Vegans look away now, because the rest of us are going to give game season both barrels. As the ‘glorious twelfth’ approaches, the day that fires the starting gun on the British game season, there’s an increasing disconnect in our brains between the food on our plates, and where it actually comes from. We trundle around Tesco, tossing vacuum-packed turkeys into trolleys without much thought about how that fillet made it from the field to our forks.
There’s something about game, however, that is far easier to understand. Someone went out onto a moor, and they shot it. With a gun. The hunter gatherer in every one of us understands this far more than intensive farming techniques, chlorinated chicken and battery farming. And if we’re still squeamish about animal care, then at least we can rest in the knowledge that the bird had the ultimate free range adult life and that it died instantly doing the thing it loved (er, the flying bit, not the fleeing for its life bit).
So here are some of the best places to head this game season…
You couldn’t find a restaurant more perfectly suited to the Glorious Twelfth than The Game Bird. With the possible exception of a Valentine’s blind-date night, the name suggests that this is a restaurant pretty much geared up for one night a year, and they give it more than their best shot. The restaurant, at The Stafford London, will be kicking into overdrive this August and through out game season, under the direction of Culinary Director Ben Tish, and will champion some of Britain’s finest seasonal game.
Look forward to pigeon, turnip puree, roast baby turnips and cherry or try guinea fowl with pearl barley, sweetcorn puree and shredded confit leg, but for a real treat, and starting on 13th August, the shortest possible timeframe to get grouse from the moor to the plate, Tish will be creating a special grouse dish.
Where: 16-18 St James’s Place, St. James’s, SW1A 1NJ
Corrigan’s Mayfair has a few must-visit nights in their annual calendar; move heaven and earth to make it for Burn’s Night, for example, but one of the year’s highlights has to be their annual game season dinner. Held this year on Tuesday 3rd September, the dinner (including four courses, canapés, coffee and petit fours) comes along with optional wine pairings from head sommelier Jolanta Dinnadge. Space is always limited, so do book early!
Where: 28 Upper Grosvenor Street, Mayfair, London, W1K 7EH, United Kingdom
Nearest station: Green Park (0.4 miles)
L’ortolan is one of the most special restaurants we’ve come across. A short journey out of town, it’s Reading’s only Michelin starred restaurant and under Head Chef Tom Clarke, the game really is afoot. Formerly cheffing in Buckingham Palce and Windsor Castle, not to mention Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir, if anyone knows about game then it’s going to be Clarke, which makes his roast grouse breast with confit leg, celeriac and blackberries utterly unmissable. Paired with an Antonio Carpano vermouth and tonic, this is an exquisite way to experience the very best of game season.
Where: L'Ortolan, Church Lane, Shinfield, Reading, UK
Nearest station: No station near here (0 miles)
Nobody knows the British shooting scene like Purdey & Sons. The gunmaker-of-choice for royalty and aristos the nation over, they’ve teamed up with Tom’s Kitchen Chelsea to create a special Glorious Twelfth event. Starting at 11:30 at Purdey & Sons Mayfair headquarters, enjoy a tour of The Long Room and the store, before heading off to The Royal Berkshire Shooting School where a special lunch, designed specially by chef Tom Aikens, will be provided en-route, followed by a day’s tuition and guidance at the shooting school before heading back to town with lashings of champagne and canapes before arriving at Tom’s Kitchen Chelsea for drinks and a three course dinner, again prepared by Aikens himself. Quite possibly the ultimate glorious twelfth event that’s not on a grouse moor.
Where: Tom's Kitchen, Chelsea, London, United Kingdom
Nearest station: South Kensington (0.6 miles)
Website: Buy tickets here...
45 Jermyn Street, the height of St James’s sophistication, meets the height of another kind of sophistication in the form of their game season dinner this summer and autumn. Head to the gorgeous Martin Brudniski designed restaurant, settle in a booth and enjoy the combo of old school glamour and contemporary vibes as you tuck into a starter of grouse broth and liver parfait en bric, followed by roasted young grouse served alongside game chips and creamy bread sauce. There’s also handcrafted grouse and foie gras pie, all accompanied by a blackberry and shallot chutney and topped with malt gravy.
Where: 45 Jermyn St., St. James's, SW1Y 6DN
More Scottish than a Nicola Sturgeon painted blue, drinking a pint of North Sea crude oil and screaming FREEDOM! Mac & Wild is the quintessential Scottish dining experience in London, and that means that this really is the place to head for the Glorious Twelfth. And you won’t be disappointed, because the restaurant will be sourcing the finest wild highland grouse, and serving it on a bed of actual burning wild heather to mark the beginning of the grouse shooting season. What’s more, with their in-house virtual shooting range, you can even shoot and left and a right before having it cooked specially for you. Sort of.
Where: 9A Devonshire Square, The City, EC2M 4YN
Morton’s are there to prove that there’s more than grouse and pheasant to game meat, so why not head over to Morton’s and experience their venison, glazed chestnuts, parsnips and bitter chocolate. Taken in their airy first floor restaurant overlooking Berkely Square, there could hardly be anywhere more refined to savour the dish.
Where: 28 Berkeley Square, London, W1J 6EN, United Kingdom
Nearest station: Bond Street (0.5 miles)
La Poule au Pot will be bringing game season to London with a grouse dish served with celeriac mash, red cabbage with game sauce and will be available in both restaurants from the second week of August. The meat, straight from The Yorkshire Dales National Park, promises to be divine.
Where: 231 Ebury Street, Pimlico, SW1W 8UT
A stone’s throw from Tower Bridge, The LaLiT London’s restaurant, Baluchi, will be serving a glorious six course dinner to make the most of the Glorious Twelfth, while mixing in Indian flavours to create a fresh and different approach to game season. The menu includes grouse served with black cabbage poriyal, tandoori turnip and blackberry and moilee sauce; as well as clove smoked partridge with black spice, wild mushrooms and pancetta; and sula spiced venison with quinoa khiehdi.
Where: 181 Tooley Street, London SE1 2JR, UK
Nearest station: London Bridge (0.4 miles)
Walk into one of London’s many fine Indian restaurants and demand a serving of grouse tikka masala and you’ll find yourself sorely disappointed; not so at Roast. The Borough Market hotspot has released the dish, accompanied by an Isle of Wight tomato pachadi and Cornish sag aloo mids, fusing the classic British ingredients with Indian flavours, all while honouring the game season.
Where: The Floral Hall, Stoney St, London SE1 1TL
Nearest station: London Bridge (0.2 miles)