Jesse Dunford-Wood’s menu at the Mall Tavern in Notting Hill is so quirkily British, it’s hard not to hear Vivian Stanshall’s voice in your head as you read it. ‘Peter’s plethora of posh potted pâtés… Lollipop and breast of Goosnargh chicken…A remarkable pork pie.’ There’s fresh pease pudding, and king oyster tart, and tributes to the recent past including fried brie, chicken kiev and elderflower and gooseberry and arctic roll.
If it sounds fun, well, it is. ‘We have a laugh writing the menu,’ says Jesse. ‘Those far-away people in the dining room will know we have personalities up here in the kitchen.’ Yet the cooking is seriously good, and much of the menu is as far from chicken kiev as it gets: roast butternut with cobnuts and smoked Poachers, or heritage tomato salad with bull’s blood leaves and capers.
One of Jesse’s big loves is game. He gets his hands on as much as can at this time of year: hare, wild boar, grouse, partridge, pigeon, duck, teal, woodcock… You can even book for hands-on classes around the long chef’s table. ‘It’s fun doing game,’ says Jesse. ‘And I always think it’s a treat to be served game dishes in a pub, rather than a formal restaurant.’ For us, he is preparing pigeon with sweetcorn fritters, and creamed, sweet and popped corn. ‘Game with something sweet is a classic autumn dish,’ says Jesse. ‘That often means berries or fruit. These sweetcorn fritters are a Rowley Leigh idea from Kensington Place.’