If the brimming hedgerows were not enough to sate your taste buds this autumn, then it's time to turn your attention to game season. As I’ve written, game is not only delicious but sustainable and healthy too. Indeed, venison is higher in protein and lower in fat than any other meat. It's not for nothing that the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) are in conversations with NHS leadership to explore getting ‘boil in the bag’ game to rural hospitals to nourish inpatients.
Game is also extremely varied. Poultry can sometimes get boring: chicken is too ubiquitous, duck too fatty to eat often, and no-one really likes turkey except once a year for nostalgia’s sake. With game, you can turn an everyday meal into something that feels special. Regal venison, usefully single-portioned quail, interesting wood pigeon, and of course partridge and pheasant. They are all well worth cooking at home, but if you want to let the experts take care of things, there's a smorgasbord of options for game lovers to enjoy this season:
Kitchen W8's Mark Kempson has a reputation for being one of London's best game chefs, and every autumn the restaurant does a special tasting menu. This year's Celebration of Game features wild duck sausage, hare bresaola and fillet of fallow deer but the centrepiece of the menu is the glorious sounding Roast Breast of Partridge, Chanterelle, Squash and Brown Butter Pie and Autumn Truffle Liquor. Yes please.
For those that enjoy a game of political Who’s Who while chewing on their bird, there’s The Cinnamon Club. A well-known favourite of MPs and Lords, The restaurant housed in the former Westminster Library will face stiffer local competition when Atul Kochhar’s rumoured new restaurant opens in the converted Westminster Fire Station in the coming months. But Cinnamon Club, currently celebrating its 20th anniversary, is likely to remain a favourite and there is a plenty to like in the clove-smoked Anjou squab pigeon starter and the chargrilled Balmoral Estate venison main. There is also a venison and prune kofta served as part of the good value set lunch (£30 for three courses).
The clue is in the name at The Game Bird, hidden away in The Stafford hotel. The restaurant is perhaps most famous for the Chicken Kiev, which oozes enough garlic butter to make GPs weep (with customers provided with bibs to spare their Savile Row laundry). But while the chicken is good, the game is better. Try the Scottish Venison Wellington for two. Meanwhile, perennial favourite Noble Rot has a roast mallard with oral barley and damson on the menu at the Lamb’s Conduit Street restaurant in Bloomsbury.
Outside London, The Gunton Arms in north Norfolk is set in a 1,000-acre 18th century deer park and so you would expect the offering to be good. The spicy wild boar sausages with chilli jam is a good introduction to those tentative about game. For those who need no convincing, there’s Gunton venison stew with herb baked dumplings or the offering from the restaurant’s Elk Room Fire: red deer rump with goose fat roast potatoes and rowanberry jelly. The Pot Kiln in Berkshire is overseen by game enthusiast Mike Robinson who personally stalks the deer he serves on the menu: currently there is a pigeon salad and game bird skewers with Malaysian satay peanut and chilli paste. Thyme’s Ox Barn in the Cotswolds is another great choice. Try the confit guinea fowl with potato, pancetta and black olive. Finally, with some of the world’s best game coming from Scotland, you would expect an entry from north of the border: in Glasgow, there is roast haunch of Pertshire venison with venison black pudding and blackberry ketchup on the menu at local favourite Number 16.