Britain's culture of food has long been criticised, even mocked internationally, for offering little in the way of quality and technique. Thankfully, in recent years there has been a paradigm shift and British chefs and restaurateurs are now recognised as leaders on the global dining map. One thing that is indisputable, though, is that Great Britain has always been a leader with its wild foods.
When game season comes around (mid-August to March), the whole world looks toward our bounteous moors and mountains for the finest game on the planet. During these months, the greatest Parisian restaurants are entirely at the mercy of Yorkshire farmers, if they want the best produce shipped across the channel. Whether it be grouse in mid-August or hare, pheasant and partridge as winter draws in, Britain leads the way. London's restaurants are lucky, getting first refusal on game when the season starts; so much so that it is not unusual to see grouse on the menu from 13 August (the season begins on The Glorious Twelfth – 12 August). Here are some of the best spots to find this rarefied and much loved produce.
Wilton's is meaningfully, if not officially, London's oldest restaurant, having opened as a fish stall in 1742. This Jermyn Street institution has been the staunch favourite of the Establishment for well over two hundred years. For much of the year, it is very much a fish restaurant, but once autumn draws in, people generally come here for the magnificent selection of furred and feathered game. Grouse is flown in from the North Yorkshire moors and at opportune moments visitors will also find curios, such as woodcock and snipe, on the menu.
LUXOS Recommends: Woodcock served traditionally
Wilton's, 55 Jermyn Street London SW1Y 6LX, Tel. +44 (0)20 7629 9955, www.wiltons.co.uk
Now, if Wilton's is spiritually the oldest restaurant in London, Rules officially holds the title. Rules opened in 1798 and has been the firm favourite of princes and politicians ever since. The restaurant really comes into its own in game season, when birds and beasts come down from the restaurant's private estate, Lartington Estate in Yorkshire. Grouse is the classic choice, and arguably the best rendition in the country.
LUXOS Recommends: Roast Grouse served in the classic style
Rules Restaurant, 35 Maiden Lane, London WC2E 7LB, Tel. +44 (0)20 7836 5314, www.rules.co.uk
Henry Harris' Knightsbridge restaurant has a firm following, which is based around Harris's seemingly unsurpassed understanding of how to apply classic French techniques to superb, seasonally chosen British ingredients. Whether it be gulls' eggs in spring or sweetbreads with black truffle in the run up to Christmas, the kitchen never falters. Game season is a particularly exciting time to dine at Racine. Grouse, pheasant and venison all feature alongside the more classic French dishes. LUXOS Recommends: Grilled rabbit, mustard sauce & smoked bacon
Racine, 239 Brompton Road London SW3 2EP, Tel. +44 (0)20 7584 4477, www.racine-restaurant.com
Brett Graham's Notting Hill restaurant is now classed as one of the top ten restaurants in the world according to the San Pellegrino Awards, but Graham and his team are dedicated to staying true to their original objectives, by keeping the local community extremely well fed. Brett Graham is a keen hunter and come autumn you will find the most extraordinarily intricate and composed arrangements of game on the menu. Hare, snipe, and locally shot venison all feature; you'd be hard pressed to find better food in London or the world over. LUXOS Recommends: Roast breast and confit leg of pigeon with quince and red vegetables
The Ledbury, 127 Ledbury Road, London W11 2AQ, Tel. +44 (0)20 7792 9090, www.theledbury.com
Medlar is an all-but-hidden gem of a restaurant at the far end of The Kings Road in Chelsea. Head chef Joe Mercer Nairn trained with Marcus Wareing and Bruce Poole, and exhibits extraordinary skills in the kitchen of this quiet, insider favourite. The menu is modern British with a French leaning and focuses particularly on excellent ingredients. When game is on the menu, their roast grouse, served off the bone with damsons, is one of the best dishes in London.
LUXOS Recommends: Roast Grouse with bread sauce and damsons
Medlar, 438 King's Road, Chelsea, London SW10 0LJ, Tel. +44 (0)20 7349 1900, www.medlarrestaurant.co.uk
Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver's St. John restaurant has been called the most seminal restaurant of the last 20 years, and has certainly altered the way we eat out. Henderson's mantra of 'nose-to-tail' eating, tackling all parts of the beast, not just the fillet, has influenced a whole generation of restaurants and home cooks. St. John revels in seasonality and when game is in the kitchen, it is everywhere: hare, snipe, woodcock and grouse might all share a menu.
LUXOS Recommends: Fillet of hare with roast beetroot
St. John, 26 St John Street, London EC1M 4AY, Tel. + 44 (0)20 7251 0848, www.stjohngroup.uk.com
The Square is one of London's greatest and most enduring restaurant successes. First opened in 1991 by Philip Howard and business partner Nigel Platts-Martin, The Square redefined the essence of modern fine dining in London and has managed to stay at the forefront of the London restaurant scene ever since. The food is dedicatedly seasonal and in winter, when game season is in full flow, there is nowhere better to find composed renditions of the French classics.
LUXOS Recommends: Saddle of hare with morels and foie gras
The Square, 6-10 Bruton St., London W1J 6PU, Tel. +44 (0)20 7495 7100, www.squarerestaurant.com
Bentley's on Swallow Passage is one of London's most iconic old restaurants. Most famous for the sparklingly fresh seafood and in particular shellfish it offers all year round, in autumn, Bentley's owner Richard Corrigan allows his passion for game to come through on the menu, as a focused offering of furred and feathered game makes an entrance, which means oysters can be followed by partridge washed down with fine wine in glorious fashion.
LUXOS Recommends: The aforementioned!
Bentley's Oyster Bar and Grill, 11 Swallow Street, London W1B 4DG, Tel. +44(0)20 7734 4756, www.bentleys.org
'The best from land and sea' is the mantra at the second of Richard Corrigan's restaurants in this edit. Corrigan's Mayfair is a magnificent restaurant that celebrates the true bounties to be found in and around our fair Isle. In game season, the restaurant offers a dizzying array of seasonal specialities that you'd struggle to find elsewhere, including a singular salad of game birds involving snipe, woodcock and partridge: once tasted and enjoyed, never forgotten.
LUXOS Recommends: Roast venison with juniper berries
Corrigan's Mayfair, 28 Upper Grosvenor Street, London W1K 7EH, Tel. +44 (0)20 7499 9943, www.corrigansmayfair.co.uk