3 Neal's Yard, Seven Dials, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9DP www.eatnative.co.uk
Native can be found tucked away from the main hubbub of Seven Dials in Neal's Yard. Founded by Ivan Tisdall Downes and Imogen Davis two years ago, as a stall at Street Feast, they have flourished, grown, and made the jump into their new location, which opened this year.
Although it may appear small, with only a couple of tables and an open kitchen when you first look in, you’re quickly taken down a spiral staircase to an intimate dining room. The décor below makes you feel like you have stepped out of London – with foliage covering the walls, faux fur throws, seasonal flowers on the tables and lots of wood.
We started the evening with a wood pigeon kebab, served pink in the middle and packed full of punchy spices. This was served on top of a griddled flatbread, with a vibrant and smooth beetroot hummus, sharp pickled cabbage and harissa.
Being someone who suffers from terrible food envy, our starters were shared. So the pigeon kebab dish was accompanied by one of Brixham crab with a Braddock white duck egg and foraged sea greens. Beautifully presented, this dish combined a lot of wonderful flavours - creamy and bright crab, rich egg yolk and fresh sea greens – this truly was a tasty dish and a fantastic start to the meal.
The South Downs’ venison for our main was seared and caramelised on the outside, perfectly pink in the middle, and wonderfully tender. This was served with wild mushrooms, sprout tops and, a black pudding that will convert even the most sceptical of diners (it converted me)
Our wild mallard was cooked wonderfully. The breast was cooked as it should be – pink in the middle – and the leg was slow-cooked, which made it fall off the bone.
The duck went well with the pickled kohlrabi which cut through the richness of the dish, and there was a pumpkin puree which was smooth and full of flavour as well as crunchy oats to add some texture. Another great plate of food – even though I’m not 100% sure why it was all served to one side, making the dish look empty.
The sides were fairly average compared to what had come before. The honey roast parsnips had been left in the oven for slightly too long, giving them a little bit of a bitter, burnt edge. The braised chantenay carrots were nice and sweet, although I could hardly taste the salsa verde that was apparently drizzled over them.
When it comes to dessert, personally I would suggest keeping clear of the baked Brogdale apple with quince mince meat and a honeycomb and cider brandy ice-cream, as this left a unusual and unpleasant taste in the mouth.
However, this can be easily remedied by trying the cheese board instead. Strong and pungent Colston Bassett Stilton, that was a tad intense for me but went down a treat with my dining partner, with a creamy and tangy slide of Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese. Rather than the traditional crackers, these were served with slices of rich and sticky prune loaf. A thoroughly enjoyable cheese board.
Overall, Native is a great place to escape from the winter, get cosy, and enjoy some fantastic British produce and seasonal game. I’ll definitely be going back.