Three Ways to Game: On the Hunt for the Best Wild Meats in London
The Cinnamon Club
First up, the House of Commons’ best kept secret. You suspect when all those right honorables were trying to cover up their expenses claims, the most blacked out phrase was, The Cinnamon Club. Tucked away around the back of Westminster Cathedral, 30 Great Smith Street, the presence of The Cinnamon Club is only announced by a small wooden plaque, no doubt something to do with the local planning laws but one wouldn’t be surprised if The Cinnamon had not been allowed to advertise their culinary presence by an Act of Parliament, its clientele consisting entirely of those employed by Her Majesty’s government. While the current incumbents of the Houses of Parliament may be beyond most people’s pale, the same cannot be said of The Cinnamons food-which is beyond reproach. The four-course set game menu (£55 per person) includes such Eastern delights as mixed game Seekh Kebab, Hunters style rabbit Tikka, clove roasted breast of grouse and the standout saddle of Oisin red deer, all washed down with chilled 12 bore 2004 Grenache. Go on, don’t let those Malfeasant Parliamentarians (MPs) have all the fun.
Located on the wrong end of Chapel Street Market, away from the well-trodden foody route that one usually saunters down when eating out in Islington, The Compass appears to be a detour that more and more foodies are willing to take, being rammed to the rafters on our Monday night visit. Even more impressive, considering that The Compass has only just undergone the transformation from dingy old boozer to scaling the heights of Gastro Pub Land. The seasonal menu boasts such delights as Beetroot cured Wild Salmon, which considering my remit, should have sufficed as my first, but I could not drag myself away from the opportunity to devour a plate of Braised English Snails, garlic puree and parsley dressing. This set me up perfectly for seconds of Roast Pheasant, potato fondant, honey roast parsnips and jus. I must admit to never having been a great lover of game, my only previous experience having been at the Garrick Club, where the dry, livery foul that was served up appeared to have undergone some kind of thermo-nuclear attack and that was only the cooking process. The Compass, fittingly, pointed me in the right direction and pheasant la Compass has now been firmly put back on my culinary map. Other game treats include twice cooked saddle of rabbit stuffed with prunes on creamed cabbage and whole baked trout, with dill and wholegrain mustard potato salad. Magnetic! Head north to 58 Penton Street, N1.
Last up on the walk-up of London’s Game restaurants is Bentleys, 11-15 Swallow Street, W1B. The old school fish and oyster restaurant is probably not the first place you’d think of as an exponent of the art of cooking game but Bentleys has obviously kept a few tricks up its sleeves in surviving the London restaurant scene since 1916. One of those tricks being unparalleled service. As soon as you enter the down-lit and shady marble and dark hardwood bar, to the moment you take your seat at the William Morris clad upstairs Grill, every whim is catered for, like it was back in 1916, presumably? A partridge salad that included such exotics as pomegranate and pear, watercress and walnut on a bed of warm potatoes shows that Head Chef, Brendan Fyldes has got what it takes when it comes to re-interpreting a classic English dish. But, be warned, the roast boar main, with mash, spinach and beans, is a bloodbath of a course and only true sanguineous carnivores need apply. Make sure you’re armed with an excellent bottle of 2006 Domaine D’Aupilhac, a mash-up of every red grape in the Montpeyroux Appellation and powerful enough to stop this tusked Eurasian wild pig of a meal dead in its tracks. Sated.