Just an hour from central London by train, the Dundas Arms in Kintbury, Berkshire ticks plenty of boxes for the fieldsports lover looking for a hearty menu featuring game
One of the many good things about British Game Week (19-25 November 2018) is that it brings in new customers for venison, partridge, pheasant and duck. People who have never before savoured the delights of game but who after trying it realise what they’ve been missing out on.
Converting diners to game is what the Dundas Arms is always to achieve and last week this classic country pub held a special dinner during British Game Week, offering regulars the chance to enjoy a menu cooked by landlord Lee Hart, who is a keen game shot himself.
“For example, rather than just having the traditional roast pheasant, we like to bring in new ideas such as a crispy cajun pheasant burger. Kids love it, adults love it and it’s a great alternative to chicken.”
I arrived at the Dundas Arms last Tuesday evening after a nightmare cross county drive in pouring rain. I’d been asked to the British Game Week dinner and an overnight stay, so that I could report back on the rooms.
The welcome was instant – a sloe gin fizz was pressed into my hands and I mingled with the other diners in a snug room where a roaring log fire was blotting out the damp and darkness outside. The diners I talked to were all local – some had eaten game before and others were curious – “you should try everything once.”
Trying everything meant starting with tempting canapés – smoked pheasant breast, pheasant rilettes crostini, venison bon bon, horseradish creme fraiche, Thai partridge kebab and hot and sour dip. As we took our seats I heard some of the diners murmuring over the menu. Well, it would have been a surprise for traditional game eaters because there wasn’t a roasted pheasant or game chip in sight.
We started with Southern fried buttermilk partridge, served with a crunchy apple and celeriac slaw which provided the perfect counterpoint. The evening was all about providing a gastronomic adventure in game – so our main course was a roasted haunch of Berkshire venison served alongside gamekeeper’s pie, with braised red cabbage and bunched carrots providing delicious colour.
The wine chosen was a robust Rioja which held its own perfectly with the rich flavours. (For more on choosing wine with game, read this article with advice from Decanter magazine).
Chef and author Jose Souto who was a guest at the dinner then stood and gave us all some insights. He pointed out that the health benefits of game top those of most other meats sold. It’s lean, free from pesticides and chemicals and contains life-enhancing omega fatty acids. (Jose’s latest book, Feathers, is not just a recipe book, but rather a fascinating read on game and its origins, with stunning photographs.)
During Jose’s chat we were served up a hedgerow granita – the berry flavoured ice crystals providing the perfect way palette cleanse.
Finally, in keeping with the theme of local and seasonal produce we were served up spiced sticky apple and pear cake, along with custard.
I got talking to one of the local diners who admitted she’d been brought along rather reluctantly by a friend. Why ‘reluctantly’ I asked?
“I had an uncle who shot who used to serve us up pheasant when I was a girl and I hated it. It tasted ‘off’ to me and I found the chips he used to serve with it really greasy.”
Had this evening’s menu changed her mind, I asked?
“Well I started changing my mind as soon as I tasted the canapés and by the time I was tucking into the venison I was a convert.”
Job done then.
I asked Lee what he gets up to outside of British Game Week. He said: “We always have four to five game dishes on the menu during the game season. For example, rather than just having traditional roast pheasant we try out new ideas such as a crispy cajun pheasant burger. Kids and adults love it and it’s a great alternative to chicken. Sunday roasts also always include a game bird during the game season so currently it’s a whole roast partridge with bread sauce and all the trimmings.”
Landlord Lee Hart is a keen Shot and runs the Dundas Arms, Kintbury. He says: “Our focus is seasonality and…
Why you should go to the Dundas Arms
- For a weekend lunch you can jump on the direct train to Kintbury from Paddington (takes an hour), enjoy a walk, peruse the wine list and a hearty game lunch.
- If you’re a shooter, it’s the ideal place to stay overnight as you’ll find a gun cabinet in your bedroom as well as several excellent shoots nearby.
- You can chat about game and shooting to landlord Lee Hart who both shoots and cooks
- Dogs are welcome
- The Dundas Arms is a member of the Epicurean Collection, a club which offers special midweek rates and restaurant offers to members.