Andy Mossack enjoys a right royal British feast in the timeless elegance of The Stafford London’s The Game Bird restaurant.
I have wittered on endlessly about London’s Mayfair. It has this timeless quality about it that never fails to charm the pants off anyone who strolls around it. It’s the kind of place where you constantly discover yet another little cobbled square or passage you never knew existed. So, imagine my glee when I surfaced from Green Park tube to find myself directed by Google along Queen’s Walk at the side of the park, to a mysterious narrow passageway squeezed between two houses.
I emerged onto St James’s Place and two hundred years back in time to Dickensian London.
My time travelling was not without its purpose, for the buildings hugging this peaceful corner of Mayfair have lain witness to their fair share of history. And perhaps hogging most of it is The Stafford London hotel, whose very steps I found myself at the base of. A rich tapestry of humanity has passed through its portal, from the Spencer dynasty to private gentleman’s club and ultimately, as a luxury hotel that used to provide shelter for serving American and Canadian officers in her wine cellars during the Blitz. Mind you, there were worse places to be holed up it must be said. However, The Stafford London is a shining example of just what makes Mayfair so special. She positively revels in her period poise. Plenty of plush nooks and crannies and, out back, an impressive repurposed cobbled courtyard stables area that now hosts luxury suites where once were resting carriage horses.
Tucked away within all this silky elegance lies The Game Bird restaurant. Brimming with old school sophistication, it’s a celebration of British food curated by Executive Chef Jozef Rogulski under the direction of Michelin-starred Lisa Goodwin-Allen from Northcote, now also part of the Stafford Collection portfolio. Using football parlance for a sec, it’s a very impressive front-line partnership, but that depends on receiving the right kind of service to hit the back of the net consistently.
If my epic lunch was anything to go by, then I’m pretty certain they’ll have no problem in that department thank you very much. The front of house team was on it from start to finish; warm, inviting and impeccably efficient.
The Game Bird might sound as if game is front and centre at the restaurant, but even though the signature dish is The Game Bird and it is indeed a roasted squab pigeon, the name is a reference to something quite different. Nancy Wake was a highly decorated Parisien WW2 agent who was so adept at avoiding capture, the Gestapo named her ‘The Mouse’. After the war, she moved to London, loved the hotel so much she became a permanent resident and enjoyed her own seat at the American Bar where she would sit with G&T at 11 am every day. A very game bird indeed.
Anyway, back to my lunch. Set almost within the hotel lounge separated only by a couple of hefty columns, The Game Bird is a gorgeously plush space with velvety banquettes and red leather chairs, a proper throwback to a golden age of fine dining. More akin to the front room of a fancy Mayfair home than a restaurant.
There were oysters and even Exmoor caviar-laden crumpets on the menu as indulgent starters, but for me, the theatre of a smoked salmon trolley and all the trimmings was irresistible (£19.50). Not just any old salmon you understand, but from London’s own historic H. Forman & Son smokery no less, plus a veritable potpourri of condiments to go with it. And who can resist a spray or three of my favourite Balvenie whisky to top it all off. I was off and running and incredibly happy.
Over in the Hoof, Feather and Field section of the menu, the signature Game Bird (£44) was indeed a main option, as was Jacobs Cross lamb with sticky belly, wood-roasted leek and sheep’s cheese (£46) but the legendary steak & ale steamed suet pudding (£25.50) was calling out to me as the undisputable comfort staple. And it didn’t disappoint in any way. The added pleasure of a gravy boat pouring all over it and sides of triple-cooked chips and wilted spinach was my idea of heaven on a plate. Of course, a glass or two of Piattelli Grand Malbec 2019 courtesy of a strong recommendation from Sommelier Gino helped to wash it all down beautifully.
I desperately needed some time to recover, and fortunately for me, choosing the blackcurrant crumble soufflé with liquorice ice cream (£15.50) gave me a little breathing space. “You should know Mr Mossack, the souffle will take around 25 minutes. We hope that’s OK?”
Absolutely it was thank you.
Dare I say, It was a finale well worthy of the wait. Triumphantly delivered, and rightly so. A perfect souffle proudly sat before me, all pristine in its mini saucepan. A light dusting of sugar encircled a centre of crumble and fresh blackcurrants.
The Game Bird delivered up a memorable lunch that I’m certain would have made Nancy glow with pride, even though it was well past 11 o’clock in the morning.
Food images (c) Andy Mossack
Tell me more about The Game Bird Restaurant
The Game Bird, The Stafford London, 16-18 St James’s Place, London SW1A 1NJ
T: +44 207 493 0111 E: firstname.lastname@example.org