Establishments are springing up all over the place offering quirkily different ways with game. While some started as game pop-up restaurants, demand has seen them become permanent fixtures. Jack Knott investigates up and coming game restaurants
Game pop-up restaurants are becoming more and more popular. We may be certain of the best places with game on the menu but, as Jack Knott discovers, these new eateries are certainly worth a visit.
GAME POP-UP RESTAURANTS
Rules, The Ledbury, Le Gavroche, Harwood Arms… We all know where to go to find quality game, cooked by professional chefs who know their red from their roe. These chefs’ appreciation of wild game usually stems from their love of shooting it, and their knowledge of cooking is undeniable. But while such renowned restaurants serve up more traditional fare – roast grouse, jugged hare and venison loin –there are new game pop-up restaurants serving wild game as it has never been seen before. Although they go about their marketing and cooking differently, one thing unites them (other than game): their overwhelming success over the past five years. Here is a selection of these new game pop-up restaurants.
Gloucestershire-born brothers Will and Calum Thompson had a vision to bring real food to real people at real prices by harvesting, cooking and selling sustainably sourced wild meat and game. After doing the circuits at outdoor events and festivals, which culminated with them selling venison burgers in Hyde Park for the London 2012 Olympic Games, the brothers proudly went on to open their first Eat Wild restaurant in Cirencester, providing what was certainly a unique offering in the heart of the Cotswolds. The restaurant boasts a delectable menu, with dishes including its signature wild venison burger in a Hobbs House brioche bun, popcorn pheasant, and buttermilk-fried partridge.
There seems to be no end to the brothers’ plans: they are now delivering cookery demonstrations, foraging courses and a series of field-to-fork short films. At this rate it will not be long before a few more game pop-up restaurants appear.
Price – £
Location – 4 Castle Street, Cirencester, Glos
Growing up in the Sussex countryside, and having a keen interest in foraging, has allowed the Gladwin brothers to bring an original style of cooking to London and game pop-up restaurants. The brothers – Richard, (front of house), Oliver (chef), and Gregory (farmer) – have gained all the experience needed to succeed in the restaurant industry. By working together, their fresh, seasonal and foraged tapas-styled plates have been the talk of London. Woodpigeon saltimbocca and rabbit terrine are up there with the staple favourites, but as with all tapas the mind boggles and the stomach fills quickly.
Rabbit is the second restaurant run by the Gladwin brothers, the first being The Shed in Notting Hill, and with a book in the pipeline and countless TV appearances, they are going from strength to strength.
Location – 172 King’s Road, London, SW3
WILD GAME CO
Coming from a family of game butchers in the Highlands, Andy Waugh has always been involved with wild game. His holiday money came from loading lorries going back to Holland and Norway with their venison, pheasant, grouse and rabbit.
When Waugh moved to London he noticed a severe lack of game on restaurant menus and in butchers’ shops and the little there was was expensive. He took it upon himself to provide London with the game pop-up restaurants it so desperatly lacked. He set up the Wild Game Co in August 2010, selling venison from his van on Broadway Market, Hackney.
Five years on, and having moved into the street food business, the Wild Game Co is one of the game pop-up restaurants that has become a firm favourite for workers at lunch-time. It sells the award-winning veni-moo burger as well as venison steak and a health-conscious venison salad on Whitecross Street Market in Islington.
Price – £
Location – Whitecross Street Market, Islington, London EC1
(Waugh has recently added to his game pop-up restaurants with Mac & Wild, see below.)
MAC & WILD
This is another of Waugh’s game pop-up restaurants and follows on from the street food venture, Wild Game Co. Keeping to the mantra “from gun to plate”, diners can challenge staff on exactly who shot, farmed, caught and picked the game, meat and fish, as this is one of the game pop-up restaurants that takes pride in its affordable and traceable food. Most of its producers grew up in the Highlands, swapping the odd bit of venison for a bucket of scallops.
Along with its veni-moo burger, the restaurant serves steak sandwiches and the newly designed venison tartar with beetroot and tomatoes. Topping the menu list is an array of venison biltong, the ultimate beer snack.
Price – £
Location – 65 Great Titchfield Street, London W1
John Doe’s savvy lies in some superb chef skills, a love of wild game – and “Bertha”. This high-end charcoal cooking machine adds smoky woody flavour to everything on the menu and certainly sets them apart from other game pop-up restaurants. Highlights from the menu include beer-butt partridge, venison haunch steak and venison kofta. The combination of deer and beer seems to appeal to the masses, with the result that it is becoming increasingly hard to get a seat in this small, quirky restaurant.
Location – 46 Golborne Road, London, W10
Price – ££
Being able to combine your favourite things in one job is a rare luxury but something that Jess Noy was all too ready to take advantage of. The Gamekeeper’s Daughter concept began a little over four years ago, bringing into line the wild game that Noy had always been surrounded with from a young age and her life-long passion for foraging.
After selling game pies and pâté at the local farmers’ markets, she now runs a weekly pop-up restaurant together with wild food and foraging workshops.
Taking pride in showing people how versatile and delicious wild game can be is the main aim of the Gamekeeper’s Daughter, with a particular favourite dish being muntjac braised with wild cherries, dark chocolate, orange and red wine, and served with polenta mash.
Price – £
Location – The Waiting Room, Queens Street, Colchester, Essex (every Sunday)
THE JUGGED HARE
Run by the successful ETM pub group, the newly opened Jugged Hare stands at the top of many gastropub listings. For the owners, there was no option but to focus heavily on wild game – it would be hard to find a wider array of game in any of the other game pop-up restaurants. During the season, the length of its game list matches the formidable wine list.
Winter specials include a wide variety of wildfowl such as wigeon and teal, and waders, including woodcock, snipe and, every so often, golden plover. However, the dish that takes the fancy of the majority is the sautéed squirrel starter, reaching national acclaim in the media and food world.
The Jugged Hare is well worth a visit, even if it’s only for a drink and a chance to admire the floor-to-ceiling taxidermy.
Location – 49 Chiswell Street, London, EC1
Price – £££