Autumn nights have just got a whole lot more attractive with game and wine matching at your local pub. Bring on the dark nights and falling leaves.
Pheasant shooting season is well and truly underway, but what other food is in the hunters’ sights? Expect a wide variety of game and wild birds destined for the tables of Young’s Pubs and Geronimo Inns over the coming weeks.
Each listed pub hosts an event where diners will learn more about game meat and birds and how it’s prepared for the pot. Then there’s a chance to taste food and wine from a specially curated seasonal menu.
The Elgin: Notting Hill Gate
My evening at The Elgin began with a glass of Deakin Estate, Chardonnay Pinot Noir, a sparkling wine with a great citrus nose. No doubt the obligatory Dutch courage needed for the squeamish in the room as next up was the skinning and jointing of a deer.
No mean feat for the butcher and game dealer in question, Chris Sole, from Blackmore Game, who was operating with a very sharp knife in a darkened room. He prepared a few cuts and explained how to cook them.
Working up quite a hunger, the second part of the evening brought a three-course meal with a Sommelier-paired wine selection. Molly Stevenson from Berkmann Wine Cellars was our wine host for the night.
Pigeon and Partridge
Wood pigeon with blueberry jus, beetroot puree and crispy salsify came with a light Pinot Noir called Jealousy.
Pot-roast Partridge breast with bacon, savoy cabbage, ironbark pumpkin and redcurrant jelly sauce, with a Bordeaux and a beautiful dessert of Toffee Apple pudding a Curas Muscat.
All of the wines are available in the pubs by the bottle.
Want to know more about game meats, without the need to cook?
Game and Wine Matching
These are the venues taking part:
Tickets start from £35 per person and are available directly from the pub or their website.
Here’s my post on pairing game with whisky.
Cocktails kicked off the evening at Dukes Hotel; crystal glasses were filled with frozen Number 3 Gin, Vermouth and a large slice of Amalfi lemon peel. I wholly recommend a visit. If you can, get Alessandro Palazzi to wheel his trolley to your table and make it before your eyes, the theatre is a must for anyone, just priceless for visitors to the capital.
We threw the credit card at the evening. It happened to be my birthday, and surprisingly it wasn’t as costly as I’d first imagined it might be.
I’d booked into Cafe Murano, at the other end of St James’s and a five-minute stroll from Dukes Hotel.
Cafe Murano is pretty unassuming on the outside. On the inside, a marble bar dominates the length of the dining room, handy for that quick bowl of lunchtime pasta. I loved that the tables had a decent amount of space between them and for a school night there was a nice buzz about the place.
It didn’t take long before we’d sat down and had ordered a Menabrea beer and the Aperitivo Of The Day ‘Tramonto di Luglio’ (Myers Rum, Maraschino, Apricot, Sweet & Sour, Lavender bitters).
The menu was about to change, but I’m thankful for the selection on offer.
The waiting staff were attentive and offered up help when needed, but weren’t overbearing in the slightest.
We had to have the Angela Hartnett signature arancini (£4.50) (did I mention it’s her restaurant?). Tightly-packed risotto rice, infused with truffle oil, rolled into balls and breadcrumbs then deep-fried to the perfect crispness.
Salumi with the crispiest Carta di Musica was a good place to start (£12). Lots of flavourful meat but the clear winner was the Finocchio or fennel-studded salami.
A well-risen, pillow-soft Rosemary focaccia came with a small saucer (more’s the pity) of Planeta olive oil.
We made relatively light work of the plates and moved to the Antipasti. A good-sized portion of octopus, potato and caper leaves lasted no longer than the click of the iPhone (£10.50). Salted and chopped tentacles worked well with the creamy salad potatoes and pickled caper leaves.
The Tagliatelle Amatriciana with grated pecorino was a well-chosen classic (£10.50/£17.00). Lovely ribbons of fresh-egg pasta were tossed in a fresh tomato sauce with a generous grated topping of sharp and salty Pecorino.
Mr opted for the Spaghettini, anchovies and pangrattato (£10.00/£16.50). Again no surprise that the supplier of fresh pasta to Fortnum’s around the corner is pretty good at making a good pasta. Being a huge fan of anchovies, he lapped up the dish of flavours, which was crowned with a breadcrumb and chilli crumb.
I thought I was full by this time and then spotted the courgette fritti (£3.75) I managed to work my way through a bowl of deep-fried, batter-coated chips of courgette. Amazing.
Mr ploughed onto the next course. Beef rump, stracchino, San Marzano and basil (£21.00). What a joy to taste this plump Italian tomato, grown at the foot of Mount Vesuvius, sweet, dark red with the richness of the beef, which cut like butter, draped with creamy stracchino cheese. A perfect plate of food.
In fairness I was full but the salted caramel baked chocolate pannacotta was winking, heavily. This was the only dish which left me slightly disappointed. Sure it was creamy, and a beautiful set but the depth of flavour just wasn’t there, even drizzled with a salted caramel sauce. That said, I ate the whole thing, so it wasn’t that bad.
Lastly, the team at Cafe Murano saw it was my Birthday on my booking. I love a Happy Birthday plate, and they didn’t disappoint.
What a lovely evening. Shame it was a school night.
Love Italian food? Another top Italian is Sartoria on Savile Row.
Cafe Murano, 33 St James’s Street, London, SW1A 1HD, United Kingdom
The Nanaimo Bar is named after the city of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. This moreish, no-bake bar has a biscuit base, topped with a custard layer then a crisp chocolate top. They’re delicious but don’t take my word for it, the Canadians voted the bar their favourite confectionery.
Nanaimo Bar History
The first printed copy of the recipe using the name Nanaimo is found in Edith Adams’ cookbook in 1953. Edith was a fictitious newspaper food writer for the Vancouver Sun who doled out homemaker advice to its readers. If a reader got their recipe printed, they’d be sent a dollar and it would appear that Lenore Newman wrote the recipe published in the paper but under the title London Fog Bar. It seems since then there have been quite a few reincarnations but all closely match the original recipe.
They’re called various things across Canada from Victoria Specials in Drumheller, Mabel’s Squares in Nova Scotia to New York Slices in Winnipeg and Kenora.
Canada is celebrating its 150th year and so it seems the perfect time to whip up a tray of Nanaimo Bars and scoff for Canada.
Here’s a recipe I got given from a Whistler resident.
For the biscuit layer
15ml vanilla extract
240g of Graham Crackers crumbs (If you can’t get hold of Graham Crackers, I use 120g Digestive and 120g Rich Tea biscuits to good effect). Oreo’s might just be the perfect substitution.
120g chopped walnuts
240g coconut (A combination of desiccated and chopped, toasted)
For the custard layer
30g Bird’s Custard Powder
480g Icing Sugar
9″ x 9″ baking pan
Begin by making the biscuit base
In a bowl, over a pan of simmering water, melt the butter with the sugar and cocoa powder, stirring occasionally until smooth. I always microwave mine, 600W for about a minute and a half, keeping a very close eye on it. Whisk in the egg until the mixture has thickened. Remove from the heat and mix in the biscuit crumbs, coconut and chopped walnuts if using, then press into the base of a lined 20cm square tin. Chill for 10 mins.
Then the custard layer
Whisk together the butter, milk and custard powder until light and fluffy, then gradually add the icing sugar until fully mixed. Spread over the biscuit layer and chill in the fridge for at least 10 mins until the custard is no longer soft.
Melt the chocolate and butter together in the microwave (or over a pan of simmering water), then spread over the chilled bars and put back in the fridge. Leave until the chocolate has fully set. Take the mixture out of the tin and slice into bite-sized squares.
They will keep in an airtight tin for up to a week but don’t expect them to hang around that long.
A night out at The Savoy Hotel mostly spent at Kaspar’s Seafood Restaurant. We could have started the evening with a cocktail at the world-famous American Bar or ended our meal with a night cap in the art-deco Beaufort Bar … keep reading to find out more about this wonderful central London gem.
It’s the only road here in the UK you can drive on the left. Yes, people. The Savoy Hotel on The Strand in the heart of London. You know you’re in for a treat in both luxury and service, at least, when you see the Lalique crystal fountain and top-hat doffing doormen at the grand entrance.
As you walk through the hotel foyer, the first thing you notice is the beautiful flower displays, and this is the start of many.
Kaspar’s is a wonderful seafood bar at the rear of The Savoy Hotel in London. For those not in the know, this London institution has hosted royalty and world leaders to legends of the stage and screen. If only the walls could talk, I’d be there for hours.
The legend of Kaspar
For almost 90 years the Hotel has offered dining parties of thirteen the company of Kaspar the Cat. Thankfully, not a real puss but a statue created by the architect Basil Ionides in 1926. Kaspar sits on ‘unlucky’ tables with a napkin around his neck, a full place-setting before him, ready to enjoy every course served. Kaspar’s Seafood Bar and Grill is the former River Restaurant and named after the ‘cat’.
August is an expensive month for me; it’s my birthday and my Mum’s. She loves seafood, we’ve eaten at Kaspar’s in the past and sat at their art deco bar which takes up the middle of the huge room. This time, we’re treated to a table close to the River, at the back of the Restaurant, and get to glimpse the Thames through the huge trees which also provide a screen for the bedrooms above us.
Kaspar’s Seafood Restaurant
Champagne for Mum and me, the house is Louis Roederer (£18.50), so we were in great company. Mr settled for a glass of house white wine, La Loupe (£9.50), a white Grenache with white fruits and fruity notes which worked well with his starter.
Service here is attentive, not at all imposing. Our waiter Ryan always had the right answer to our questions and a lovely smile.
Gorgeous sourdough arrived with soft cheese and butter, brown and white.
The starters were superb, but after I scanned the menu, I knew that it would be a large main course. Mr was the only one who opted for a starter but boy what a starter
The lobster and crab bisque was everything and more (£18.00).
Mum chose the Fruits de Mer Platter (£39.00) for her main course. Sadly, my picture was blurry. A crushed ice platter arrived with four oysters, four huge prawns, white crab meat and two fat scallops. Mum ordered a side of skinny fries (£5.00). Excellent value.
I had the Atlantic cod fish and chips (£20.00) which is one of the tastiest plates of food I’ve had in a while. A huge piece of cod in the lightest batter had been fried and crisped to perfection. When cut large flakes of cod fell onto the plate, only to be stopped by a pea crush and thin whippet fries.
Mr chose Halibut, prawns and chorizo (£39.00) with a side of new potatoes (£5.00). There’s not much needed when you get the best quality products into your kitchen. As a chef, all you need to do is know how to cook them. And the chefs at Kaspar’s certainly have the skills. He fancied a glass of white wine to work well with the fish. A super crisp Domaine de l’Eglantiere arrived, a little steep at (£18.50) but Mr said it was well worth it and was the perfect compliment to his Halibut.
We looked at each other, beaten by the portions. No room for dessert.
There was, however, a Happy Birthday lollipop and a few iced bonbons which we managed to force down. I have no idea if Mum got it home in one piece, but she insisted on taking home her lollipop as a reminder of her beautiful evening.
The total for our meal, including 12.5% service (£23.38), was £210.38 (£61.00 was alcohol), which included free still and sparkling mineral water.
As we leave, we poke our nose into the shop and see the Chocolatier hard at work, beautiful works of art too by The Biscuiteers who have recreated the uniform of the mixologists at the world-famous American Bar and the Savoy Cocktail Book.
We say goodbye to the Hotel and Kaspar, the huge topiary cat, keeping an eye on proceedings outside his home.
Kaspar’s Seafood Bar & Grill, The Savoy, Strand, London, WC2R 0EU+44 (0) 20 7420 2111.
Panela is organic dried sugar cane juice, collected by crushing peeled sugar cane in a mill. Used in the place of regular sugar, it worked a treat in this squidgy, cherry and walnut brownie recipe.
Freshly harvested sugar cane is pressed in small Colombian family run farms known as ‘trapiches’, and the juice is cold-filtered, evaporated in a cauldron over a fire using the sugar cane husks as fuel. The liquid is boiled until it produces a thick caramel-like consistency where it’s poured into square block moulds to set. When it’s compact and solid, it becomes an essential kitchen ingredient. Ground into a fine powder it’s convenient for use on porridge, sprinkled on yoghurt and adds a rich, moist texture to baked products.
I compared the Panela with other sugars in the store cupboard, and it did come out on top, having slightly fewer calories and carbs than both granulated white sugar and unrefined dark brown soft cane sugar.
The results were excellent, and while chocolate brownies aren’t a great example of a low-calorie treat, the Panela did a good job where caster sugar was required.
This has walnuts; I know that Nigel Slater says nuts get in the way, but I like the texture. This recipe gives brownies with a thin crust, a centre somewhere between melted chocolate and bog mud, with walnut and cherry pieces for contrast. Making full use of the glut of cherries in season now.
Cherry & Walnut Brownie Recipe
150g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
225g Colombian Panela – I used Hasslacher’s
55g cocoa powder
75g plain flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
3 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas 4. Line a 20cm square baking tin with greaseproof paper. Melt the butter and dark chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water or the microwave on a low setting to melt. De-stone the cherries and roughly chop them along with the walnuts. Stir into the melted chocolate. In another bowl, add the sugar, then sift in the cocoa powder, flour and baking powder. Add to the melted chocolate mixture and stir well. Beat the eggs and mix in. Transfer the mixture to the tin, then bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool before cutting into squares.