May Contain Shot !!! - In Defense of British Food
After 25 years away from Blighty, of all the things I missed dearly, British food was never one of them. And so it was that spending a month in my hometown, London, I was keen to rediscover the nourishment of my childhood. The world at large seems eager to dismiss British food as bland, and I for one, was guilty as charged.
I did miss the Sunday roasts with the family, and Scottish smoked salmon from Partridges with a generous squish of lemon, and let's not forget the great British breakfast, but that was probably all. So I made the most of my time in London to actually discover if British food deserves the bad reputation it has garnered.
And so it was that I chanced upon a public house (“pub” to you and me) called The Jugged Hare on Vauxhaul Bridge Road near Victoria Station. What enticed my interest was the signboard outside beckoning with the promise of “Famous for the Best Pies in Victoria”.
Stepping in to the beautiful 19th Century landmark, the decorum was typical pub fare with not a hint of any gastronomic delights to come. A few days earlier, I had the pleasure of a nice business meeting at the famed Builder’s Arms Chelsea, a delightful gastro-pub with quaint decorum and quality British food like Haddock and Chips. The Jugged Hare, on the other hand, was a typical raw British pub where you might expect saw dust on the wooden floors. The pie menu was extensive in variety and I settled for the Jugged Hare House Pie, described as “Hare cooked with carrots, celery & onions in port & red currant jelly” with a side note “We source our hare sustainably overseas — may contain shot” (“shot” refers to the tiny spherical pellets dispersed from a shotgun shell). It is not often that you bite into a dish and audibly mumble the words “Wow!”. Perhaps I was just hungry, or plain nostalgic at having pie after 25 years, so I dismissed my initial feelings and downed my meal. As days passed, I found myself yearning to go back and have more pie, much like an addiction. So after three visits, I felt the urge to spread the word, British food is not only good, but deserves the moniker Great British Food.
Other pies on the menu:
Guinea Fowl, Port & Prune Pie - Poached guinea fowl, smoked bacon, celeriac, onion, carrot & prunes in a rich port & juniper berry reduction.
Lamb Shoulder & Black Cab Stout Pie - Black Cab Stout marinated lamb shoulder braised with winter roots & wholegrain mustard.
Pork Pippen Pie - Diced leg of pork, caramelized Cox Pippin apples, onion, sage & thyme in cider gravy finished with cream.
Venison, Bacon, & Sloe Gin Pie - Sloe gin marinated venison, carrots, onion, celery, leeks & smoked bacon stewed in red wine.
Steak & E.S.B. Pie - Tender beef steak, caramelised shallots & button mushrooms slowly cooked in Fuller’s Extra Special Bitter gravy.
Fish Pie - Salmon, hake, smoked haddock & prawns with leeks, onion, dill & lemon cream sauce in an oven dish, topped with Cheddar mash.
and the list goes on….This trip thus far, has not been without its disappointments. The Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding I’d had at the famous Porter’s in Covent Garden was not fit for a homeless puppy in Afghanistan.
That said, London is not without its gems. Langan’s Brasserie in Mayfair, a restaurant started way back in 1976 as a partnership between Peter Langan and the great Sir Michael Caine, remains to this day one of my favourite. For my next trip back home I am sure I will return to The Jugged Hare, but if any of you have any recommendations, do drop me a line.
Dean Owen is a Co-Founder of Quimojo, a revolutionary new concept in Global Campus Recruitment.
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