Just in case you’ve managed to avoid the many debates about whether grouse shooting should be banned, here’s a reminder that today is the Glorious Twelfth, the day when the grouse shooting season officially starts. Tweeds and shooting sticks are dug out of the wardrobe (yes, they are needed – it might be sunny down south, but it’s still raining and about 15 degrees in the highlands of Scotland), and a few hundred brace of grouse are rushed down to London as soon as they’re shot to get to the capital in time for supper. The meat – flavoursome, tender, and just gamey enough – is something that some people wait all year round for, expectantly ticking off the days until 12 August finally arrives.
So if you’re stuck in the capital rather than a grouse moor, and desperate to try some of the first pickings of the 2016 season, where can you go?
Mac and Wild
65 Great Titchfield Street, London, W1W 7PS
A number of the places which get their hands on the first grouse of the year are… well, let’s just say some might find them a little too old-school. Mac and Wild, on the other hand, is a thoroughly modern take on a Scottish game restaurant. Think grouse croquettes, or grouse and wild boar terrine, with roast grouse served from 16 August. But don’t think that the ‘modern’ take means it’s not all well-sourced; all the venison comes from the owner’s family estate in Ardgay, with other produce coming from neighbouring friends and estates. If you’re not up for grouse, try the veni-moo burger – one beef patty, one venison, and completely unbeatable.
30-32 Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3BU
Famed for its curries, the Cinnamon Club’s first grouse of the year have already arrived – delivered by Porsche, of course.
— The Cinnamon Club (@CinnamonClub) August 12, 2016
As well as their Shikaar breakfast – curried grouse and venison mince with a fried egg and Bombay spiced vegetables, grouse also features on their ‘Game On’ tasting menu, from 18 September until 16 October.
17 Mossop St, London, SW3 2LY
This Chelsea Pub has a lovely beer garden with a retractable roof – perfect for a sunny summer’s day like today. Their grouse are also on their way down south to play their part in the Glorious Twelfth Dinner – a five-course tasting menu including confit leg spring roll, Moroccan grouse breast and ‘Forrest Grouse’, which features sous-vide breast, blackberries, beetroot, rye, girolles and woodland fog (whatever that may be).
— Admiral Codrington (@TheAdCod) August 12, 2016
If you can’t get a slot at this year’s celebrations, remember to book early next year – and go back in a few days time. After all, who says that day one’s grouse taste any better than day five’s?
The Jugged Hare
49 Chiswell Street, London, EC1Y 4SA
Another pub that prides itself on its game selection – and again, their birds are en route as I type, making them one of the first places in London to serve grouse today.
— Jugged Hare (@thejuggedhare) August 12, 2016
They’re also hosting special celebrations – in their case, a british game and Joseph Perrier champagne dinner, including jugged hare as well as the fabled grouse.
Boisdale is the grandfather of Scottish cuisine; a tartan cocoon of a gentleman’s club, serving whisky and haggis galore. Their grouse arrives on 22 August; a traditional roast version with all the trimmings will be on the menu at each of their branches in Canary Wharf, Belgravia and Bishopsgate.
28 Upper Grosvenor Street, London, W1K 7EH
As of tomorrow, Corrigan’s Mayfair will be serving both roast grouse and a two-person grouse pie. If, however, you quite fancy learning how to deal with your grouse (after shooting them yourself, of course), they are also hosting a Glorious Grouse cookery class on 3 September, which teaches a selection of ways to prepare the birds, including game pie.
Alternatively, if you’d rather eat in than out, I know it’s almost blasphemous to say, but it strikes me as more of a day for salad-y things than a Friday roast. Mark Hix’s grouse salad is a good shout – plus, for authentic Scottishness, it calls for blaeberries (although you can of course use the more easily sourced farmed blueberries). There’s nothing quite as good as a freshly picked, finger-stainingly purple Scottish blaeberry though – as the grouse themselves have discovered.
500g of grouse breasts, other game can be used
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
A good knob of butter
50-60g small salad and herb leaves, such as celery leaves, pea shoots, chives, chickweed
30-60g blaeberries (or blueberries)
6 tbsp cold-pressed olive oil
2 tbsp sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
Season the grouse and pan-fry very briefly in the butter, so that they stay pink. Transfer to a warmed plate and leave to rest, saving the juices.
Make the dressing by mixing the oil and vinegar with any cooking juices, and season to taste.
To make the salad, toss the dressing with the leaves and arrange on plates. Slice the grouse thinly and scatter over the leaves and the berries.