Behind the scenes at Bonnie & Wild

When Bonnie & Wild asked if I’d come and work some shifts in their kitchen, I jumped at the chance. Firstly, I could do with the extra cash (sadly blogs don’t pay…and the magazine industry barely does). Also, it’s a great restaurant with a lovely chef, and (most of all) it was a chance for me to play about with game.

And that’s the thing—I barely ever get to cook with game—which is sad because it’s one of my favourite ingredients.
It’s hard to come by in London, and when I do stumble across it, I struggle with the whacked up price—it’s hard to part with too much money for a rabbit when I know that my boyfriend’s parents would happily give me the bunnies that strayed into their veggie patch for nothing (my parents aren’t quite as happy wielding a shotgun, so it’s usually up to their considerably more aggressive spoodle —spaniel cross poodle—to guard the veggies—but she has a tendency of mauling and eating her kill before I can put it in a pie).

Parents' vicious spoodle (left) fending off a golden retriever

I digress.

Andy Waugh was also brought up in the middle of nowhere—north Scotland where the deer and haggis roam free (…or at least they do until his family who’ve run a game-butchering business for 30 years get hold of them).

He came to London to do a sensible-sounding, money-making job—but somewhere along the way jacked it in, and decided to set up The Wild Game Co instead. The idea is that Andy, Ruaridh and Ruaridh (as if to prove that it is a genuine Scottish company run by genuine Scots) ship good quality game from the Highlands to sell it to Londoners via their market stall, restaurant or website.

Andy from the Wild Game Co

The company has a stall at White Cross Market from Monday to Friday where they persuade ham-sandwich-eating punters to gorge themselves on pigeon chorizo rolls and venison fillet sandwiches instead. On Saturdays they migrate east to Broadway Market to sell whatever game is in season—perhaps the wittily named ‘have you met my mate stu?’ stewing meat, or the ‘nice baps’ burgers.

On Friday and Saturday evenings Bonnie & Wild kicks off—and that’s a different story altogether. It starts round lunchtime on Friday when Ian Sims (head chef who moved down south to work his friends’ restaurant after a six years at Edinburgh’s award winning Mussel Inn) makes his way through Chapel Market to M Manze’s eel and pie shop, where he’s charmed himself a corner of the kitchen to start prepping by the potato-mashing machine.

Alex from Bonnie Gull

The Wild Game Co have teamed up with Bonnie Gull Ltd—another young catering company which specialises in sustainable British seafood—to hire the pie shop to put on a joint set menu which showcases their wares. It’s a chilled out affair, with devastatingly charming waitresses, bring-your-own-booze and a ukulele player who occasionally turns up to serenade the diners.

One of the stumbling blocks was the fact that pie and mash don’t need sophisticated cooking equipment—but game does. In a 1905 Grade II listed shop, this could have caused a problem…until the boys put an enormous barbecue in the yard out back. This both solves the cooking issue, and also adds a great, smoky flavour to the meat which you wouldn’t get from a boring ol’ oven.

I had one of the best night’s cooking I’ve ever had, and from the look on the diners’ faces as they passed through the kitchen (to the tiny, tea-light-lit loo) they were having a great time too. If you fancy a chilled and reasonably-priced evening with friends in a restaurant run by some of the most passionate-about-food and entrepreneurial people I’ve come across, then I suggest you drop by.

The restaurant is open from 7pm every Friday and Saturday. The venue is laid out mainly in booths for 4 and 6.

To make a reservation book online here
alternatively you can send an e-mail to:bookings@bonniewild.co.uk

Please note the restaurant is CASH ONLY (£29 for three courses) & BYOB.

The Bonnie & Wild / M. Manze
74 Chapel Market, Islington, London N1 9ER

Le Mercury

On a sunny day in Angel the bistros are teaming with beautifully dressed women with expensive pushchairs. Lovely little salads at Fig & Olive, lovely little cakes at Ottolenghi, lovely long lunches at The Almeida – it’s an intimidating place to hang out when you’re used to eating on a shoestring.

I was with a friend who told me great things about Le Mercury though, so we went to check it out. The French restaurant is over two floors inside a stunning red brick building. There’s a bit of an old school vibe about the place, but not in a bad way – it’s really light, with huge windows downstairs to let the sun  stream in.

The starters were all £3.95 – pretty good seeing as there were seven different choices ranging from crayfish and lobster ravioli to beef carpaccio.

Beef carpaccio with capers and red pepper relish and wild rocket salad

The main courses were just £7.95 with lots of choices from roast saddle of lamb to seared fillet of Scottish salmon and vegetarian cossoulet.

Slow roast honeyed pork belly with confit celeriac and apple

I’m not going to over-egg Le Mercury. It wasn’t jaw-droppingly good, but it is excellent value. The food was well cooked, and there wasn’t any scrimping on the ingredients – at just £12 for two courses, and bellinis at £3.95, it’s a really great place to go without breaking the bank.

Le Mercury
140a Upper Street
London N1 1QY

020 7354 4088
http://www.lemercury.co.uk/