the story

Festive Season at The Art School
Time to Celebrate

“Every year we look forward to this time when the game season begins because wild food always has a better flavour because it has a wild diet. It’s not fed pellets, corn or hay; it’s out foraging for its survival on the moors and in the forest. What happens as a result, is the depth of flavour and characteristics of the meat that are absolutely the best you can buy, especially in Scotland which is why we buy Highland Deer. This is because that is the area that is the most unspoilt in the U.K. They roam free, they must cull them every year so it is actually a sustainable process because they can leave areas ravaged and start on crops, upsetting the farmers. They are largely wild herds running free and nibbling away wherever they feel. They have had a great life, they’re not stressed, they’re not intensively farmed animals that have a very stressful and short life experience, pumped full of hormones, they’re the opposite of that which for me is the attraction.”

“Of course, when you think of venison, pheasant, partridge and goose, things that we have chosen for this menu, they’re all ingredients that are thought of as celebratory Autumn and Winter foods so we choose them as the main items and then build the garnish, sauce and flavours around that to make it slightly more of the season and festive.”

“We are not the kind of place that is ever going to do turkey, bread sauce and cranberry sauce with roast potatoes. We are trying to show a different kind of Christmas, a different kind of festivity, a different kind of celebration of food so for us this is the way of doing it. From the great response we have had over the last three years to the pheasant, partridge, venison and even grouse, it is things that people don’t really cook at home so it’s again as a restaurant, we are giving people an experience, giving them ingredients and food that is put together in a certain style that is unique to us, that they can’t do at home.”

“We know the way it has been bought, the way it has been matured and looked after, the way the sauces and seasonings are made are all bespoke to us and done here in The Art School kitchen. That’s our bit of love, our little Christmas gift on each plate that we send out, that is how we want it to feel. It is unique and special and it pays homage to the animals themselves because they are precious things. Who knows where we are going in the future with wild animals, who knows what we are doing to the environment and how long these animals will be here.”

“Thankfully venison seems to be quite resilient. I already know that partridge and pheasant does get bred to be released for shoots and very occasionally we do get some like that. You can tell they have been fed up before they are released into the wild. They only get a couple of weeks living on the wild side and you can tell from the meat, it is more like chicken as it is corn or pellet fed. There is a vast difference between that and a pheasant or partridge that has been born in the wild and nibbled away at whatever takes its fancy, they’re the special ones that we are trying to source.”

“On the vegetarian front, we have the Pithivier, which for me is a wonderful French invention which is pretty much a ‘posh pie’. The Pithivier refers to the shape so imagine a dome shaped circle with a lovely design on it, a bit like a flying saucer in looks.”

“The reason the Pithivier sticks in my mind is that the very first time I had one, it was cooked by Albert Roux, a personal Hero of mine. It was the first time I ever went to the Grand National when Patrick Martell were the lead sponsors. I’d been invited to the launch and Albert (who was best friend with Patrick Martell) was cooking that day and it was the first time I ever met him. He did a Pithivier of pigeon and wild mushrooms, very classically French, well put together and beautifully cooked. It stuck in my head from that day.”

“A Pithivier can be whatever you want it to be, you just have to make the filling. I often use it with Autumn vegetables, truffles and chestnuts. Whenever I’ve done them the Vegetarian guests have been blown away. It is such a beautiful thing that you don’t see on menus very often. In effect, it is a very posh French pie made with butter puff pastry and the filling of your choice. The seasonality comes with the filling, black truffles are amazing at the moment so we will be getting plenty of those in for over Christmas.”

“This Christmas is particularly special as having spent nearly the whole year, designing, preparing and focusing on getting The Art School Cellars up and running, it’s now into its fifth week. It is so lovely to look forward to being able to see guests enjoy a lovely lunch or dinner with us in the restaurant and then finish their evening with us downstairs in an environment that is suitable for The Art School. It is continuing that theme but instead of finishing your meal, you’re following into a drinks service in an environment that is the wine bar version of The Art School. We get people who have come in for one drink and six hours later, they’re still there and that for me says it all.”

“We’ve created a space that people feel able to relax in, it’s very European and Cosmopolitan in its feel because of the style of the cheese and charcuterie being built into the bar and to be fair, the feel of the room itself is laid out with more of a continental bar feel to it than an English bar. It reminds me of what a guest once said about The Art School, that they felt like they were in a Spa where the treatment is food and drink. Well this is the liquid version of the Spa. This is where you sit and sip an Old Fashioned, a Nespresso Martini or a glass of Champagne, whatever your potion is.”

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(Photo – Andy Richardson)

“I’d like to wish all of our guests, health, wealth and happiness and look forward to welcoming you all at The Art School and The Art School Cellars over the Festive period.” Chef Patron, Paul Askew

Our Festive Menus are available to view here. Booking in advance is recommended to avoid disappointment.

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Photo – Andy Richardson from Paul Askew’s debut book, Onwards and Upwards. Preorder a signed copy from our website.