|Photo by Freeimages.com/Guillaume ROUXZ|
Joseph Connolly, The Daily Telegraph, August 28, 2015
This season, grouse has been hard to come by – but Joseph Connolly tracked a brace down to Dean Street Townhouse, London W1.
Dean Street Townhouse 69 – 71 Dean St, London W1D 3SE
Contact 020 7434 1775; deanstreettownhouse.com
Price Three courses (inc grouse) with wine: about £75 per head
I am a townie; and every single one of us is, frankly, quite pathetic. We don’t understand the country: to us, the country is another country. On our occasional excursions there, we squeal if our new Hunter wellies (in quite the wrong colour) are inadvertently splattered, or our stiff and box-fresh Barbours encounter anything approaching weather.
We don’t even comprehend how to conduct ourselves when invited on a country weekend. We will roll up late, with flowers (flowers!) when what is required is a case of claret. We will hog all the hot water and meekly protest that our room is a little chilly, but demur when our host simply hurls another lurcher on to the quilt. We just don’t see that it’s all about pulling your weight with chores to the extent that you end up doing far more work than you would in a month in London – nor do we get that we are expected to rise at dawn and walk for bleeding miles, never once shrieking out loud at the sight of vermin in the hedgerows.
And how should we know that chucking-out time is after Sunday tea, whereupon you must leave a whole pile of cash on the chest of drawers for the benefit of the (unseen, and possibly non-existent) staff?
What we do understand about country people, however, is that they are really so marvellously adept at killing things. Leisure pursuits? Go for it, lads: stalk that deer, shoot those birds, chase that fox and hook that fish.
In my view, the most thoroughly worthwhile slaughter in the calendar began a fortnight or so ago, on the 12th of this month. Oh, God, yes – the grouse, here is the king of game, worth any effort or expense to secure. Every August, I simply lust for it – though this year (due to circumstances quite beyond a townie’s capacity to fathom) the haul has been meagre.
Great news for restaurants, of course, because now they can bang up even further the customarily blinding price that punters seem eager to pay: down south, if you find a grouse with all the trimmings for under £30, you’re doing rather well. Many of these will be devoured in gentlemen’s clubs: I have, in my time, enjoyed excellent grouse in the Garrick, White’s and the Athenaeum . But there’s not much point reviewing them.
As to restaurants, Rules and Wiltons are renowned for it, but what of places less famous? Many are reluctant to list it because supplies are uncertain – but the Dean Street Townhouse is one that is unafraid to put it on the menu, so I went there. Well, of course I did.
Here is yet one more outpost of Nick Jones’s Soho House empire, just around the corner from the original club. A stylish place, indeed, with extremely polite and eager service, within what is one of the West End’s most elegant small hotels.
It is a restaurant of two parts: the main space is Georgian cornices and panelling, made fab by red leather upholstery and white linen cloths and napkins. Then there is an extraordinarily cosy section that is all Turkish rugs, velvet chairs, cushions and pornographic wallpaper. (It’s true: a while ago – name drop alert – I lunched here with Lady Antonia Fraser, who remarked that the autumnal shade and pattern of the walls exactly matched her dress. Well… not exactly: if you peer closely at the wallpaper, designed by acclaimed portraitist Jonathan Yeo, it is a sea of rudeness. Lordy.)
Anyhoo, my guest was kicking off with prawn and crab salad – extremely generous on both – and I went for Morecambe Bay potted shrimps. These were a buttery pleasure – room temperature with a touch of paprika, the texture very creamy and moreish. But I was gaggingly eager for the main event: a bloke in Soho, keenly awaiting a bird.
The first sight of the gorgeous little thing, plump and roasted to a raw umber colour, is always worthy of a gasp – and our brace looked magnificent. As did the orgy of traditional accompaniment: bread sauce (essential), game chips (crisps that look like little waffles), the liver made into a paté, and of course the gravy.
Which… was the only thing that let us down. It actually interfered with the superb sweetish and deep lusciousness of the just-pink grouse – high on protein, low in fat and huge on flavour; hung for a week before serving (about the golden mean if you ask me). The gravy looked the part – dark and glossy – but it was so very intense: too concentrated a reduction of stock and wine: actually (whisper this) rather beefy.
The paté was a fine parfait: glossy, sleek and smooth, and not aggressively liverish; the bread sauce spot on; the game chips (and some runner beans) good too.
With a decent Languedoc, oh, what practically perfect joy. This season, my grouse quotient is still in single figures, though they’ll be on the menu for a few weeks yet – and I already anticipate with vile and greedy delight the next glorious 12th.
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This article was written by Joseph Connolly from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.