Menus that declare their undying loyalty for traditional British cuisine and their support for small, artisanal farms are as common as the sighting of sheep in the Welsh countryside. However, few are as faultlessly executed as the sumptuous menu offered at The Game Bird inside The Stafford London.
The Stafford is one of those hidden-gem, premium boutique hotels that is an absolute delight to discover. Situated in a quiet cul-de-sac in St. James’s Place, it famously served as a club for American and Canadian officers stationed overseas who sought refuge in the Wine Cellars.
In fact, I would strongly recommend chatting with the charming master sommelier and fountain of knowledge, Gino Nardella. He will take you on a grand tour of the 380-year-old Wine Cellars, which houses up to eight thousand bottles of the finest wines and the word is, Gino has tried every single bottle in his thirty-five years’ experience at The Stafford.
The executive chef, James Durrant has over twenty years of experience working with the finest in the industry such as Jason Atherton and Gordon Ramsay and has created a menu that boldly embraces the very classic British recipes using top-notch, mostly-local ingredients that other restaurants would struggle to better. James has undoubtedly developed a vital relationship with key suppliers over the many years he has worked in the industry.
It might seem superfluous reviewing items like smoked salmon or dressed crab when it is directly purchased from the fishmongers. However, their salmon is purchased directly from the leading British supplier, H Forman & Son and served with elegance from a pristine trolley along with garnishes such as Clarence Court egg. Their dressed Devon crab was served with three pastel lines of garnishes: chopped egg yolk, parsley purée and spiced mayonnaise. The shell was packed with mouthfuls of sweet, succulent Devonshire crabmeat with flavours enhanced by the carefully selected garnishes.
Having reviewed various pigeon dishes recently, I was initially adverse to the idea of trying their signature dish, The Game Bird. Unlike the many bony varieties you might find in other restaurants, their version has perfectly-cooked, plump wood pigeon meat with the only bone being a braised pigeon leg served on the side.
The pigeons are from the Everleigh Farm Shop in Wiltshire who work with all the estates on the South Downs, North Hampshire and Wiltshire. The meat is incredibly tender and has just the right intensity in terms of the gamey taste of the dish. It is served with a beautiful array of onion purée, grilled hispi and turnips and finished off with a pure piece of theatre: a hip flask with bullshot, which is an aromatic beef consommé.
For pudding, you can't go wrong with their pistachio soufflé. Light, fluffy and bursting with delightful nuttiness and filled with luxurious white chocolate ice cream. This is a recipe that rivals the very best that London cookery masters have created like Pierre Koffman.
The Game Bird strikes the perfect balance between refinement and comfort and serves up a glorious British menu that very few dining establishments in the UK can better.