Native Restaurant Takes London Foraging To The Next Level
Located at 3 Neal’s Yard in London’s historic theatre district, Native— a new restaurant specializing in native, foraged food– is taking local food in England to the next level.
“Please be aware that our Game is wild and dishes may contain shot,” reads a cautionary note on the bottom of the restaurant’s summer menu– a four-section course list that, on the day that Garden Collage visited, featured everything from an “English Garden Aperitif” (made with foraged elderflower, East London dry gin, and prosecco) to “rabbit dumplings”, “fallow deer steak”, duck eggs with English peas and bacon, and a gorgeous assortment of vegetables– including purple sprouting broccoli and Wye Valley asparagus.
“We love vegetables and do them really well,” says restaurant co-Founder Imogen Davis, “so we really like to feature them as the star of the meal”. Davis makes a fair point. The organic celeriac with local goats curds and wild garlic pesto was more of a meal than a side dish, and was wonderful enough to be served after the meat courses (wood pigeon with beet hummus, yoghurt, pickled cabbage and harissa for your correspondent, and pan-fried hake with split pea dahl and cauliflower leaf pakora for her guest).
The premise for Native is true to its name, Davis explained during our recent visit to the restaurant. Everything they serve is grown, caught, foraged, and hunted here, in England. The meat is best served wild, and the vegetables are foraged and grown locally. Native offers Chegworth Valley Juices of Bramley, Cox, and Pear, and the sea buckthorn that they use to flavor desserts and other dishes requiring citrus (which is not native to England) is foraged locally by a specialty purveyor.
The few exceptions made to that rule can be found on the wine list. In addition to featuring Three Choirs’ Winchcombe Downs white from Gloucester, England (and a striking Bolney Pinot Noir from West Sussex) there are a few reds from France (Mas De La Source Blanc, Pays D’Oc) and Spain (Tronido, Rioja Crianza).
The most exciting drink, however, was one we cultivated together. So enamored with Davis and her partner Ivan’s innovative use of Sea Buckthorn juice, we asked to try some mixed with a little hot water. Sea Buckthorn is high in arotenoids, tocotrienols, and tocopherols. It’s loaded with antioxidants like vitamin A, C, and E, as well as beta-carotene, plant sterols, and trace elements like copper, selenium, and manganese. At Native, Davis uses it as a citrus substitute, which is why we asked to mix it with hot water to replace our usual post-meal “hot water and lemon” (a Garden Collage staple).
We mention to Davis that hot water and lemon is often referred to in culinary circles as a “camarillo”. “That’s amazing,” she remarks, her mind already racing to new and innovative ways she can incorporate the plant into the menu. “I think we’re going to have to start offering a ‘Native Camarillo’!”