The new restaurant at the Stafford London is pulling in guests with a contemporary take on a traditional British menu, overseen by executive chef James Durrant. Janet Harmer went to visit
The renowned American bar at the Stafford London has long been established as one of the capital's busiest hotel bars. However, the restaurant at the five-red-AA-star, 105-bedroom hotel has not enjoyed the same buzz in recent times. Now, with the launch in March of the Game Bird restaurant, dominated by a new Champagne and oyster bar, that has all changed.
"I've been involved in the hotel for 14 years and the space has never really worked," explains Stuart Procter, who is enjoying his second stint as general manager of the hotel following four years away, during which he launched Hotel and Café Football with former Manchester United legends Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville.
"But now, with the creation of a bar at its centre, we have a restaurant with an energy and a vibe," he says. "It has also, of course, been helped by the appointment of James Durrant as executive chef, who has overseen the launch of the new menu."
The decision was taken to develop a new restaurant after analysing the number of guests the concierge team sent to neighbouring restaurants. "Some 53% of our guests are Americans and they want to enjoy the best British experience," says Procter. "Before, we sent them to Rules, Wiltons, Scott's or Bentley's; now we are keeping them in house."
The Game Bird is the Stafford's take on the classic British restaurant, offering a contemporary focus on comfort food within a sophisticated setting created by Rosendale Design.
Durrant arrived at the Stafford in September last year, after spending three years running his own pub, the Plough Inn in Longparish, Hampshire. As he worked on creating the Game Bird menu, he turned for advice to his former boss, Jason Atherton, who he worked with at Maze, in London and New York.
"We wanted to provide an all-day offer, so there needed to be plenty of choice," explains Durrant, who heads a team of 17 chefs. The result is an à la carte menu offering everything from salads and seafood to grill dishes, pies, puddings and stews.
A particular hit from the opening of the Game Bird has been the Smoked & Cured trolley, where a selection of salmon, trout and eel is served alongside a choice of garnishes including soda bread, cucumber and dill pickle and mustard dressing.
Other popular dishes among the selection of eight starters include the Rhug Estate fallow deer tartare, accompanied by egg emulsion, Worcestershire sauce and charcoal mayonnaise (£14), also served as a main course for £30.
Perhaps surprisingly for a restaurant named the Game Bird, vegetarians are particularly well catered for, with the likes of white onion and parsley risotto (£12/£19.50) and asparagus and fried duck egg, beurre noisette emulsion, spring truffles, Jersey Royals and morels (£24), among a wider choice."I imagine this will become a dish that will evolve over time," explains Durrant. "We started serving it with cavolo nero and parsnips - now we pair it with roasted grelot onions, hispi cabbage and turnips, which we pickle in white wine and juniper for a hint of acidity." To finish, pistachio soufflé served with white chocolate ice-cream (£9) is the guests' favourite dessert, among a selection that includes strawberry trifle, vanilla custard, Jersey cream, strawberry granite and almond financier (£9). Around 70% of guests are choosing the Á la carte menu, with the rest going for the market menu, priced at £25 for two courses or £30 for three courses. To ensure everyone dining in the Game Bird enjoys an all-round culinary experience, guests can choose wines from the hotel's 380-year-old cellars, presided over by master sommelier Gino Nardella, who has been at the Stafford for more than 40 years. From the menu Smoked Norfolk black chicken, Clarence Court egg, pickled mushrooms £12 Celeriac cooked over coal, walnuts, apple, grape mustard, Shropshire Blue £11/£21 Poached Clarence Court egg, roasted cauliflower, wild mushrooms, fondant potatoes, gremolata £19.50 Cornish cod, Jersey Royals, morels, mint £26 Black Forest, bitter chocolate mousse, cherry jam, kirsch, cherry sorbet, Chantilly cream £9 Lemon meringue parfait, toasted meringue, lemon gel, basil sorbet £9 Lyle's golden syrup sponge, custard £9 The Game Bird at the Stafford London 16-18 St James's Place, London SW1A 1NJ thestaffordlondon.com/the-game-bird Save Save