Meat, Cheese and Taxidermy Wonderland: The Jugged Hare Launch Party

A while back, I received a little card with this guy in the mail.

On the flipside of this card, which could easily be reused as a beer mat/coaster, there were the details for the launch party of The Jugged Hare, a new gastropub opening up near Barbican.

Being a fan of stationery, as well as an admirer of bunnies (yes, I know, a hare is not a bunny), I appreciated this little card, especially when the envelope addressed me as the “Tasty Fever Blog Editor.” Nice! That makes me feel as if this food blog is actually something to be taken seriously, or as if even *I’m* someone to be taken seriously.

Anyone reading this who actually knows me in person knows how preposterous this idea is.

Anyway, right. As we know, “gastropub” is really synonymous with “meatfest,” which is complicated for a vegetarian like yours truly who won’t be that thrilled about a menu that “bursts with meat, offal, game, wild fish and shellfish,” since I eat none of those. Although I appreciate the nod to British culinary history indicated by The Jugged Hare’s namesake recipe from the 18th century, my diet probably has more in common with hare before he got jugged.

Or even after he got jugged, considering, you know, I’m quite the lush.

And on that note, lured by the promise of drink to be had, I left my North London warren and headed into the City.

The Jugged Hare is quite the space, and there were a lot of areas to explore. I found my friend whom I invited to the event amid the large number of attendees and picked up a glass of bubbley from a server’s tray, which I sipped from a long sofa that likely now has tables pushed against it. My friend and I contemplated the building’s former existence. An abattoir, I thought, looking up at the curved, tiled ceiling. Mark suggested an ice room.

I obviously hadn’t read my press release very closely, as the true history of the space currently hosting the Jugged Hare was most recently a different pub called The King’s Head, and that it was part of the old Whitbread brewery, built in 1748. The building is a Grade II listed space, and it’s remarkable how the sense of history remains palpable.

The crowd was a mix of new media folk and other people, and those of us who were social media nerds had no lack of things to photograph at The Jugged Hare. While some on the scene aimed their smartphones at the rotisserie pig, I found myself snapping a photo of their temperature-controlled walk-in wine room, which apparently is meant for diners to just saunter in and grab a bottle to imbibe whilst dining.

I would later receive this comment on Twitter from my amazing friend, Kerrie:

As we have discussed earlier in this posting, I am a jugged hare.

Anyway, we wandered down into the cellar, passing an interesting sight on our way to the cheese and wine–a cut-out window of The Jugged Hare’s meat fridge, with cuts prominently on display:

It was like a painting, but instead of artwork, you had a visceral, edible homage to meat. It could have almost been a Damien Hirst installation piece–rich, bloody, fantastical and ostentatious.

Still Life: Meat
The Jugged Hare, 2012

Onward to cheese and wine tasting.

The cheese spread, provided by South Kensington’s La Cave à Fromage, was mind-blowing in its variety. The table was just covered in an obscene amount of dairy. I’m pretty sure la cave à fromage is French for “unabashed cheese porn,” as their shop window in Kensington is pretty titillating for any cheese freak. I didn’t get a chance to try all of the vast variety available, but I did have a few bits: Bouton d’Oc, which was a creamy goats cheese; a couple of different blue cheeses (which you can see in the above photo); and some profoundly runny cheese, a Vacherin Mount d’Or, which I recall describing to my friend as “sex on a cracker.”

There was also some fantastic cheese wrapped up in what I presume to be grape leaves that I think a lot of people who crowded the cheese pile didn’t notice, since the grape leaves almost looked as if they were decorative rather than housing a delicious parcel of dairy. I, however, was wise enough to plop a tiny parcel and unwrap it to find a creamy cheese inside that was studded in softened peppercorns. It was so great, I swiped another little parcel into a pocket of my bag for later.

Yes, I have no shame. None at all.

In addition to the cheese, there were two tables set up, each with a couple different wines. The one I remember was an Italian wine, Barbera d’Alba Conca del Grillo 2008, which was quite nice. Although I can write a lot about beer, whisky and various other tipples, I’m afraid I’m not well-versed in wine, so I will defer to the description on Love Your Wine, specifically its recommendations in pairing it with “stronger flavoured meats, casseroles and game.”

Of course.

In fact, from a menu for The Jugged Hare, the Barbera d’Alba is meant to be paired with the Yorkshire wood pigeon from their selection of rotisserie.

Throughout the event, servers were milling around with trays of canapés, which were predominantly of the meaty variety.

I think these sausages were wild boar and venison sausages. There were a couple trays holding tiny vegetarian nettle tarts, but most of the trays were covered with delicate, bite-sized homages to meat. The Jugged Hare is undoubtedly a carnivorous dream come true.

When the cheese room was getting too popular, we moved back up to the bar, which will forever be the Taxidermy Wonderland Bar:

Encased in glass, a broad variety of animal genuses were represented, poised within a snatch of faux-landscape. This cluster of taxidermy was echoed by the deer heads displayed on a couple of walls. There was even a taxidermied hedgehog, which you can see in this photo as one of the tiny creatures above the badger.

Well, the evening wouldn’t be complete without having a drink of the house ale, brewed in conjunction with Sambrook’s Brewery. The beer was a pale ale that was a fairly decent sort–easy to drink and seemed like it could be pairing friends with a wide range of foods on The Jugged Hare menu, of which here are a few selections:

Loin of Denham Estate (Suffolk) Venison
Iron age pork tenderloin, with apple caramel
Braised rabbit leg, faggots, peas, bacon, mustard sauce
Char-grilled skate wing, peas, broad beans
Wild boar and venison sausage
Pot roast quail, smoked bacon, chestnut mushrooms, potatoes
Vegetarian (changing daily)

After the beer, and after a double of Bulleit bourbon from the bar, I was very much a jugged hare, as I managed to scamper out into the night nearly forgetting my coat I had checked in the cloakroom. Weeey.

For more on The Jugged Hare, have a look at the post on the party on The Food I Eat, or this annoyingly snazzy video on Thrillist, which features a chilled glass for the beer, which is kind of weird, since any beer snob will tell you that drinking ale ridiculously chilled is not how you drink ale. Okay, by “any” I really mean me.

Oh, and if you’re eating any of the gamier options on the menu, according to the fine print on the bottom: “Game dishes may contain shot.” How’s that for authenticity?

The Jugged Hare
49 Chiswell Street
London EC1Y 4SA
020 7614 0134
@thejuggedhare

Postscript:

So remember that piece of wrapped-up cheese I stowed away in one of the pockets of my bag. Well, guess what.

I forgot about it.

For five days.

I was at home making tea and thinking about starting on this article when it had occurred to me that, yes, I did put a piece of cheese in my bag and completely forgot about it. Oh dear.

I ran upstairs, imagining a whole squished-cheese Incident in my bag, and wondering how the hell I was going to get cheese out of the interior of my back. Happily, though, the trusty cheese parcel remained intact, with no cheese oozing out to make a mess in the little pocked I stashed it in. I took the little cheese parcel out, which was now faintly coated with something that can only be described as bag lint, and brought it to the kitchen. Surprisingly cool to the touch, considering where I’d been all weekend, I carefully opened it up, and, after much deliberation:

I ate it.

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