London's leading game restaurant releases a rustic take on a very British classic with pheasant sandwiches and hare scones aplenty - Alexandra Fraser paid a visit.
The Jugged Hare operates on one simple rule: if it’s not in season in Britain, it’s not on the menu. This applies from their entire array of game down to the garnish on their side salad: “we have British tomatoes when they’re in season,” Robert, the assistant general manager, tells me. “It’s best not to ask for them in February.”
On a Wednesday afternoon at around 5:30pm, the very British pub that fronts the eatery is already alive with the sounds of city workers relaxing after a long day. If you manage to fight through the throngs at the entrance and around the bar – the magnitude of which is not surprising after one tastes the establishments fine selection of ales – you will suddenly find yourself in a quiet, spacious, stunningly decorated game restaurant.
The Jugged Hare is serious about game. As soon as the season begins they’re ready to launch a series of wonderfully wild takes on the London classics favoured by their neighbouring establishments. Joining this season’s new tipple, a squirrel gin – reportedly not sourced from Hyde Park– is the Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea.
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Taking inspiration from the high teas available at establishments like Harrods and The Savoy, this gentleman’s tea is a hearty alternative to the delicate, feminine teas we’re so accustomed to in this country.
Designed to be a “subtle introduction” to the acquired taste of game, the tea is made up of partridge, hare, woodpigeon, pheasant any other delightfully rustic elements available on that particular day, all impeccably presented on a delicate tea stand. With the greatest variety of game in London, all sourced freshly from Yorkshire, the Jugged Hare plays to it’s strengths with this extensive ‘taster’ menu.
The tea is not for the faint of heart; not only is it large enough to constitute a lunch or even a dinner – my elder brother, a 6ft2 medical student fresh off the wards and in desperate need of nourishment fought an uphill battle to finish his half – it is truly rustic, as the crispy partridge and pigeon legs with feet still intact attest.
For us, the highlight was their stunning game-enhanced ploughman’s sandwich substitute: a cob loaf with layers of pheasant, venison, hare jus and Black Cow cheddar. The combination of flavours was delightful and despite the size, it was surprisingly light fare.
The classic cucumber sandwiches were present, but came filled with wonderfully cooked partridge. Two different sliders sat in the place of scones, one comprised of woodpigeon and pickled bilberries, the other stuffed full of hare.
Served in a teapot and drunk from delicate china, a delightful game consommé completes the motif as head chef Stephen Englefield’s pièce de résistance.
The accompanying flight of cask ales provides a kaleidoscope of colours and favours, ranging from Sambrook’s fruity rye beer to an easy-drinking pale ale by the Wild Beer Co., reportedly favoured by the London crowd.
The highlight seems to be the middle beer, a session IPA brewed by Villages in South London, which was pronounced ‘sublime’ at the table. With the Sambrook’s complementing the darker game and the IPA working better with the pheasant, the only question which remains is whether to polish off the flight one by one while working through the tea, or mix and match depending on which particular food takes ones fancy at the time.
With the promise that the game will only improve as the season progresses, those able to try the Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea are in for a treat. We look forward to seeing what the Jugged Hare will dream up next.
The Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea costs £75 for two people and will run until 30th September, click here to book. If you would like to see The Jugged Hare’s other game season treats, visit www.thejuggedhare.com.
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