The Radclyffe family have been involved in shooting since the early 1800s and run Foxdenton Estates, renowned for its flavoured English gins and liqueurs. Here Nick Radclyffe gives his tips for giving the perfect shoot lunch …

The perfect shoot lunch depends as much upon the style of shoot as it does upon the lunch itself. Neither cold pork pies at a double gun 400 bird day nor three-course lunch at a rough day wildfowling are likely to go down well. So a perfect shoot lunch can be anything from a cold pork pie to a multi-course menu from a Michelin-starred chef depending upon the venue.

Assuming that we are talking of the normal convivial shoot lunch served on a driven shoot then a few tips can keep everything running smoothly. If breaking for lunch, rather than shooting through, then the following will offer some useful pointers.

A warm welcome

There should always be a warm welcome with a cold drink at the end of the morning drives. Whether it is Virgin Marys and soft drinks or Bloody Marys and aperitifs I leave to your own discretion. The key thing is to have all the ingredients laid out ready to serve along with a small selection of nuts and crisps. As the Guns come in they need time to discuss the morning’s drives and rib one another on the missed opportunities.

Once everyone has a drink to hand and the conversation is buzzing it is best to announce lunch as soon as possible. Better to sit down early and have time to chat over the port than to have to hurry up to catch the light at the end of the day.

Nick Radclyffe

Nick Radclyffe of Foxdenton Estates is a keen Gun

What to serve

The current consensus would be to serve a main course, pudding and/or cheese and to keep the length of the lunch manageable. We want to get back out and shoot well in the afternoon! As to the perfect meal itself I do not lay down any prescriptive rules but in general stews and pies with a wide range of vegetable side dishes are the order of the day. It is unusual these day to be served game and in general erring on the side of comfort food is the key. Chicken and leek pie, beef stew with dumplings, chilli con carne and roasts of any kind are all avidly consumed. As with many things in life it is the small things that make such a difference. A well laid table with beautiful glassware, an unusual range of wines and the finest condiments mark out a special lunch. The most important element when planning such a lunch is making sure that any guest’s food issues are known about by the cook long before the meal is planned.

Quality not quantity

As most Guns these days drink relatively sparingly at lunch, better by far to serve less but better quality wine than to have oceans of plonk swilling round late at the end of the day. Magnums are more of a statement on shoot days and a couple should do a table of eight guns. Port is often served but has sometimes been supplanted by sloe or damson gin at the end of the lunch. One very grand shoot I went to served the most amazing Pedro Ximenez sherry to finish off the meal and such intriguing choices make for a memorable meal. Finally a good strong black coffee should get everyone up and at them for the last two drives of the day.

Finally it never goes unnoticed if a Gun takes the trouble to pop their head around the door of the kitchen to thank all the staff for their hard work.

With thanks to Nick Radclyffe of Foxdenton Estates for writing this useful and information piece.