The Jugged Hare, Barbican
All creatures great and tasty. This gastro-pub, located in the permanently 70’s concrete jungle of Barbican, serves up a whole host of seasonal British game, wild fish and shellfish served with expertly picked wines to accompany the strong seasonal flavours. Split into a pub and dining area, The Jugged Hare has an after-office hours ambience generated by City workers relaxing after a hard day working for a FTSE 100 company. The only footsie I was interested in that evening was going to be taking place at the dinner table so we made our way past the suit-clad drinkers for our 7pm mid-week reservation. If you grew up in the countryside and spent time strolling in the fields trying to spot rabbits, pheasants and other woodland critters then you will have no trouble here as they are everywhere you look. Resembling a trophy room Mr Jones from George Orwell’s Animal Farm would be proud of, this is a manly place for eating macho food, so put your Barbour jacket and flat cap on and head on in.
Your Room 101 of food might include things like snails and bone marrow but that’s just one of the starters at The Jugged Hare. Be adventurous. Tender Herefordshire snails served with bone marrow croquettes were much more delicious then they had any right to be. Sautéed chanterelles and mushroom croquettes with a duck egg plopped on top was the closest either of us got to a vegetarian dish the whole night. Our knowledgeable waiter suggested a versatile Pinot Noir (La Bousselle, VdP d’Oc 2012) to go with. The main menu is an ornithologist’s guidebook to British fine dining: chicken, grouse, pigeon, woodcock, partridge, mallard, and wigeon (Google it) all fresh from the Yorkshire countryside. Prefer your animals with four legs? Venison, pork, mutton and a whole range of steaks are cooked on the grill. Fish is bought daily from Billingsgate in case you are tired of eating the Animals of Farthing Wood. It was Pheasant Week (of course!) when we visited and the ballotine of pheasant with wild-boar stuffing was a delight. My date went for the venison haunch, which was beautifully pink.
Definitely save some room for the sticky toffee and chestnut pudding with mince pie ice cream. It’ll make you grin like Cheshire cats (which is probably on the menu in the next couple of weeks).
Before heading off for some literal game, we met at Bar Smith in Farringdon for some of their house-infused spirits and cocktails. An industrial, east London bar with exposed brickwork and atmospheric lighting we perched ourselves at the long bar which is in prime sight of the kiln where they make their own pizzas, the smell priming our appetites for dinner. The “Basil Fawlty,” a gin based cocktail with elderflower, lemon juice and cranberry topped off with basil syrup started a conversation about my dislike for Monty Python but my date insisted she could win me round.
We goose-stepped towards The Jugged Hare, which is in close proximity to the Barbican Centre and it’s the perfect place to eat after going to the Barbican Cinema (massively underrated) to see the latest film starring Benedict Cumberbatch or the Barbican Hall (amazing acoustics) to see the latest Shakespeare production starring Benedict Cumberbatch. With our bellies full of game, post dinner we went for a half-pint at the Old Red Cow where our convo turned to the strangest animals we had ever eaten. A ghastly gastronomic Top Trumps ended up with my Crocodile (practically a dinosaur) beating her Kangaroo (Australian bouncing cow). We took a jaunt down towards St. Pauls where we had a late night cocktail on Madison’s roof terrace which overlooks the stunning Cathedral. We debated the best buildings in London with the Cathedral being a clear favourite for her whilst I was trying to big-up the Shard. One cocktail turned into three, with the “Rooftop” cocktail of Hendricks gin, elderflower and Prosecco going down exceedingly well.
To prove her point on her favourite building we strolled hand-in-hand across the Millennium Bridge to the south of the river to see the Cathedral standing out spectacularly against the busy, modern buildings of London’s skyline. Invest in a Tate Modern membership, mainly for the exhibitions but also for a drink in the members bar overlooking the Thames and north London. If she’s not impressed by the artwork then the views will definitely seal the deal.
If your date is one of them vegetarians that you read about in the papers then probably give this place a miss. If your date enjoys eating fresh, seasonal British produce that wouldn’t look out of place on Best of Countryfile then this is your place.
2 – Masculinity oozes from the walls. Woodland animal taxidermy might not get you ruffled under the feathers but the tastes and smells definitely will.