The Jugged Hare, a City of London institution at any time of year, really comes into its own during game season.
Which means getting down to Chiswell Street before spring breaks out to tuck into the last and rarest of the birds as well as wild beasties.
Where else can you expect to find roast whole teal, widgeon and woodcock, not to mention divers alongside the mallard and red-legged partridge? All will be on at The Jugged Hare until the end of February.
Pheasant may be easy to find elsewhere, but this large but intimate pub restaurant serves it best, with all the perfectly-cooked trimmings which make British wild fowl a rib-sticking delight – game chips, cabbage and bacon and spot-on bread sauce.
As for venison, you rarely see a whole shank for two on offer, and The Jugged Hare serves theirs with crushed turnip, kale and Cumberland sauce, while the haunch is spit-roasted and the shoulder braised in a pie with celeriac. The venison comes from Suffolk, the birds from Yorkshire, the county where the restaurant annually bags the first grouse of the season and manages to rush it to London in time for dinner on The Glorious Twelfth.
And let’s not forget the hare from which the restaurant takes its name; during the six-month season this 18th century dish is served, long and richly stewed in its own blood, in – what else? – a tall jug. But also as a starter for purists, as in hare offal with bacon and pickled walnuts on toast. Equally earthy starters include black pudding croquettes with Guinness sauce and game offal and pig’s blood cobbler.
Golden plover, moorhen and wild boar also make it on to the menu in season, occasionally squirrel and there’s always a great choice of 45-day-aged steaks, as well as fish for pescatorians who can handle sitting among raucous crowds of carnivores. Even vegetarians are catered for with fried eggs and truffled mac’n’cheese, and for everyone except vegans there are traditional British puds like treacle tart with clotted cream and sticky toffee pudding.
For those who are less conservative about the preparation of their wild food, the Game Curry Club kicks in during January and runs every Tuesday evening for as long as the principal ingredient holds out. Expect the likes of wild boar Ceylon, venison vindaloo and tandoori stuffed quail, all served with basmati rice, naan, poppadums, mango chutney, lime pickle and raita.
The owners of this restaurant really know their wines, and it’s worth looking out for the guest wine of the month. I once tasted a glass of a rich red so superb that within a month I was in Slovenia, feeling bound to visit the winemaker who had produced such a fabulous drop!
There is plenty that’s reasonably-priced, but connoisseurs will be glad of the chance to drink really fine wine by the glass, thanks to the Coravin system which dispenses it without pulling the cork and disturbing the natural ageing process.
Tell me more about The Jugged Hare Restaurant
The Jugged Hare Restaurant
49 Chiswell Street
London EC1Y 4SA
Tel: 02 7614 0134