Meat on the walls and the plate.
The Endurance is one of the odder pubs in Soho. Set inside a rather ugly block of concrete on Berwick Street, the dark walls are decorated with the mounted heads of various stuffed animals. As well having its own food menu, The Endurance regularly hosts other chefs and its latest pop-up eatery is manned by The Wild Game Co. This supplier of venison and other game has its own lunchtime stall at various markets including Berwick Street Market and Broadway Market, but its pop-up at The Endurance will only be open until the end of January-ish.
The Wild Game Co’s menu changes daily and it’s only open at lunchtime as far as I can tell. Bookings are taken, although you probably won’t need one. The service is friendly, if somewhat scatter brained with side dishes and drinks regularly forgotten. I’m more tolerant than usual of such haphazard service since, on my three separate visits, only two staff were expected to take care of both the bar and the numerous tables.
First things first
On my first visit I started off with the venison tartare. The raw deer meat was moist, coarse and slightly chewy but, to be honest, I’d struggle to tell it apart from a beef steak tartare in a blind taste test. What sets it apart from the steak tartares I’ve had, though, are its embellishments. Besides the usual additions of tart gherkins and a rich, runny egg, there’s also a modest scattering of walnut pieces. The nutty crunchiness is a good contrast to the tender tanginess of the meat.
Even better than the venison tartare is the venison pie. This variation on a shepherd’s pie had a remarkably soft and fluffy mashed potato crust. Underneath it were moist strands of venison in a sweet, tangy and incredibly meaty sauce. It’s simple but incredibly appealing pie and I don’t usually like pies.
Going back for seconds
Dishes that aren’t made with game do occasionally pop up on the menu. Unsurprisingly though, these seem to be considerably less successful than the game-based starters. The hot and cold smoked salmon salad barely counts as a salad with a few derisory green bits of crunchiness thrown in. More interesting is the woody smokiness of the hot smoked salmon, while the cold smoked fish isn’t as excessively oily as lesser versions of this popular staple. There’s very little of either salmon though, even for a starter, while the sour cream and the even smaller scattering of caviar failed to leave much of an impression.
Wild Game Co’s roast pheasant breast is runtish in size and I regretted not ordering some carbs to help fill my belly. At least the pheasant is a winner when it comes to taste. The flesh was so dense it was almost like pork and had a mildly woody flavour that was very pleasing, especially when combined with the taut, crispy skin. The sharp, distinctly flavoured parsnip purée and the wrinkly, salty kale rounded out a small, but delicious dish.
Three is the magic number?
A pigeon and black pudding salad served with a hollandaise sauce should be a trifecta of goodness, but the kitchen only managed two out of three here. My initial concerns over the tough exterior of the pigeon and its taste of overcooked offal thankfully gave way to a smooth and tender interior that went well with the refreshing salad, while the smooth, creamy and very lightly acidic hollandaise sauce adds a touch of richness. Sadly, the crumbly black pudding was oddly bland and unfulfilling.
Pork belly is one of my favourite cuts of pig and a variation sometimes served by The Wild Game Co is wild boar belly with roast potatoes. The chunks of boar were crispy with a woody flavour, but there was far more fat than there was meat, even for pork belly. The salty strip of fat on each chunk was quite pleasing, but it was dense and solid instead of the partially melted, oozing layer I had been expecting. At least the roast potatoes were crisp and hearty, while the fruitishly sweet and tender chunks of parsnips added a pleasing contrast in taste and texture.
Stand and Deliver
It would be remiss not to mention what’s available at the Wild Game Co market stall which almost acts like a takeaway outlet for the pop-up restaurant inside The Endurance. The venison burger used moist, gamey, smoothly ground meat. Its mildly nutty taste is enhanced by the melted cheese and the granary bap, while the tomato, lettuce and sweet onions add a refreshing counterpoint. If you’re suffering from burger fatigue, but still want a dose of meat in a bap, then this is a good beef substitute.
The only other dish I’ve had from the stand so far is the venison steak sandwich. This uses the same granary bap and cheese as the venison burger but is filled instead with tender, mildly tangy slices of deer meat cooked medium rare. It’s not as gamey as the burger patty but as a result it does have a cleaner aftertaste. The meat is evenly cooked though with no chewy or tough slices. The fiery rocket is a little too strong, but the caramelised onions compliment the tanginess of the meat very well.
Apart from a few slip-ups and hiccups, the food from The Wild Game Co is very good and worth seeking out, whether at their market stall or at The Endurance pop-up. Portion sizes at The Endurance are a tad on the small side, probably in an attempt to keep prices down. It’d also be good to see other game on the menu besides venison and boar – with the exception of the pheasant, these two seem to dominate the menu. A little partridge or grouse wouldn’t gone amiss (at least while they were in season).
Name: The Wild Game Co pop-up
Address: The Endurance, 90 Berwick Street, London W1F 0QB
Phone: 0207 437 2944 (The Endurance), 020 7221 5060 (Wild Game Co)
Opening Hours: weekday lunchtimes
Reservations: not necessary
Total cost for one person including soft drinks: £25-30 approx.