Confession time. Last week was not the first time I’ve eaten at 45 Jermyn St. In fact, it’s something of a family favourite; a place we go when we’ve something to celebrate. Seldom has it let us down, either in terms of its hearty, yet refined food, or its quietly attentive service.
This though, if anything, made the restaurant’s job tougher when I crossed the threshold in a professional capacity last Wednesday, tired and grumpy after a manic day in the office, the weight of the world (and a new issue of the magazine) on my shoulders. Rather than starting with a blank canvas, 45 had a lot to look up to this time around.
Curmudgeonly though I was, from start to finish, the meal lived up to previous experiences. 45 Jermyn St pulls off the clever trick of being a traditional British restaurant in disguise; it nevertheless feels chic, relaxed and informal. The staff are attentive but discreet, dancing around the edges of the restaurant as unobtrusively as possible. The food is polished and satisfyingly filling in an old fashioned English kind-of-way, but dishes are elegantly presented, with sophisticated layers of flavour. The wine and cocktail lists are excellent, too. The restaurant actually won its place in this year’s Michelin Guide on the strength of its wine cellar.
My position made clear, let’s get to the main reason for my being there; to try the grouse menu, not something I’ve eaten before. The grouse season runs from early August to mid-October, and unless you’re born into a double-barrelled surname and red corduroy trousers, it’s hard not to view it as an antiquated fixture in the British culinary calendar. Even so, I’d suggest that skeptics reading this (like myself), tally a while – because 45 transforms this really quite fusty tradition into a surprisingly modern dining experience.
There are three grouse dishes available on the seasonal menu. As you’d expect, the first is a well-rendered take on the classic; roasted young grouse with game chips, bread sauce and garden veg, accompanied by a miniature cottage pie with the creamiest mash you ever did taste. This turns up at the table on a rather impressive wooden board for your approval, before being whisked away to be carved and served. It’s tasty, filling and suitably autumnal – refined British comfort food at its best.
Then, for those with decadent tastes, there’s an excellent grouse and fois gras pie to choose, too. This comes in thick, buttery shortcrust pastry, doused in malt gravy and served with a blackberry and shallot chutney to cut-through its meaty richness. It’s equally comforting and not so large that you feel guilty for tucking in.
The star of the menu though – which you should order when you visit – is the tikka spiced grouse. The bird’s breast is glazed in grouse jus and coated with a freshly made tikka paste of garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric and garam masala. It softens and tenderises the meat, tempering its gamey flavour without overpowering it. Pomegranate seeds are scattered over the top and its served with soft red lentils and a dollop of yoghurt. The result is a dish that’s quite unlike any game dish I’ve had before, it’s vibrant and inventive – a clever thing indeed.
Even if you couldn’t be less interested in the grouse menu, 45 Jermyn St should rank high on your list of special restaurants to visit this autumn. It offers a comforting, wholesome dining experience, and strikes the perfect balance between old school West End dining and a restaurant that feels fresh enough to relax in. Next time you’re in the market for a treat, book a table and while away a civilised evening being spoiled. If you order the grouse, so much the better – it’s the cleverest curry we’ve tried.
The grouse menu starts from £24.50 and is available until mid-October, 45jermynst.com