A ‘carnival of gluttony’ in five-star surroundings
Michael Deacon weighs up The Game Bird in St James’s
I don’t know how much weight I’ve gained since I star ted reviewing rest aura nt s. And I don’t da re f i nd out. there’s a set of scales in the bathroom, but I can’t bring myself to use t hem. I don’t like t he way t hey look at me. I can see their smirk of amusement, the wry little glances they exchange with the shower cur tain. when I turn my back, I swear I can hear them sniggering. I spin round – whereupon they act all innocent, butter wouldn’t melt. But I know. I know.
Rest aurant s a re just so fat tening. Fine if you only visit them occasionally, as a treat, but if you do it all the time, like I do, you can practically feel t he pounds piling on as you eat, one after another in remorseless succession. Yep, there’s one. And another. And another.
the sheer gruelling richness of the food. the merciless, gloating opulence. S o bad for you r waist l i ne. Even i n places where the portions are tiny. If a ny t hi ng, t he t i ny por t ions a re t he most fattening. they’re craf ty, t hese Michelin-starred chefs. the way they can cram all those calories into such a minuscule object. You sit there, thinking, ‘I can’t believe I just spent £38 on a starter the size of a toenail’ – and then suddenly you realise your gut is inflating like a bouncy castle. Your shir t is st ra i ni ng. Your colla r is t ighteni ng. Your belt is panicking. the food has run out of room inside your stomach, and is now desperately attempting to squeeze itself out through your pores, gasping for air.
no? All right, maybe that’s just me. the problem is, I’m so g reedy. I can’t
Honestly. If I get any wider, Richard Branson will try to circumnavigate me in a balloon
leave anything on my plate. I simply have to have it all. In a token effort to compensate, I’ve started doing exercise s–those Joe Wicks 20- minute workout videos you can follow on your ipad at home. I’m sure t hey must be doing me good, but to be honest the exertion only makes me feel even fatter. When you’ re working out you really notice that surplus weight. The hefti- ness of your moobs, t he slow, sullen bouncing of your blubber, as you pant your way haplessly through another punishing round of star jumps. It’s like wearing a Roman breastplate made of suet. Or a div ing suit pumped f ull of melted cheese. Or a Babybjörn sling stuffed with hot kebabs.
Sorry if all those unpleasant images have put you off your food. I wish they would put me off mine.
This week ’s re s t au r a nt v i sit was another carnival of gluttony. I went to The Game Bird, which has opened at The St a f ford, a f ive-s ta r hotel i n St Ja mes’s i n London. The Ga me Bi rd itself is swish but rela xed, a cosy little spot with a bar, on which was sitting a bottle of port the size of an oil drum. Round the corner was a blazing hearth f ac e d by h a nd s ome a r mcha ir s , to which to retire and bloat contentedly. The general feel was that of a private members’ club.
Down the corridor, meanwhile, was a not her ba r, th i s one de cke d out entirely in Second World War memorabilia. Entirely, that is, but for one peculiar anomaly: a sig ned photog raph of the BBC football pundit Mark Lawrenson. Well, I say peculiar. Perhaps Mr Lawrenson played a key role leading Allied forces at Normandy, but has kept it quiet, prefer r ing not to t a lk about his experiences. If so, I send him my sincere apologies.
The menu at The Game Bird is British, with lots of seafood and, f unnily enough, game. My friend started with t he Devon crab: creamy, tang y, deliciously smooth. I went for the smoked salmon, which was lovely, and came ser ved wit h horserad ish sauce, red onion and fat, juicy capers. I love the slipperiness of smoked salmon. How eagerly it slides down your throat, as if it were a funfair helter-skelter.
For my main, I had more f ish: t he Dover-sole meunière. So soft and sleek and supple, it dissolved in my mouth almost on entry. My friend, meanwhile, had the title dish, ‘The Game Bird’, featuring roast pigeon, braised leg, parsnips and cabbage, doused by the waitress with a hip flask of sloe gin.
It wasn’t much to look at: on f i rst glance, a jumble of vegetables, with little morsels of meat peeping out from underneath, like mice in a log pile. The pigeon t asted g reat, t hough: plump, tender, slight ly ea r t hy. I could have done with more of it, but t hen, t hat’s pigeon for you. On the one hand, we could genetically modify pigeons to be as big as turkeys; on the other, we don’t really want to render all cities on earth instantly uninhabitable. It’s a close call, but I suppose on balance I’d stick with the inhabitability.
For pudd i ng, my f r iend had t he Lyle’s-golden-syrup sponge with custard. Solidly satisfying, in a school-dinner sort of way. But I preferred my pistachio soufflé – served with a scoop of white-chocolate ice cream, which sank gently into the warm soufflé like a little setting sun. It was a gorgeous, shivering collision between hot and cold.
It’s good, The Game Bird. Not radic a l , not r e volut ion ar y, a nd pr et t y expensive, but good.
Possibly not so good for my fig ure, t hough. Honestly. If I get a ny wider, Richard Branson will try to circumnavigate me in a balloon.
Above ‘The Game Bird’ features roast pigeon, braised leg, parsnips and sloe gin.
Below Pistachio soufflé and white-chocolate ice cream – ‘a shivering collision between hot and cold’