The beautifully understated Stafford Hotel in Mayfair has recently opened a new restaurant, The Game Bird. James Fisher went to see if it lives up to the establishment's impeccable standards.
The beauty of the Stafford Hotel in Mayfair is its ‘whisper-it-quietly’ atmosphere. The pomp and circumstance of its most glittering neighbour, The Ritz, is viewed disdainfully as folly and there are no diamonds for sale here, no tourists clucking and flashing cameras as you enter and exit. The word-of-mouth appeal, combined with the legendary American Bar, has made this an undisputed jewel in London’s luxury hotel crown. Sure, it doesn’t shine as brightly as others; but like the best stones, it holds its value in pure flawless excellence.
The Stafford, determined to add to its winning ways, recently opened The Game Bird restaurant, which celebrates the informal nature of its host to perfection. Run by executive chef James Durrant, who studied under Gordon Ramsay before taking on the role of head chef at Maze, the restaurant is the essence of relaxed dining. But, whilst the setting is tranquil and casual, the fare is anything but.
“You are left in a frenzy, heart racing at the thought of what might be appearing next”
This is serious food, packed with serious flavour. However, what Durrant has done, and done brilliantly, is take the metropolitan clientele and drag them kicking and screaming into the middle of the countryside. While the name Game Bird is based on a famed former SOE operative who spent her later years retiring in the hotel, it also reveals the main inspiration behind the menu: the best of British.
We begin with the Rhug Estate Fallow deer tartare. It’s hysterically light and rich, seeming to smoulder in the mouth for what seems like an eternity. The hint of spice at the finish is divine and the portion size perfect. You are left in a frenzy, heart racing at the thought of what might be appearing next. And quite rightly too, as the self-title “game bird” appears: roast pigeon, parsnips cabbage and braised leg, complimented with pigeon consommé and sloe gin.
What make this show-stopping main so intelligent is its rugged and, dare I say it, ‘common’ nature. It is wonderfully simple, but presented with a real panache and complexity that betrays its basic beginnings. It keeps all the wholesome feel of recently-shot game, yet is nothing short of inspired cooking of the highest quality. Here was a dish that would not be out of place in front of a gamekeeper of the lord of the manor, and without out a doubt would reduce both into a fit of joy.
What exists in the Stafford then is a restaurant that not only keeps up the informal, understated feel of its surroundings, but also upholds the passion for quality that permeates through the building. The formal absurdity that has become an all too familiar part of the process of fine-dining has been left out. What remains is, quite simply, a fabulous restaurant.
The Game Bird at The Stafford hotel – bookings via 0207 493 0111 or firstname.lastname@example.org.