To the uninitiated, 12 August may well seem like any other summer’s day, ideally enjoyed outside on a grassy field soaking up the sunshine. To countryside folk though, this date in August is one of the highlights of the social calendar - that is because 12 August, otherwise known as The Glorious Twelfth, marks the official start of Britain’s shooting season.
The shooting season is when keen hunters go out in search of game, particularly the highly-prized grouse, which is unique to the UK and notoriously difficult to catch because of the fast speeds at which they fly. Every year, men and women across Great Britain don tweed outfits, put on their wellington boots and head out into the country to catch all manner of game, ranging from guinea fowl and squab pigeon to venison and pheasant.
As well as being something of a holiday among keen hunters, The Glorious Twelfth also represents an economic boon for the country, with many UK residents and international tourists paying to embark on highly sought after shooting voyages or tournaments. In fact, the shooting tourism industry, as it is known, reportedly brings in £30 million to the Scottish economy alone and a mammoth £150 million across the UK.
Although game season is a fixture of the countryside calendar, it also makes its way down to London, where several of the capital’s best restaurants add seasonal game to their menus. Throughout August until December, you are likely to find game dishes on the menu at some of the capital’s hotspots, particularly the gastropubs and British restaurants. That’s not to say that this is an exclusively British practice though, with some of London’s top Indian, French and other restaurants also getting in on the action.
To gain a full understanding of the shooting season, as well as find some of the best game restaurants in London, read our guide to the Glorious Twelfth below.
What is the Glorious Twelfth?
The Glorious Twelfth marks the official start of the shooting season across Britain. The day is a staple of the annual calendar in the British countryside and sees hunting enthusiasts pull out their guns once more to begin a season of shooting. At first, the game that is hunted is grouse, with pheasants and other birds being hunted later in the season.
What date is the Glorious Twelfth?
The Glorious Twelfth takes place every year on 12 August.
Why is it called the Glorious Twelfth?
12 August is considered ‘glorious’ because it marks the start of a new season for hunting fans and is often dubbed the ‘New Year’s Day of hunting’. It is also ‘glorious’ on a practical level, because of the positive impact on the economy - each year, the shooting tourism industry generates £30 million in Scotland and around £150 million across the UK.
How long is the grouse season?
The grouse shooting season begins on 12 August of each year and ends on 10 December.
What are the rules of the Glorious Twelfth and shooting season?
The most highly-prized game bird is grouse, which are unique to the UK and are famously difficult to hunt, flying at speeds of up to 70 miles an hour. Hunters are also forbidden to shoot them on Sundays.
Why is the Glorious Twelfth controversial?
With more people in the UK switching to a vegan diet, the practice of hunting in general is viewed by some as inhumane and unnecessary. Grouse hunting in particular is controversial because environmentalists say that the practice endangers wildlife and contributes to global warming. Animal activist groups also believe that landowners kill the natural predators of grouse in order to maintain the levels of grouse on their land, which can be converted into cash made from shooting tourism.
However, supporters of the shooting tourism industry argue that they are actually helping the grouse to survive. This is because grouse rely on the heather on the moorlands where they live, eating the young shoots and using the older stems to make nests and shelter. Supporters of hunting say that burning the heather helps to encourage further growth and maintain the grouse's source of food and shelter.
London’s best game restaurants
Want to know what all the fuss is about when it comes to game season? Check out our pick of the best London restaurants serving game this year.
The Game Bird, St James’s
What: As the name suggests, The Game Bird is big on representing the very best of hunting season’s prizes. During game season, you can expect to find the likes of roast grouse with game chips, while roast pigeon with turnip purée, roast baby turnips and cherries is available all year round.
Where: 16-18 St James’s Place, SW1A 1NJ
The Jugged Hare, City
What: Known for specialising in game, The Jugged Hare goes all out for game season - expect the likes of a venison Scotch egg and of course, the restaurant’s eponymous dish of jugged hare (a stew made from wild rabbit and cooked in a stone pot).
Where: 49 Chiswell Street, EC1Y 4SA
What: To celebrate the start of hunting season, Sussex is hosting a ticketed six-course feast on the Glorious Twelfth. Guests will tuck into dishes such as rabbit ragu served with nettle fusilli pasta and red pepper sourdough crumb, and half a roast grouse served with heritage vegetable crisps, beef dripping sourdough toast, cherry and red wine jus and watercress salsa.
Where: 63-64 Frith Street, W1D 3JW
Maggie Jones’s, Kensington
What: Long-standing Kensington favourite Maggie Jones’s will welcome grouse to its menu from 12 August, with diners able to enjoy the prized bird alongside celeriac mash, red cabbage and game sauce. Later in the season, you can expect to find other game on the menu, including partridge and pheasant.
Where: 6 Old Court Place, W8 4PL
La Poule au Pot, Belgravia
What: Typically thought of as among London’s most romantic restaurants, La Poule au Pot will be serving up grouse this August, alongside celeriac mash and red cabbage with game sauce. In September, the grouse will be joined by other game on the menu, such as squab pigeon and medallions of venison.
Where: 231 Ebury Street, SW1W 8UT
The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
What: Grouse will be on the menu at Vivek Singh’s benchmark modern Indian, set in the atmospheric surrounds of the Old Westminster Library. Elsewhere on the The Cinnamon Club's menu, you can find Tandoori spiced venison with a black stone flower reduction and clove smoked pigeon with pumpkin and peanuts.
Where: 30-32 Great Smith Street, SW1P 3BU
Mac & Wild, Fitzrovia
What: Scottish restaurant Mac & Wild specialises in wild meats, so it’s no surprise that game season is a popular time for bookings here. You can find the likes of venison topside steak on the menu, while if you really want the hunting season experience, head to the City branch where you will find a virtual shooting range.
Where: 65 Great Titchfield Street, W1W 7PS
What: Irish chef Richard Corrigan’s eponymous restaurant Corrigan’s will welcome back the chef’s famous grouse pie this game season, while you can also expect to find other game dishes such as squab pigeon pithivier with duck liver, blackberry and natural jus.
Where: 28 Upper Grosvenor Street, W1K 7EH
45 Jermyn Street, St James’s
What: 45 Jermyn Street is known for its menu of luxe dishes (the restaurant is from the team behind Fortnum & Mason after all), but come game season, it really comes into its own, having previously added the likes of a grouse and foie gras pie to its menu. We can’t wait to see what they cook up this year.
Where: 45 Jermyn Street, SW1Y 6DN
The Harwood Arms, Fulham
What: The reigning king of London’s gastropub scene, The Harwood Arms is well known for its menu of hi-spec pub classics, but the restaurant is also committed to serving seasonal game. During game season, you can expect the likes of whole roast grouse, pheasant, woodcock, snipe and mallard to be added to the menu.
Where: Walham Grove, SW6 1QP
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