I first met Eat Native at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage, and they now have a restaurant in Neal's Yard. I went along for lunch to take a look at their journey so far.
I headed down after a glorious breakfast at The Providores, and met up with a friend for lunch after a lovely walk through the calm back streets of London. First up, the chefs were trying out these effortlessly light crispy pork crackling bites, served with 'Hayonnaise' and were the sign of good things to come.
In their own words:
Eat Native looks to provide its guests with an original dining experience that encapsulates the country's best wild food that is native to the UK through a combination of innovative cooking and country thrift. Our food looks to unite the country’s best Foraged Foods and Game in a laid back, full flavour adventure through the British seasons.
Ivan & Imogen, have been cooking their way through street stalls and pop-ups to finally settle in the tranquil setting of Neal's Yard.
Ivan worked at the inspirational River Cottage HQ in Devon, learning much and finding a passion for the British produce right there in the woods and fields of this great land. A Great Taste Award from the Guild of Fine Food followed soon after, and he knows his wine's too; passing his WSET exam in wine with Distinction.
Imogen grew up in leafy Northamptonshire and has always had a strong connection with the land, she learned early on the importance of real food, provenance and how to find food in the mysteries of nature.
What's more, they are both a lovely team and along with Jack, Stelios, Lazlo and Maria, our lunchtime forage into their natural food world was certainly set to be an exciting one.
Ivan and Jack's mise en place shows they've already been at work for hours, making and preparing all kinds of ingredients to create the dishes. One notable thing is they were tasting the food, fresh peas, a new sauce etc - as if they were reminding their culinary imaginations of each flavour profile, artists due on top form for the show. We were seated at the chef's table, right at the pass, and certainly felt part of the goings on.
First off, my mate and I shared a Wood pigeon kebab, beet hummus, yoghurt, pickled cabbage with harrisa. Lovely to see wood pigeon on a menu, and served like this the flavourful ingredients blended quite well. The chefs Ivan and Jack spend so much effort to make the food look gorgeous, and it really shows. This is a far stretch from your London sky-rats, these are country birds with proper quality taste to match.
My friend's had a robust trio of Rabbit Dumplings for his main, with smoked bacon dashi and picked walnut. Comments from him were good, and for the bit I tried the taste certainly reminded me of good gamey rabbit, cooked deftly and with a well thought out sauce.
My main was the Fallow deer steak, cauliflower, crispy onions and carrot. The combo was a winner; the venison pink and inviting, great for mopping up the silky cauliflower. Accompaniments matched well, and the onion rings gave a nice balance of crunch to the dish.
During lunch we got to watch the team preparing other dishes too, here is pickled pear, Lincolnshire Poacher with pennywort and also the Wye Valley asparagus with hayonnaise and pagrattato.
Next, we saw the slow roast cauliflower, brown butter and wild garlic, and also the pan fried hake, split pea dahl and cauliflower leaf pakora
This is how close we were to the pass - great fun taking shots from my seat! These are two of the afore mentioned hake dishes, now with the pakora added and being dressed.
To finish, we had a a caramelised honey truffle each, it is a VERY good thing I couldn't reach the box of these - I'd have dived right in!
Thanks to the team for making it all such fun, your smiles and positive attitude can't help but make each visit a pleasure and a joy. See you again soon, I hear your duck egg with peas, smoked bacon and onion butter is divine!
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N.B I was not invited to review, my comments are my own.