Growing up in rural Northamptonshire meant that Imogen Davis developed a fascination in the arts of skinning, plucking and foraging wild food, rather like something out of an Enid Blyton novel. Fast forward to university and Imogen met Ivan Tisdall-Downes, the pair ran supper clubs and next month they are set to open their first restaurant focusing on British ingredients, aptly named Native.
Ask people what sort of meat they like and you’ll likely to get replies such as pork, beef, lamb and chicken. What you’re less likely to hear is pigeon, rabbit and venison – we understand though, it just doesn’t appear on the menu as much as the others and it’s hardly as if you’re going to be able to forage for wild food on the concrete streets of London. Well Native’s aim is to use the under-appreciated, over-looked game, wild food and rare breeds from our shores and lands to change our opinions.
Tisdall-Downes is a contemporary self-taught chef who honed his skills at Jascots Wine Merchants and River Cottage HQ and will now be bringing his passion for nose to tail and stem to root eating to his menu. The menu will constantly change, focusing on seasonal produce and with twists on familiar dishes. Forget fried chicken, tuck into southern fried rabbit and say goodbye to your usual kebab and try a wood pigeon kebab instead. Other dishes include braised chicory, walnut and buttermilk; raw Sussex venison, treacle cured pheasant egg and hayonnaise; confit trout, wood ear speltotto and bone marrow and pickled pear, winter cress and Lord of Hundreds. They’ll be keeping things British on the drinks list too with British wines, beers and ciders including Nyetimbr ‘Classic Cuvee’ and Hawkes Urban Orchard apple cider.
Simple, rustic and clean cut, Native will have space for 30 diners and will be set over two floors. The ground floor will feature counter seating surrounding an open plan kitchen so that diners can watch food being prepared; whilst the dining area in the basement will host handcrafted wooden tables.
Served in a unique way and at reasonable prices (mains start from £11) it’s time to get adventurous and head to the wild side.
Native: Opens mid February, 3 Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden, WC2H 9DP, www.eatnative.co.uk