Native in Covent Garden
Hidden away in the far corner of Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden, Native restaurant is probably more “local” than many others in the area. Making the most of produce that is wild, foraged and hunted, this little spot sees an ever-changing menu that is built around seasonality, offering only the very best produce and favouring ingredients that are in their prime.
Walking in, the design is simple and the place is welcoming, with an open kitchen permitting a lucky few to see the theatre of their meals being prepared. Downstairs, it’s all bare white walls and light wooden features, with wall decorations adding pops of colour and creating a cosy, autumnal feel (think plant and feather wreaths, twigs and low lighting).
We begin the evening with a glass of Bolney Pinot Noir and our starters. Plated in its own shell, the Lyme Bay Scallop, Trealy Farm Sobrasada, IOW Tomatoes, Wild Fennel catches the eye instantly as a thing of humble beauty, with a plump, seared scallop sitting atop a gleaming red sobrasada and tomato sauce. The scallop itself is just cooked and satisfyingly soft to eat, with each mouthful coated in the tangy, cured sausage, which leaves behind a lingering warmth from its bold spices.
Wood Pigeon Kebab, a firm favourite on the Native menu, forms our second starter of the evening. Built up high on the plate, thin slithers of ultra tender, still-pink-in-the-middle pigeon are served with a pitta and a beetroot hummus. Aromatic hints of cumin are assertive in the dish, complementing the earthy, sweet flavour of the root vegetable, while pickled cabbage brings a welcome fresh and crunchy element. Despite the slightly tough bread, which overpowers the tenderness of the bird, the flavours are spot on, with a lovely connection between sweet and savoury.
A new arrival on the mains menu is the Kabocha Squash, Goats Curd, Wild Ramson Bhaji, Black Onion Seeds. Full of the warm colours of autumn, the dish is pretty as a picture, dotted with a herby coriander oil, a sour goats curd and a pumpkin ketchup that is chutney-like and fruity. However, where it succeeds in plating and concept, it falters in execution and composition, with a heavy-handed sprinkling of salt dominating each mouthful. Its merits are overshadowed by over-roasted squash that is served with a toughened skin, ultimately leading to a dryness that is unaided by too-crisp bhajis that struggle to provide relief to the dish.
Its counterpart for the evening, the Wild Mallard is a greater success. Cooked pink and coated in a sticky glaze that has hints of aniseed flavour, it is well considered and texturally pleasing, with bite achieved from the roasted oatmeal crumb, and smoothness from its accompanying pumpkin purée.
The Berkshire Raspberries, Chocolate and Beetroot Cake, Buttermilk Ice Cream is everything a dessert should be: creamy, crunchy, sweet and indulgent. A chocolate crumb comes topped with a rich brownie-like chocolate cake that is very moreish, broken up by perfectly ripe raspberries that add a jammy flavour. Shavings of crunchy honeycomb add a chewiness that gives the dish a New Zealand hokey pokey feel, especially when eaten with the milky ice cream. A total winner, this is a dessert worth coming back for. Little Caramelised Honey Truffles pack a bite-sized chocolate hit, coated in a thin dusting of high quality cocoa and topped with salt for serious flavour enhancement, while the Toasted Hay Ice Cream Affogato is the ultimate finisher after any meal.
Native Restaurant in Neal’s Yard is a little culinary gem in the area, worth visiting for the experience of eating game and wild food that hasn’t always been so readily available. Certainly, the venue ticks plenty of boxes for those looking for ethical dining experiences, proudly showing diners that, often, staying local is best. Small carbon footprint aside, uncompromising high quality produce in cute digs is the major attraction. Oh, and the scallops. Did we mention the scallops?
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Daniel Donovan
To book a table at Native, 3 Neal’s Yard Seven Dials WC2H 9DP, call 0203 638 8214 or visit here.