For British foodies, the 12th Augusth – or the Glorious Twelfth as it is known – is one of the culinary events of the British calendar. It marks the opening of the new shooting season, starting with one of our favourite native game birds: grouse. Since the first grouse of the season are renowned for being the most flavoursome and tender, the opening of the season is hotly anticipated by restaurants across the country who wrestle and race to be the first to plate up the traditional game bird. Here’s where to head to sample the best.
The Yew Tree Inn, Highclere
Situated in idyllic Highclere, this 17th century inn prides itself on locally sourced game much of which is shot by Head Chef Simon Davis himself. After working a number of Michelin star kitchens, Simon moved to the Hampshire countryside to enjoy true country life, so it’s no surprise that each Glorious Twelfth he races to the Yorkshire moors to bag the bird himself speeding back to prepare a grouse dinner for his hungry patrons. This year’s Glorious Twelfth feast included whole roast grouse with prune and pancetta stuffing in a lemon and thyme jus, served with traditional game chips.
This Michelin-starred restaurant excels when it comes to serving up the fresh, seasonal dishes and their established relationship with Yorkshire’s Johnson and Swarbrick ensure that they can serve the most succulent grouse from the Glorious Twelfth onwards. Critics have noted Wilks’ understated elegance and the discipline present in a kitchen that keeps dishes simple yet flavoursome. That being said, the red Russian kale and crème de cassis jus served up with last year’s grouse brought some new flavours to the table.
1884 Dock Street Kitchen, Yorkshire
Situated in the lanes of Kinston-upon-Hull, just south of the Yorkshire Moors, the grouse served up at Dock Street Kitchen is amongst the very first to be plated. After stepping inside this elegantly furnished restaurant and taking a glance at the robust menu – filled with locally sourced meats and produce– you’ll understand the level of quality that Dock Street produces. Their roast Yorkshire Moor grouse is traditionally garnished and exquisitely paired with classic French wines that linger on the palate.
Failing to include Covent Garden’s ‘Rules’ in a list concerning Glorious Twelfth dinners would be an act of culinary blasphemy. Our inclusion of Rules isn’t just an attempt to avoid sacrilege however; the oldest restaurant in London has been serving up hearty, delicious British cuisine for over 200 years. Lounge in plush booths formerly occupied by British institutions such as Charlie Chaplin and Charles Dickens as you enjoy fresh grouse bagged on the moors of the restaurants own estate in Teesdale.
The Wheatsheaf Inn, The Cotswolds
The philosophy of Ethan Rodgers, Head Chef at The Wheatsheaf Inn tucked away within Gloucestershire’s Cotswolds countryside, epitomises what clean, traditional British fare is all about; “use the finest locally-sourced ingredients, cook simply and allow the dishes to speak for themselves”. Their three-course grouse dinner on the Glorious Twelfth is always a gastronomic winner, especially when you consider the excellent connections they maintain with local British suppliers. Expect to find yourself gorging on grouse that was bagged mere hours ago.
The Yorke Arms, North Yorkshire
Frances Atkins, one of only six Michelin-starred female chefs in the entire country, heads up The Yorke Arms’ impressive kitchen and has helped to devise and award winning menu; the backbone of which is locally sourced game, meat and produce. Though the Michelin star speaks volumes about the quality on offer, the grouse dishes – served last year with bilberries, heather scented jus and bramble – are a particular testament to Atkins’ ability to infuse traditional British cuisine with a creative flair.
Nicole Harley is Editor at The Epicurean.
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