Situated in a cobbled courtyard in the heart of the City, The Don is something of an institution around these parts.
Taking its name from the black-caped figure that was the symbol of the Sandeman Port that used to be bottled on the premises, the restaurant only opens Monday – Friday (if you’ve ever been to the city at the weekend – you’ll see why). Shaking things up with his a la carte menu is new Executive Head Chef, Frederick Forster. One of only a handful of chefs to have won both National Chef of The Year and the Roux Scholarship, he’s worked with Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, followed by Gordon Ramsay at L’Aubergine and then Le Gavroche, as well as being Head Chef at The Ritz. This guy clearly knows his stuff.
So what better time to check him out than the start of game season. Feeling truly autumnal, the new menu features venison, wild duck and partridge.
The dining room was, as you’d expect, quite suit-y – but had a good atmosphere, even on the Monday night we visited. The walls are full of art, you’ll find an extensive wine cellar tucked in the corner and the staff are a little eccentric, just the way we like ‘em.
We began with a glass of champagne and their signature dish of crab and caviar. Yes, it was just as decadent as that sounds. Served on ice, homemade blinis came alongside pickled dill cucumber and a selection of fresh crab meat and dips – all on beautiful little mother of pearl disks for you to construct yourself – fabulous. If you’re keen to get stuck straight into the meat offering, the rabbit lasagne is served in a light cep volute – more delicate than it sounds.
However, we were really there for one thing only – the grouse. Tender breast meat is roasted and served pink atop a smudge of mash alongside foie gras in a crispy crust. With pickled blackberries, chicory and a sprinkling of caramelised smoked bacon for good measure, this was one of the richest things we’ve ever eaten. And at 36 quid a pop, you’ll need to be feeling rich yourself to plump for it. But if you’re looking for a fine example of grouse, you need look no further – stick it on the company card and be done with it.
If you don’t think you can handle the meat sweats – we loved the perfectly cooked halibut served in a clear lemon grass broth with black crab tortellini.
For dessert it’s worth ordering the blackberry soufflé just to appreciate it’s beauty, or call over the cheese trolley.
Frederick, we like what you’ve done with the place!