I was invited to eat at Native with fellow food blogger Kacie of TheRareWelshBit.com. Despite a dozen visits to London, I’d seem to have missed Neal’s Yard every time. If you like hip spots, delicious healthy food and cozy, small restaurants, Native is the perfect option for central London.
We stayed at the Travelodge in Covent Gardens, just a couple streets away from the Seven Dials and Neal’s Yard. While I’d passed through the Seven Dials in my first visit to London three years ago at the outset of my travels, I didn’t really understand the significance of the location, nor did I know anything about Neal’s Yard a few feet away.
The Seven Dials is an intersection of seven streets, about a five-minute walk due north of Trafalgar Square. Some of the famous landmarks here are the Cambridge Theater and the Mangum Pleasure Store, where you can get a freshly-made Magnum ice cream bar. Then, if you walk up either of the two streets heading north by northeast, you’ll come to the entrance of Neal’s Yard, a courtyard in the middle of the buildings filled with cute cafes and fancy restaurants.
One of those restaurants is Native, serving up to 32 patrons at a time with dishes made from wild food locally sourced. What’s wild food? They forage as much as they can including plants, berries, vegetables and (vegetarians, avert your eyes) local game killed by buckshot. Just be warned, that buckshot might still be in their meat! Another hallmark of their cooking is their penchant for no waste, utilizing nearly every portion of the foods they receive. Perhaps someday they’ll even find a use for those onion peels.
The menu changes weekly, depending on the available food. It includes more unusual meats, such as ox cheek, wild rabbit, wood pigeon, grouse and hake (a fish). Their vegetables are equally rare. I’ll spare you from reading them, since I don’t know what half of them are myself. I just know they tasted delicious.
Our meal started with a “Melilot Mule” – Native Meliot vodka, lime and organic ginger beer, perfectly blended so that no one flavor overpowered. We were also given a plate of freshly-baked flatbread and rapeseed oil infused with garlic.
The starters were made from unused portions of previous entrées. The first was Yorkshire grouse, cooked to a mouth-watering tenderness, and garnished with baked beets, cobnuts and berries. Next was an egg poached perfectly at 62ºC, on a bed of creamed corn and other toppings. Last were oysters, also garnished with a long list of unique vegetables (like sea blite, a fishy seaweed which complemented the oysters perfectly).
The main entrees were even better.
That dorset hake I mentioned earlier was the first option. Honestly, I’ve never had anything like it. Textured like a good breaded fish fillet, I was shocked to learn that no coating was used. Instead, Joe manages to cook the fish to the perfect texture – melt-away flaky on the inside and crispy-crunchy on the outside.
The second item we had was Longhorn ox cheek, topped with burnt beets, girolles (a type of mushroom) and bone marrow, and Yukon Gold potato puree with a nasturtium flower on the side. It was a good thing the ox cheek had a crunchy topping, or I would never have noticed it in my mouth. I can’t remember the last time I tasted a more tender meat. It just fell apart in my mouth before I could even start chewing.
Finally we got to desserts. There were too many to choose from, so we had a little of each. The list is pretty long, and they’ll have changed by the time you arrive, so I’ll just let these photos speak for themselves. I will say, by far the most interesting was the Kentish wood ant fudge.
Native is located at 3 Neal’s Yard, a few steps from Seven Dials. Opening times are Monday-Saturday, 12:30-14:00 for lunch and 17:00-22:00 for dinner. Book directly at [email protected] or call 0203 638 8214. Reservations are recommended, but they accept walk-ins as well. See if you can get the chef’s table (where we sat) where you can watch the food being made while talking with Will, David and Joe (the amazing chefs). Tell them I said hi!
Please note that I was not paid to write this post. I only want to forward an amazing dining experience that perhaps you will enjoy too. After all, a journalist at a UK magazine was already paid to cover the restaurant. Unfortunately he, like too many journalists, was paid to write about everything he could find wrong or criticize. I figured I’d write this to balance the scales, since Native does deserve the praise!
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