As the twelfth day of August strikes, shooting season begins in the UK. And it’s the perfect time for new, seasonal produce to make its way on to chef’s menus.
This summer, we tuck in for a proper country feast at Rockliffe Hall’s Clubhouse to celebrate the start of game season in the hands of Executive Chef, Paul O’Hara.
In the run up to the event, taking the local landscape into account, as well as the fruit and vegetables grown on the Rockliffe estate, Paul worked closely with his team to prep a glorious game-filled menu to mark the occasion.
Plant to plate dining is something the team at Rockliffe are doing really well. The pick of the Kitchen Garden crop makes its way on to The Orangery, The Brasserie and The Clubhouse menus on a daily basis. On this occasion, it’s all about sourcing local meat – and serving it in style, the day it is shot.
“The game for our Glorious Twelfth dinner was shot this morning in Coverdale – North Yorkshire,” says Paul O’Hara.
“It has since been dry plucked by R&J – ‘Yorkshire’s finest farmers and butchers’.
“I was getting worried because a lot of shoots were cancelled due to weather, but R&J delivered. The pigeon dish is a signature dish from my restaurant and the nettles have come from the Rockliffe grounds, so we’ve got a mix of on-site and off-site produce, which is great.”
A champagne reception awaits as we arrive for ‘The Glorious Twelfth’ dinner at The Clubhouse. Bubbles and nibbles set the evening off as the restaurant’s expert sommelier guides us through our accompanying wine flight.
Nibbles and bubbles aside. Our first course arrives. Roast pigeon breast, sitting on a bed of nettle risotto, served with black pudding and goose liver.
The pigeon itself is perfectly rich, and is delicately wrapped round chunks of black pudding. Together, the soft textures are a match made in heaven. The nettle risotto stings the tongue with flavour. It’s fresh and it’s a wonderful accompaniment to the rich meat.
A soft, easy to drink red is served alongside the melt-in-your-mouth meat.
Next up, it’s the venison – thinly sliced on the plate with a hint of garlic for good measure. Served rare with a peppered seasoning and rocket, with garlic and anchovy mayonnaise. Our favourite wine of the evening, the Malbec, totally makes this dish. Zipping through the flavours, it compliments the peppery meat with oaky notes. Full bodied and packed full of dark fruits, it’s the perfect pairing for a game dinner.
The main course is Coverdale shot grouse – a hearty dish, served off the bone with red cabbage, game chips, bread sauce and watercress.
A gooseberry and elderflower fool kicks us off in the dessert department. Sweet and savoury, with plenty of fresh flavours, it’s served with shortbread biscuits. Our first dessert wine is a vintage 2014 from Bordeaux. It’s summery and sweet with hints of apricot running through. It’s a 20% Sauvignon Blanc and an 80% sémillon wine, delicious.
Finally, a fig-filled red wine – with Christmassy notes (which we have to admit, got us quite excited for cosy winter nights curled up by the fire – is served alongside our cheese board. It’s a fairly sweet wine – and pretty heavy too – but works well with the savoury cheese course.
Our glorious feast comes to a close with coffee and chocolate treats.
Personally, game isn’t something I would usually consider on a menu, but on reflection, the shooting season has won me over – and what a glorious experience it was.