Continuing my Grandma’s culinary exploration, my sister and I decided that the perfect Christmas present would be to take her out for dinner, testing the waters of some new flavours in an atmospheric London hotspot. With this in mind, what could be better than visiting venison specialists Mac and Wild, a Scottish restaurant with an eye for the rustic and home grown, yet splashed with London cool in a casually natural way.
Pulling the unique rifle door handle, I almost walked clean past the restaurant with its black outer boarding and small shop front subtly disguising what is actually a popular London haunt. Inside, the restaurant is long, thin and narrow; there appears to be a bar near the back and a set of stairs on the right hand side which I assume leads to more seating. A pale brown leather sofa edges the left hand wall, with tables neatly placed in front and dining chairs the other side, completing the seating arrangements. Our table was right behind the door – not always ideal due to drafts when people come in and out, nearly knocking poor Grandma’s chair – but instead of the regular wooden square that made up the other tables, ours was a unique round cut from a tree trunk for a wonderful woodland feel. A large blue glass jar style jug was filled with water, a flickering candle bobbing in a clear oil lamp set up. The cutlery was all different yet simple, laid on plain white napkins. Coloured whiskey bottles lined the walls and pale bricks added a homely touch. It was almost like the trendy, upgraded version of a woodland cabin, the base of those about to go hunting.
It was a bit of a squeeze to get to my seat next to my sister on the sofa; the tables are very close together which isn’t ideal but I understand that they would naturally try and pack as many people as possible into the space. My sister expertly cast her eye over the wine menu, selecting a bottle of fresh sauvignon blanc for the three of us to share. We then got down to the important bit – picking our dinners!
As this was a Christmas present, we told Grandma to have exactly what she wanted, so we decided that a three course meal was par for the course. Looking at the menu, my eyes instantly zoned in on a box at the top of the page, informing diners where the meat this week had come from, detailing the farm and even who shot the animal. These small nuggets of information instantly scream ‘quality ingredients’ and my mouth watered at the thought of what was to come. The menu is very small with not a vast selection available, however there was still enough for a meat-lover like myself to choose from. I loved the Scottish style theme to the food too – there was lots of references to haggis, venison and whiskey, and I was looking forward to trying some new food stuffs.
For starters, I opted for the venison scotch egg. I love scotch eggs but I see them as a treat food when I have the fancies, so I was looking forward to indulging in one now, especially when it was made with an unusual meat. When it arrived on a rectangular chopping board, a lonely crispy looking globe next to a symmetrical puddle of fiery mustard, I wasn’t really sure what to make of it. The outside was very, very crisp, even boarding on a burned texture, however once you broke the shell, the soft boiled yolk simply oozed out and soaked into the meat, the egg whites soft and jelly like. The crisp outside now became a great base for this soft centre, and the flavours and textures worked really well together. I would say the egg rather than the venison was the star of the show here, although the mustard dipping sauce nearly blew my head off it was so hot! I don’t usually eat mustard, instead normally popping a teaspoon here or there in sauces, so slathering some on my scotch egg, it was no surprise it brought tears to my eyes! Not too heavy for a starter and promising for the next round.
For my main course, I couldn’t order anything except the venison steak frites. Why would you? All venison is served medium rare, which is normally how I have my steak so I was fine with that. When it arrived at the table, it was actually more what I would call rare, so just a note for those who are wary of having their meat any shade of pink or tinged with blood. The steak itself cut like warm butter with a satisfying squidge, the meat impeccably tender and so flavoursome. It was also gloriously thick, so you had plenty to tuck into. Served as a naked slab of meat on your plate, it is quality ingredients that haven’t been messed about with, cooked simply and perfectly and plonked on your plate prettily. The venison was astoundingly lovely.
Served with my meat, I had a dressed side salad and skinny cut chips, both of which were pretty standard fare, undoubtedly letting the venison do all the talking. I also chose to add a sauce, picking the Red Jon, one I hadn’t had before. It turned out to feature more mustard, so again I had that fiery back heat hitting my throat, but the redcurrant jelly tones of the sauce helped to pare down the violence of the mustard. It was a punchy assistant to the venison without being overpowering. In addition, I also had to try the haggis mac and cheese, partly because I have never had haggis. If you only try one new thing this year, please let it be this haggis mac and cheese. Served in a very decently sized crock pot, the mac and cheese is bubbly and hot, the melting and oozing cheddar sauce completely enveloping the tiny pieces of pasta. Not only is this mac and cheese excellence, but there is a wonderful layer of haggis hiding near the bottom that really adds something special. I found the haggis to taste a bit like sausage meat stuffing, having quite a similar texture too. It was very tasty and I loved the combination of the haggis with the mac and cheese. It was sheer savoury indulgence and completely delicious.
Despite being fit to burst, no meal is complete without dessert, so I set about reading the dessert menu with concentration. I selected the sticky toffee pudding, served with a whiskey based sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice cream for luck. Clearly Mac and Wild understand your state of fullness by this point, as even though the pudding came up as a good sized portion, the sponge itself was much lighter than other sticky toffee puddings I had eaten. It was light and acted like a sponge to soak up the caramel whiskey sauce, which by the way most certainly had a firm handshake of whiskey laced throughout for depth of flavour. The ice cream was a soft addition, a counterbalance to the hot, sticky sweetness with a slab of cool vanilla.
All in all, it was a truly wonderful meal. Mac and Wild prove that you don’t have to have a massively extensive menu if you hit your theme bang on, source high quality ingredients, and let the cooking steal the show. The dishes were simple yet well executed, and the staff were all very polite and attentive. The only annoyance I had were with the table placement, as getting in and out of the seat without attacking the table next to me with my derriere was near impossible, and the draft from the front door was pesky. However, food wise, I highly recommend Mac and Wild for a slice of something rustic served with sheer class. The meal came to just under £140 for a three course meal for three people with a bottle of wine.
I could go on about Mac and Wild until the deer come home…