January is often derided as the most hated month of the year; synonymous with making – and swiftly breaking – overly-ambitious New Year’s resolutions. These invariably involve taking more exercise, eating virtuously and drinking less alcohol – if not all three, and are all worthy aspirations. Yet, if you’re like me, you will need equally as lofty motivations in order to see them through. I can’t think of much better motivation than booking Mac and Wild for the first day of February (or as a fantastic way of breaking those smug resolutions now).
Mac and Wild is founder Andy Waugh’s first foray into the restaurant world – having previously presided over the highly successful pop-up, the Wild Game Company – and I was instantly struck by the restaurant itself, or, to put it another way, how it didn’t strike me. Some restaurants overplay their hand, but the nods to Mac and Wild’s origins and expertise – shotguns as door handles, bouquets of thistles and heather, cut glass decanter light shades – were subtle and elegant.
As with all of the menu – which varies week by week, depending on the diligence of the stalkers and fishermen – the ‘wee plates’ pay dutiful homage to Scotland’s finest produce. The Haggis Pops with Red Jon (redcurrant jus) were exquisite; the phrase ‘melt in the middle’ is an understatement. If Haggis is always done like this, it’s easy to see why it’s been tipped to be ‘the food of 2017’. The Venison Scotch Egg was excellent.
Meat-lovers know they are in for a treat, and the Veni-Moo Burger – a perfect bundle of beef, venison, béarnaise, caramelised onions and cheese – more than lives up to its billing as the UK’s best burger. There is no need to beat around the bush – it’s very, very good. I actually felt sorry for the venison chateaubriand, but I shouldn’t have worried. Served unashamedly naked, the venison was as beautiful to behold as it was cooked: tender, succulent and delectable. Neither needed sides, but when your choices include Haggis Mac ‘N’ Cheese, Salt Baked Neeps (turnips) and Dirty Buttery Mash, you don’t say no.
It is always a good sign when the effervescent, attentive staff are as excited to serve their food as you are to eat it, and never was this truer when it came to pudding. The Ice Cream Sandwich (as large as the Veni-Moo), is a cacophony of cookies and candied hazelnuts with chocolate, coffee and peanut ice cream, while the Whisky Sticky Toffee Pudding can’t fail to hit the spot.
Quality food, however, is just one string to Mac and Wild’s bow. The Auld Pal – Mac’s take on a Negroni – is superb, while the Tam’s Tears is a gin cocktail like no other. House wines are usually a good marker for a restaurant and you’ll struggle to find a less ‘house’ red than the wonderful Merlot Mac serves. Yet, it wouldn’t be a Scottish restaurant if its whiskies didn’t take pride of place. The myriad on offer are anomalous to the simplicity of the menu. Luckily, Mac caters for the indecisive amongst us though the provision of the assiduously selected whisky flights. If you are of the slightly bitter persuasion, the 3 Shades of Spey will suit you down to the ground, whereas for those who like it a little smoother, go for the Mac and Wild trio.
Mac and Wild brings the fresh, unique taste of the Highlands to central London, without the 20-mile hike or the fear of missing the crucial shot. Although, if you fancy yourself a marksman, you can book the Shooting Room downstairs, kit yourself out in tweed and test your accuracy on their state-of-the-art simulator, before kicking back in the neighbouring Whisky Room – think shooting lodge-come-jazz bar – until the midnight hours.
Come with friends, clients or dates, but whatever you do, come hungry.
Mac and Wild, Fitzrovia, 65 Great Titchfield St, Fitzrovia, London W1W 7PS
Mac and Wild City, 9A Devonshire Square, London EC2M 4YN