The Game Bird review: fine-dining with a helping of fun
The Stafford's dining room brings inventive, seasonal twists to classic British dishes
Hotel restaurants have had something of a renaissance in recent years. Gone are the days when even high-end hotels would have to advertise their restaurant to guests as an added extra. Nowadays, restaurants are the main event and it’s all the more convenient if they happen to be housed in a hotel where diners can fall into bed after a grandstand performance in the dining room.
The Game Bird, at Mayfair’s prestigious Stafford Hotel, definitely falls into this category. A stone’s throw from St James’s Park but less well-known than its Ritzier neighbours, The Stafford exudes traditional opulence from the outside and within. Thankfully there is no trace of stuffiness at The Game Bird, run by "culinary director" Ben Tish.
From the very moment we entered, we were entertained and beguiled by each and every character we encountered from the informative waiters and sommeliers right the way to the man who came with the mini-blow torch to set fire to my companion’s Baked Alaska. A true delight.
Soon after we take our seats, a trolley of smoked salmon trundles past us, with options ranging from classic London Cure to a sweet and smoky Balvenie-marinated, oak-smoked offering. All are offered straight from the trolley complete with an array of condiments, an experience which immediately transports us back in time.
Although our eyes are tempted by the venison tartare that has already attracted rave notices, we decide to continue our culinary voyage under the sea and start with a platter of scallops served with burnt apple, radish and cider vinegar. Presented impeccably in their shells and, we’re told, fresh that day from the Orkney Isles, from the first mouthful we both agree they are the best we’ve ever tasted. Succulent, tender and juicy, they reveal a stunning depth of flavour that is contrasted perfectly with the garnish.
Mains are substantial and quintessentially British, with a keen focus - perhaps unsurprisingly - on game. Squab pigeon is served with pickled rhubarb, foie gras, hazelnuts and black pudding puree, making for an uncompromising dish with serious flavour. At the waiter’s suggestion I choose the guinea fowl and it is similarly sublime. Guinea fowl tastes rather like a cross between a pheasant and a corn-fed chicken, making it a good introduction to gamier flavours for my relatively uninitiated palette.
The guinea fowl is served with broad beans, morels and wild garlic velouté and the desire to wolf it all down immediately, as with most of the meal, was difficult to resist. Thankfully, our sommelier provided a welcoming distraction with a three-course wine pairing that was fun, quirky but also informative. While the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that came with the starter and mains were both outstanding, we were blown away by the sparkling, elegant dessert wine that came with the aforementioned Baked Alaska.
That the meal had to come to an end was perhaps the biggest disappointment of the night. Hotel restaurants may be having something of a renaissance, but The Stafford is truly raising the game.