Michael Deacon reviews The Game Bird, London: 'another carnival of gluttony'

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The Game Bird restaurant
A five-star hotel is the setting for Michael Deacon's latest feast Credit: Jasper Fry

I don’t know how much weight I’ve gained since I started reviewing restaurants. And I don’t dare find out. There’s a set of scales in the bathroom, but I can’t bring myself to use them.  I don’t like the way they look at me. 

I can see their smirk of amusement, the wry little glances they exchange with the shower curtain. When I turn my back, I swear I can hear them sniggering. I spin round – whereupon they act all innocent, butter wouldn’t melt. But I know. I know.

Restaurants are just so fattening. Fine if you only visit them occasionally, as a treat, but if you do it all the time, like I do, you can practically feel the pounds piling on as you eat, one after another in remorseless succession. Yep, there’s one. And another. And another. The sheer gruelling richness of the food. The merciless, gloating opulence. So bad for your waistline.

Even in places where the portions are tiny. If anything, the tiny portions are the most fattening. They’re crafty, these Michelin-starred chefs. The way they can cram all those calories into such a minuscule object. You sit there, thinking, 'I can’t believe I just spent £38 on a starter the size of a toenail’ – and then suddenly you realise your gut is inflating like a bouncy castle.

Your shirt is straining. Your collar is tightening. Your belt is panicking. The food has run out of room inside your stomach, and is now desperately attempting to squeeze itself out through your pores, gasping for air.

No? All right, maybe that’s just me. The problem is, I’m so greedy. I can’t leave anything on my plate. I simply have to have it all.

I love the slipperiness of smoked salmon. How eagerly it slides down your throat, as if it were a funfair helter-skelter

In a token effort to compensate, I’ve started doing exercises – those Joe Wicks 20-minute workout videos you can follow on your iPad at home. I’m sure they must be doing me good, but to be honest the exertion only makes me feel even fatter.

When you’re working out you really notice that surplus weight. The heftiness of your moobs, the slow, sullen bouncing of your blubber, as you pant your way haplessly through another punishing round of star jumps. It’s like wearing a Roman breastplate made of suet. Or a diving suit pumped full of melted cheese. Or a BabyBjörn sling stuffed with hot kebabs.

Sorry if all those unpleasant images have put you off your food. I wish they would put me off mine.

This week’s restaurant visit was another carnival of gluttony. I went to The Game Bird, which has opened at The Stafford, a five-star hotel in St James’s in London.

The Game Bird itself is swish but relaxed, a cosy little spot with a bar, on which was sitting a bottle of port the size of an oil drum. Round the corner was a blazing hearth faced by handsome armchairs, to which to retire and bloat contentedly. The general feel was that of a private members’ club.

Down the corridor, meanwhile, was another bar, this one decked out entirely in Second World War memorabilia. Entirely, that is, but for one peculiar anomaly: a signed photograph of the BBC football pundit Mark Lawrenson.

Well, I say peculiar. Perhaps Mr Lawrenson played a key role leading Allied forces at Normandy, but has kept it quiet, preferring not to talk about  his experiences. If so, I send him my sincere apologies.

The menu at The Game Bird is British, with lots of seafood and, funnily enough, game. My friend started with the Devon crab: creamy, tangy, deliciously smooth. I went for the smoked salmon, which was lovely, and came served with horseradish sauce, red onion and fat, juicy capers. I love the slipperiness of smoked salmon. How eagerly it slides down your throat, as if it were a funfair helter-skelter.

For my main, I had more fish: the Dover-sole meunière. So soft and sleek and supple, it dissolved in my mouth almost on entry. My friend, meanwhile, had the title dish, 'The Game Bird’, featuring roast pigeon, braised leg, parsnips and cabbage, doused by the waitress with a hip flask of sloe gin.

'The Game Bird’ features roast pigeon, braised leg, parsnips and sloe gin Credit: Jasper Fry

It wasn’t much to look at: on first glance, a jumble of vegetables, with little morsels of meat peeping out from underneath, like mice in a log pile. The pigeon tasted great, though: plump, tender, slightly earthy. I could have done with more of it, but then, that’s pigeon for you. On the one hand, we could genetically modify pigeons to be as big as turkeys; on the other, we don’t really want to render all cities on earth instantly uninhabitable. It’s a close call, but I suppose on balance I’d stick with the inhabitability.

For pudding, my friend had the Lyle’s-golden-syrup sponge with custard. Solidly satisfying, in a school-dinner sort of way. But I preferred my pistachio soufflé – served with a scoop of white-chocolate ice cream, which sank gently into the warm soufflé like a little setting sun. It was a gorgeous, shivering collision between hot and cold.

Pistachio soufflé and white-chocolate ice cream – 'a shivering collision between hot and cold’ Credit: Jasper Fry

It’s good, The Game Bird. Not radical, not revolutionary, and pretty expensive, but good. Possibly not so good for my figure, though.

Honestly. If I get any wider, Richard Branson will try to circumnavigate me in a balloon.