Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.
Grouse grouse mate! Who remembers “grouse”? When I was growing up in a south-west WA surfie town in the 80s the word was nearing the end of its life. Gone the way of many recycled words, back into the compost. To say something was grouse was to say it was knarley, cool, or these days, way mad. Well, I think, but these things change from year to year and place to place, and I’m getting a bit long in the tooth to keep up. Fully sick mate, says Kat, bloody Westies. There’s a word that needs some context: Westie. I’m talking Sydney’s western suburbs, but from a geographical perspective I’m far more westie than anyone from, say, Penrith. And what can all this mean to someone in London anyway! Let alone any other part of the world.
On with the topic! On Saturday we were hunting game, unfortunately this was with a web-browser rather than a shot-gun. You got game? The game restaurant in London appears to be Rules, but when I tried to book the response was that I was about a month too late to book at this time of year. So we hunted… Eventually finding ourselves with a reservation at Blueprint Café. Some note has to be made regarding the process of booking here. It was all done via a web-site called D&D London, which handles several other popular London restaurants as well. How very modern and convenient. But I don’t really like it, I tried booking over the phone first but got a message saying to try the website (this was at 11AM). This web lark takes some of the fun out of booking a table at a decent restaurant.
So at 18:00 we rock up. The game on offer was not extensive, less prevalent than on the online menu (but game supply is unpredictable). We caught a couple of game dishes, a mallard entrée and, the pièce de résistance, grouse.
Kat didn’t order an entrée, as it transpired this was a wise decision. I, on the other hand, couldn’t resist the Salt Mallard served with raspberry conserve, quince paste, and watercress. The mallard was exquisite, cold medallions of deep red breast flesh. Maybe the raspberry and quince flavours (and sweetness) were a bit much for it, but since they were “on the side” this was a small concern. I mopped up remains with some bread, no worries!
For main course I had the Welsh Blackface Mutton. The mutton was perfect, baked to succulent tenderness, but the “parsley and mustard crust” was far, far too mustardy. As if they were trying to hide the fact that the mutton tasted like mutton!
Kat’s main course was grouse. A baked bird served with handmade crisps, salad leaves, raspberry sauce, and traditional giblets-on-toast (grouse on top). Alongside was a bowl of “bread sauce” which I can best describe as a lumpy and sweet béchamel, this complemented the grouse well. Grouse is described, by Hugh Fearlessly-Eatsitall, as having “a unique, herby, heathery flavour”. I’m not familiar with heather, but “herby” is spot on, this was one tasty bird. Tender, pink-red, and a real pain in the butt to eat! Kat made a great effort then I took over and did what I could with the carcass, it’s a complicated meal but well worth the effort. I even found a piece of lead shot in one of the legs! (Do you think they deliberately leave it in, or insert one just in case even?). I wasn’t keen on the crisps (maybe if they were parsnip I’d be happier) and the pile of what seemed like fried bread-crumbs. But really, everything in addition to the bird is just fluff. It was good.
A warning that the grouse would take three times as long to eat as the mutton would have been appreciated.
We were advised to order sides with our mains, in my case this was warranted as all I had with my mutton was a few leaves. Kat certainly had no need of a side, her meal already came with plenty of cress. She ordered a mixed leaf salad, which was fine. I ordered Purple Broccoli Spears, which were a bit too mushy for my tastes.
Dessert? We had to. I had a Quince and Apple Shortcake, it was too sweet and not quincey enough. More quince and normal cream instead of the sweet muck and it would have been much better. Kat had Orange Polenta Cake with Vanilla Bean Icecream and Poached Pear, hard to go wrong with this one, perhaps on the sweet side again. On sweetness I must note that we both very rarely eat sweet foods, so we may be over-sensitive to sweetness.
We had some wine too, “Primitivo” from Puglia at 5 quid per glass. Good eating wine.
In the end the meal cost us 90 quid, including 15 quid for three glasses (175ml) of wine and 10 quid for “12.5% discretionary service charge”. (The service was good, though maybe a little thin on the ground.) This is quite reasonable for London eating, I expect to pay over 100 quid for a night out at a London restaurant. Kat didn’t have an entrée, though she did have the most expensive main course on the menu, 22 quid, this is around what you’d expect for grouse.
My regrets are dessert, mushy broccoli, and the mustardy crust. But the evening overall was a success thanks to the duck and the grouse. There’s something to be said for the location too. Above the Design Museum (though that doesn’t excite me much) and right next to the Thames. If you’re near the glass frontage, we were right against it, you have a view of the dark glittering expanse of the Thames (which would be a view of the green murky and debris covered expanse of the river if it were daytime). Downriver the Canary Wharf skyline dominates as the river curves down to Isle of Dogs. Upriver the nearby Tower Bridge steals the show. If you can get a seat by the window Blueprint Café is a perfect restaurant for the sight seer.