Love game? Don a napkin as we profile some of the UK's top game restaurants and pubs that are serving 'our' meat this season
Just around the corner from Covent Garden, London’s oldest restaurant, which opened in 1798, is the place to go if you have a budget to throw out of the window and an appetite for game to satisfy. With links to an estate in the Pennines, where staff go to improve their husbandry skills and knowledge, you can expect the best game that money can buy within its grand walls. Rules refers to itself as a “heritage restaurant”, and for “old warm charm” in its endless rave reviews read high standards both in the kitchen and in its numerous dining rooms.
Part of the ETM Group which has bolt holes all over London, The Jugged Hare might stand in the shadow of the imposing Barbican estate but more than holds its own in the game stakes. Hosts of the Great Grouse Race for the last two years (owners Tom and Ed Martin race down from up North on the Twelfth to serve grouse to guests in the evening), the game dishes here are served with an impressive wine list that always has the urban foodies cooing. Though a haunt for city types, rural folk will feel at home thanks to staff in tweeds, real ale and an abundance of taxidermy adorning the walls.
Established by Andy Waugh, Calum Mackinnon and Adam Pinder last August, Mac & Wild is a 78-seater establishment spreading the game message across the capital using ingredients direct from the Waugh family butchery in the Highlands. Venison chateaubriand and the VeniMoo burger are the first things to examine on the menu, and how many restaurants do you know where the owners can tell you who shot the deer and (almost) exactly where they shot it? With financial backing from a plethora of Scottish rugby internationals, Mac & Wild is sure to be a big player in the capital.
Rest of England
Eat Wild, Cirencester, Gloucestershire
Founded by Thompson brothers Will and Calum back in 2010, Eat Wild is one of the more rock and roll eateries in Cirencester – and that’s before we even get started on the two rutting stags sprayed across one of the walls! Cutting their teeth at music festivals and during London 2012 gave the brothers a taste of what the public wanted while also giving them an opportunity to try something new. The boys decided to go down the “dirty food route”, with their game all coming from within a 20-mile radius and made into delights such as Willy’s venison chilli fries and Butt’s Farm chorizo and pheasant sausage.
The Pot Kiln, Yattendon, West Berkshire
When not extolling the virtues of game on television, Pot Kiln owner Mike Robinson can be found splitting his time between this home from home, his Fulham pub The Harwood Arms or the shooting field. A keen stalker, Mike serves venison shot with his own rifle in his Berkshire and London kitchens. Shooting Gazette has had the pleasure of his company both in the field and with fork in hand, the latter during a visit to his popular cookery school – we still haven’t stopped talking about the Moroccan venison kebabs recipe he gave us.
Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottingham
Robert Cuthbert must have worked extremely hard not to eat his notepad when he interviewed the former Great British Menu winner Sat Bains for us last year. Keen shot Sat has been in
the same line as James Martin, Michel Roux and Nobu’s Mark Edwards in the past, and the Derbyshire-born chef brings a love of flavour to his dishes, citing, possibly unusually for some, hare as his favourite. His restaurant offers a broad range of ingredients in its menus, incorporating each of the five ‘tastes’ with seasonal game coming via estates nationwide.
Yew Tree, Highclere, Hampshire
Shooting Gazette attended the Yew Tree’s Grouse Run back in August, and that night alone was enough to convince us this 17th century pub with rooms should make the list. The event saw head chef Simon Davis collecting grouse from Yorkshire on the Twelfth and then heading back to the boundless character of this country pile near Highclere Castle to share the spoils. With some first rate shooting virtually on the doorstep, the Yew Tree’s larder is well stocked with game throughout the season – Simon hand picks his birds and often finds himself serving them back to the people who shot them!
Amber Restaurant, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh
It would be extremely easy for a fieldsportsman that lived in Edinburgh to spend all of his spare time in the Amber Restaurant, situated right in the heart of the Scottish capital. Executive chef David Neave doesn’t have to wander far to lay his hands on top quality ingredients including grouse, venison and salmon, and there are over 420 single malts, blends and liqueurs available from the adjacent Whisky Bar. The restaurant is only a few short minutes away from Edinburgh Waverley, so if you’ve got time to kill before your connection north or south, you know where to go.
The Court Restaurant, Llansantffraed Court Hotel, Monmouthshire
A hotel near Abergavenny is always going to have a close relationship with food, and the Court is more than happy to take what its walled garden and specialist producers around its home patch (and sometimes farther afield) have to offer. Game comes from the shoots at nearby Clytha and Llanarth, and head chef Mike Henry’s dishes are complemented by a wine list that some would describe as “eclectic”, though we prefer “unbelievable”. After sampling a bottle of Chateau Lamothe Cissac and a seemingly endless taster menu the night before a shoot day
at Llanarth a few seasons back, all we know is this establishment is more than worthy of the two AA rosettes it has held for almost two decades.