‘Jugging’ is the process of stewing whole animals, mainly game, in a tightly covered container over a long period. Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management has a recipe for The Jugged Hare. A whole hare is chopped into pieces, marinated and cooked with red wine and juniper berries in a tall jug that stands in a pan of water. It is traditionally served with the hare’s blood and Port wine. In the 18th century, the average cost for the dish was 7 shillings, that’s very roughly 84p in new money.
I received an invitation to the launch party of a new high-end pub in Chiswell Street that has taken the name of the dish and I wanted to know exactly what a jugged hare was, I also thought you might, if you didn’t know either. One thing for sure is that they’re not looking to feed the economically challenged, there’s a food and wine list chosen for just about every budget and palate. I’m told that jugged hare will be on the menu but not just yet. After a bit of digging I find out that the Game Act won’t allow it (hare are officially classed as game) and whilst there is no closed season for hare shooting they cannot be sold during the breeding season (March to July).
This beautiful pub, on the former site of the King’s Head, is all brass ironmongery, wood floors and taxidermy and I expect to hear a Hans Zimmer score as I walk through the door. The coaching lanterns outside, the beautiful hare sign and the wall hangings make this the kind of place that Holmes and Watson would have popped in for a quick pint on the way to solve a case.
The bar is well stocked, and you can’t help but be transfixed by the stuffed beasts behind it. I like that the staff are all Harris tweed-smart and there are iced jugs for the beer sitting in a freezer. There’s even a Jugged Hare Pale Ale which has been carefully crafted by the artisan brewer Duncan Sambrook (of London’s Sambrook Brewery). I don’t like Pale Ale but I’m told it’s made from malt, hops, water and yeast grown in the UK (always good). It offers complex hints of citrus fruit, spice and bitter sweet notes and should be eaten with light game dishes, such as partridge or rabbit or semi-hard cheese.
The open kitchen is a grill and rotisserie and where Richard O’Connell has put together some traditional British dishes with a contemporary twist. He was tending to a couple of suckling pig when I blinded him with my camera flash.
There’s not one thing on the starter menu I wouldn’t have. If Beatrix Potter wrote menus this would be one of hers. Spring pea, broad bean, radish and dandelion salad, goats curd and walnuts (£6.50) nettle, onion and blue cheese and quail egg tart (£7.50), crisp bone marrow, shallots and capers (£6.50), Bath chaps, langoustine (£9.50)
For the mains, there’s Loin of Denham Estate Venison (16.50), half or whole Cumbrian chickens (£14/£28), Yorkshire wood-pigeon with lentil dripping (£12) and that Iron Age pork tenderloin with apple caramel (£15). If your mouth is not watering yet, what about the grill. In the meat room they’ve got sides of beef hanging and it’s from here they cut up the Cumbrian Longhorn Steaks to order, and if you don’t fancy that, there are posh sausages and fancy beef burger and chips. Then there are the dishes of ox tail, kidney and tongue (£11), roast whole baby chickens, rabbit leg with faggots. Still not convinced? Then the fish menu reads like a specialist fish restaurant’s fare. Roast Pollock (£17), char grilled skate (19.50), monkfish tail (£21), roast brill (£26) and Scottish lobster (35). With Billingsgate on their doorstep, it would be rather rude not to include some of the day’s catch. The dessert menu is another winner (all £6) and I love the idea of a chocolate Kendal mint cake parfait and lemon junket with blood orange jelly.
I tried a breaded skate knob, which was really very good, especially dipped in the garlic mayonnaise, and I can also vouch for the pork, which I had in a delicate brioche bun.
The group’s wine buyer is the charming Paolo Brammer and I grill him about the wines, the food and the private room. Not only did I manage to catch him I also spoke to the wine supplier who tells me that the ‘Josephine Room’, takes it’s name from the champagne they’re selling; Joseph Perrier, Cuvee.
Wine tastings, food and wine pairings and champagne evenings will be held there. At £130 per bottle, maybe those who don’t work in banks might be able to afford a glass or two signed up to one of these.
An A2 double-sided sheet is dedicated to the wine and
includes French, European and New World and it’s split into categories to make it slightly easier to navigate. These include producer of the month, wine pairing, magnums, champagne and sparkling wines, wine flights, white, red and rose and sweet and fortified. In fact I’m sure you’ll agree that there’s something for everyone. Prices begin at £16.50 for the house wine and then they steadily rise in price to those designed to impress. There’s even an opportunity to try fine wines by the glass. They have an enomatic wine system (which uses inert gas preservation, which basically means the flavours and characteristics of the wine remain intact for three weeks and taste as if the bottle has just been opened). I’m wondering in how many other pubs you could try a £220 bottle of 1991 French Syrah for £14.90, if you so desired?
For those who are at a loose end at the weekends or who are lucky enough to have The Jugged Hare on their doorstep, I’m told they’ll be the most amazing roast each Sunday.
No doubt, as this is the tenth venture from the ETM Group, I can only assume this will be a success. The menu’s quirky, the wine list is comprehensive and pretty competitive and what the guys behind this group don’t know about running a successful dining room, pub or restaurant, simply isn’t worth knowing. And, if it doesn’t quite work out they can always open the City’s first Museum of Taxidermy, but I doubt it’ll come to that.
The Jugged Hare, Chiswell Street, London, EC1Y 4SA
Open 7 days a week