunpowder in the air, groups of tweed-clad ladies and gents staring up at the sky... It’s got all the hallmarks of a day spent on a shoot in the rolling British countryside, but while we are indeed on home turf, the grass underfoot is actually located in Northolt in north-west London.
To mark the arrival of game season, St James’s Hotel and Club has teamed up with the West London Shooting School (where I’m currently standing) and Purdey – widely-regarded as the finest gun makers in the world – to create an experience that very much feels like the ‘real thing’, but takes place right here in town.
The order of the day is easy – shoot some clays under the expert tuition of the team at the school, using some of Purdey’s finest guns, then return to the hotel’s restaurant, Seven Park Place, for a game dinner prepared by Michelin-starred chef William Drabble, before retiring to one of their lavish bedrooms for an overnight stay.
While I’m well versed in the latter part of the day’s activities, the shooting bit is the one that I’m less familiar with. Happily, Chris, one of the shooting school’s instructors, is not only an expert (he’s shot for Great Britain, he tells me), he’s also incredibly patient. Even when I manage to spring a cartridge case down my top.
The session is supremely enjoyable, which is unsurprising when you consider the calibre of the shotguns we’re using: these are serious pieces of kit. Intricately put together, engraved and as smooth as clockwork to operate, if you’re going to be aiming something and pulling its trigger, these are the guns you want to be using. One of the shotguns that we’ve taken out today is worth an eye-popping £150,000, while the slightly-more-modest £40,000 model I’m let loose with is just as impressive.
Having mastered the art of clay pigeons (thanks, Chris, for aiming the gun for me and telling me when to pull the trigger. I couldn’t have done it without you), it’s time to return to the hotel's restaurant, Seven Park Place, which itself is a prime piece of quintessentially British tradition and charm, for dinner and a line-up of dishes to make anyone swoon. From the six-courses, a rich and buttery feuliette of partridge with cepes, and roasted mallard with parsnip puree and madiera jus, are particularly bold and beautiful, but every dish impresses. Head chef Drabble prides himself on the relationships he has with his suppliers, and he buys game from a guy in Cumbria who, he tells us, lets him have his “pick of the best”.
The wine pairing is exciting and educational – starting with a Tasmanian pinot noir and finishing with a Maculan moscato that calls for a refill, and then another. It’s only after our British cheese selection plates are cleared that the restaurant’s sommelier comes out with a trolley of home-made grappas, infused with herbs from the kitchen garden. I choose one scented with thyme, secure in the knowledge that this is the kind of shot I need no instruction for.