Grouse season is upon us, and suddenly plus fours and Purdeys are being donned by country folk and city bankers alike, as they once again head out for a day’s shooting. The tradition of the Glorious Twelfth dates back to Victorian times and remains one of the most popular days in the shooting season. For those who prefer to stay comfortably ensconced in London and have their meat plucked and slaughtered for them – thank you very much – 12 August also heralds the return of this uniquely-flavoured, tender meat to restaurant menus.
Grouse – a small, plump game bird unique to the moorlands of the British Isles – is the first to come into season and, therefore, the one you’re most likely to see on menus right now. It is traditionally roasted and served with game chips (crinkly crisp-like slices of deep fried potato), bread sauce, watercress and fruity jelly. As always though, London’s chefs and restaurants are endlessly creative, with far more game options than grouse alone being added to menus this month. From fiery tandoors to foie gras-filled pies, here’s where to find the best game in London from the Glorious Twelfth onwards.
Michelin-starred Indian restaurant Gymkhana has devised a Hunters’ Menu to celebrate the return of game season, paying tribute to the restaurant’s Raj-era inspiration: the elite sports clubs of India where members of high society used to socialise, eat, drink… and hunt animals. Devised as a six-course tasting menu, among other delectable seasonal dishes, the Hunters’ Menu features a grouse samosa served with red pepper chutney, and a grouse tikki pao (a soft bun stuffed with meat) garnished with peanuts, onions and well-balanced spices. Priced at £90 per person, the menu will be available in the restaurant from 16 August.
The Gladwin Brothers are country gents through and through, and wouldn’t dream of letting the Glorious Twelfth pass without a bang. On 12 August, Rabbit in Chelsea will shun its usually quite veg-centric menu for a six-course meal served up by the three brothers themselves. Oliver Gladwin will be heading to the Yorkshire Dales to bring back the first grouse of the season and taking it straight into the kitchen, just in time to serve guests for the evening. There’ll be scallops, rabbit ragu and other wild and foraged delights, but the main event is, of course, roast Yorkshire grouse, served with heritage vegetable crisps, beef dripping sourdough toast, cherry and red wine jus and watercress salsa. The one-off dinner costs £75 per person, including a glass of Nutty Brut sparkling wine and canapés on arrival. Grouse will then be on the a la carte menu at Rabbit and sister restaurant Sussex in Soho from the end of August.
The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
Thanks to its deep, robust flavour, game meat is a brilliant option for the rich, fragrant spices found in classic Indian cooking – so don’t be surprised to see it popping up at lots of fine dining South Asian restaurants. A long-time advocate for serving game throughout the season, acclaimed chef Vivek Singh looks to the ancient hunting traditions found in Indian history to shape his delicious game dishes each year. This August, The Cinnamon Club will be serving a special main of delicately spiced, clove-smoked grouse breast, chickpea bread, hot-sweet pumpkin and game keema, served alongside creamy black lentils. This limited-edition dish will be available from 16 August for three months, while other game options include smoked pigeon with pumpkin and peanuts and tandoori-spiced venison.
Chef James Lowe enjoys challenging diners with oft-forgotten British ingredients in his swanky Shoreditch restaurant, Lyle’s, which currently holds both a place on the World’s 50 Best restaurants and a Michelin star. He’s all over game season, naturally, and is serving a five-course game menu featuring a mouth-watering game liver parfait, and various incarnations of pheasant for guests to sample. Grouse also stars, with the flavoursome bird prepared in Lowe’s classically playful style, with hen-of-the-woods mushroom and dried plum.
Chef Richard Corrigan has something of a celebrity status among the culinary world, having been crowned winner of Great British Menu no fewer than three times. The Irish chef also knows rather a lot about game, having grown up in Ireland catching and cooking it himself. His famous grouse pie has appeared on the menu annually since Corrigan’s opened in 2008, delighting patrons of the old school leather-clad restaurant. The legendary dish features two tender half breasts sandwiching foie gras, encased in buttery pastry. This pie can officially be found at Corrigan’s Mayfair menu from 12 August onwards but, committed to only using the best sustainably sourced grouse, call ahead to check its availability. Should you be unlucky, however, a range of other brilliant game dishes, including an indulgent squab pigeon pithivier with duck liver and blackberry jus, make up the core menu.
The Game Bird, Mayfair
Unsurprisingly, given its name, this modern British restaurant at the Stafford hotel comes into its own during the shooting season. If you want to eat grouse exactly as Mrs Beeton would have envisaged in the 1800s, this is the place to find it. The restaurant will honour the occasion in a wonderfully traditional way, serving grouse with game chips, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, pâté en croûte and watercress to your heart’s content. The dish will also be available on the restaurant’s menu for the rest of the season, with roast pigeon (wild, not the grimy London variety!) also making an appearance in the autumn.
Kricket, various locations
Everyone’s favourite anglo-Indian restaurant group, Kricket, is big on seasonal meats, bringing a skilful and welcome change to your standard roast bird. According to chef-founder Will Bowlby, the rich, intense flavour of grouse pairs perfectly with an array of Indian spices, and game is something he likes to play with a lot. The restaurants – based in Soho, Brixton and White City – will be serving tandoori grouse throughout the shooting season (whenever they can get their hands on the prized birds, at least). Tender grouse breast is marinated in Indian spices and served pink, cooked with cocoa bean masala and cobnut crumble. Divine.
No. 50 Cheyne, Chelsea
Located on one of SW3’s most expensive streets and just metres from the twinkling lights of Albert Bridge, No. 50 Cheyne is a ‘neighbourhood joint’ in the loosest of senses. Kitted out like a cosy gastropub, but still serving lobster on the regular, the restaurant is nevertheless a wonderful spot for traditional British fare, and will be celebrating game season with aplomb. Head chef Ian Smith has concocted a special dish in honour of the Glorious Twelfth: roasted Yorkshire grouse with poached foie gras, leg-meat dumplings and a light game and bacon consommé. It’s served with smoked baby beetroots and the traditional watercress, and is well worth a try. Order after a starter of rabbit terrine with heritage carrot puree, black pudding arancini and red onion marmalade for the full No. 50 Cheyne game experience.
Read more: London’s best pre-theatre menus