As our tasting menus continue our culinary journey through the British seasons, we have reached the time of year when the last of the hedgerow fruits give way to festive berries, winter vegetables are covered with frost, and game season is well under way.
Our Head of Sustainability, Will Dennis discusses our new tasting menu with Executive Chef Sam. We discover how Sam is experimenting with menu development, substituting international ingredients for those grown closer to home and how the team are seizing the opportunity to showcase their craft and creativity.
It’s been a busy couple of months at The Wild Rabbit with events and even an award ceremony, but I managed to catch up with Executive Chef Sam Bowser following the recent supper club launch of our latest tasting menu.
‘Glorious Game’ is the last of the year’s concept menus celebrating the best naturally available ingredients throughout the seasons. For Sam and the team it is a great opportunity to showcase their craft and creativity, and I start by asking what he liked most about this autumn’s theme. “Game is important in this country, there’s a local shooting culture and it’s even featured in the name of our pub. It’s a great opportunity to work with unique ingredients like grouse, and venison from our Wootton Estate”.
Part of the challenge is creating a six-course menu without overdoing the concept. But as Sam says, the team were up to the task: “I like having to integrate the theme into a full menu without being too meat-led; for example in the cheese course we went for a pastrami-style game grated over the top to add a layer of flavour without overpowering the dish”. Like our spring celebration of lamb menu, the dessert course is where the chefs show off their imagination: “rather than using more game, we looked at what is available in their environment like ceps and chestnuts from the woodland floor, remembering shoots from when I was young, beating through the woods”.
Tasting menus are typical of our approach to food at The Wild Rabbit, namely a focus on pairing together seasonally available, quality local ingredients. This was recognised in October with the receipt of three rosettes from the AA, awarded for “culinary standards that demand national recognition”, in addition to the Notable Wine Award earlier in the year. Sam appears reassuringly unsurprised by the accolade: “it highlights great, consistent cooking focused on the quality of produce and flavours coming through which is what we do – pick great ingredients, cook them well and let them speak for themselves”.
Outside the kitchen Sam is experimenting with menu development, specifically the substitution of international ingredients for those that are grown closer to home. “We are really trying to use as much British produce as possible. We’ll ask ourselves whether we really need to use ingredients like vanilla or cardamom, or whether we can use a British alternative like sweet woodruff or hogweed seeds.” This quest has led to the reinvention of iconic British dishes which Sam hopes will excite our guests. “It’s important not to make something unrecognisable [to the original] but instead use our skillset to create a beautifully executed dish with some interesting flavour combinations”. Watch this space for Sam’s take on the classic treacle tart, featuring a sorbet made from Daylesford’s cider.
The Wild Rabbit’s supper clubs return in the new year, starting with ‘Nose to Tail’ in January when Sam and the team will bring often maligned ingredients to life such as bone marrow and veal. For more information and to book a table please visit our What’s On calendar.