Ta­ble talk

A ‘car­ni­val of glut­tony’ in five-star sur­round­ings

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - CONTENTS -

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’

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