From August 12 to early December, it’s usually possible to visit old-fashioned fine dining establishments across the country and order the rare British specialty of grouse, often served with bread sauce and crisps. of game.
But those hoping to eat the small game bird in the gilded dining room of the Ritz in London will be out of luck this year, as the world-famous hotel quietly removed it from the menu after an outcry from environmental campaigners.
Luke Steele, executive director of wildlife campaign group Wild Moors, celebrated the news: “Behind every shot of grouse on a restaurant menu is moorland where foxes, stoats and weasels have suffered in snares and snares, and carbon-rich bogs were burned. At a time when environmental protection is all the rage, it’s clear there’s nothing less chic than supporting the hunt for grouse – and the cruelty and ecological damage that goes with it.
Hunting grouse is bad for the environment, campaigners have long argued, because to maintain the heather moorland where the birds thrive, vegetation is often burned, damaging the carbon-rich peat on which it grows and killing wildlife. Some grouse barrens have also been linked to the illegal killing of birds of prey, which eat small birds such as grouse.
The Ritz generally backs the Glorious Twelfth, bringing in executive chef John Williams to create a special grouse dish. Last year he wrote on Instagram: ‘Every year the chef creates an exciting new dish, featuring grouse, honoring the best of British produce. On the menu this year, for a limited time only, will be Grouse, Celeriac, Juniper and Nuts.
No such dish was created this year, and promotional material celebrating the Glorious Twelfth was removed from the Ritz’s Twitter account after complaints from activists.
Those who call the hotel to ask if they can eat grouse in the large dining room are quietly told that they are not serving it due to supply issues.
But no supply problems seem to exist in other restaurants in London. A short walk from the Ritz in Mayfair, Wiltons serves poultry the old-fashioned way: roasted and served with venison crisps, bread sauce, breadcrumbs, grouse sauce, grouse liver pate and watercress.
In Westminster, those who prefer curry to game and chips can enjoy grouse at the Cinnamon Club, which serves a dish of smoked grouse brisket with spiced cloves, chickpea bread, hot and sweet pumpkin and from game keema to creamy black lentils.
Chef Richard Corrigan had no problem sourcing grouse this year for his restaurant Corrigan’s in Mayfair, and says it can be a sustainable option.
He told the Observer“We have grouse right now. I want to make sure our grouse comes from the right places – we don’t take it from the most intensive shoots. I like the whole idea of country chases, but I’m much more aware these days of the cost of intensive grouse operations. I get mine from shootings on foot, not driven. The large driven shoots – that doesn’t suit me at all anymore.
“We make a small grouse pie, which is made from two grouse breasts. I put duck liver in the middle and it’s wrapped in batter. You would cut off someone’s hand if someone touched it. This is a dish made for pure indulgence.
In fact, the shooting community celebrated a good year of demand for the bird, with restaurants buying much the same supplies as usual.
Adrian Blackmore, Countryside Alliance Filming Director, said: “Unfortunately due to insufficient stocks some moorlands are not filming, mainly in the Peak District and on the western outskirts of the North Pennines and Yorkshire Dales, but many Other heathlands In other areas you see very healthy stocks of grouse, with some good bags registered, especially now that the weather has become cooler.
“This is clearly very good news for many communities in our highlands for whom grouse hunting is so economically, environmentally and socially important. The grouse is the “king of game birds” and is in high demand every season. Although this year has been much better for the number of grouse than in recent years, restaurants will still only be able to buy a sustainable number of slaughtered birds throughout the season, as is the case every year.
Bird charities condemn the mass shooting of grouse for sport. Duncan Orr-Ewing of the RSPB said: “We do not oppose the shooting of willow ptarmigan, provided it is done in a legal and sustainable manner. However, the most intensive form of “battered” grouse hunting, which involves the shooting of large numbers of grouse by sporting patrons, may be associated with the illegal killing of birds of prey and burning on bog soils. depths, damaging vital carbon stores, as well as the use of lead ammunition toxic to wildlife and humans.
“We encourage all restaurants that serve red ptarmigan to verify that the birds come from environmentally responsible sources.”
The Ritz declined to comment but confirmed that grouse is not currently on the menu.