Autumn’s here. We’re practically beset with autumn. And this AW15 the obvious film-food matching – fairly certain that exists, and if it’s doesn’t then I’m going to make my fortune from it – for all discerning film-food consumers is Kurzel’s Macbeth and Fitzrovia’s Mac and Wild.
The Scottish Play and the Scottish Restaurant. Both so newly sprung from the Highlands they’re still kicking the peat from their shoes and picking heather from their hair. Just imagine steeping yourself in Macbeth’s sweeping moors and then Mac and Wild’s no-less-sweeping whisky list. Just imagine the perfectness of that pairing.
Just imagining is, incidentally, what I’ll be doing, as making that a reality would have meant waiting an extra four days for Macbeth’s UK release. Four days too long when there’s this much venison and assorted game at stake.
I stand by my prediction, but I also very strongly stand by the decision not to wait to prove myself right about that. Because Mac and Wild’s been open for barely a fraction of summer, but word’s clearly spread fast. On a Saturday night there’s not an empty hand-carved, hewn-timber table in the house.
That should give us a sense of urgency, because Mac and Wild’s devotion to the fresh and seasonal means that stock levels of a given dish can vary. That the venison they use is 100% wild means I consider 100% of the people here tonight as direct competition.
But despite that, and the fact that it’s a short, neat menu, we’re still somehow finding it hard to narrow things down. Smoothing the decision-making process for us is the – also short, neat – whisky cocktail menu: we go for the pale green-gold of an Auld Pal, with anCnoc 12 Year Old, tincture of chamomile and gorse flowers, dandelion bitters and vermouth; and the thicker, darker Ginger Laddie, a blend of Bruichladdich Barley Whisky, orange peel and Oloroso Sherry. As a delaying tactic we order ‘Haggis Pops’ from the Wee Plates menu, to defer having to commit to a main course of action.
When the haggis pops arrive they’re dice-sized fritters served with a bowl of honey-laced Whisky Jon dip. They’re also the source of a revelation, and it’s this: there should be a bar, a Mac and Wild bar, that does this and just this. Whisky cocktails, haggis pops. Maybe a few cameos from the wine list and the solely Scottish craft beer list for good measure, and that’s it. What more do you need?
As enchanted as I am by the haggis pops – and they’re tiny, powerful and the perfect riposte to anybody who considers boiling the only proper way to prep a haggis – I’m doubly enchanted by this bar I’ve invented. We order starters, and main courses, and wine, but really what I want is a repeat of what we’ve already had, just a further eight or twelve times.
When our venison tartare starter arrives, bright with tiny tomatoes and a beetroot glaze, I reassess slightly. It’d be churlish not to make room for tartare at this imaginary future bar, when it’s such a cold, tender counterpoint to the hot crunch of the haggis. Fine then. Just whisky cocktails and haggis pops and venison tartare and possibly an Argyll ale or a Gascony white. And that’s it, we have to preserve the purity of this business model.
But, much like Macbeth, my principles are thoroughly at the mercy of my ambition. In this case, the newly-acquired ambition to have regular access to steak frites – as interpreted by Mac and Wild, with rare rounds of venison and peppery béarnaise – and cod with brown butter and green oil. Which obviously requires they be added to this hypothetical menu, taking my simple, one-dish and whisky bar into more of a restaurant offering.
And then comes the cranachan. Always beautiful in concept, the Mac and Wild version’s even more so in execution – core ingredients being oatmeal, cream, strawberries, honey and whisky, like a wanton breakfast. You can’t turn your back on a dish like that.
This poses a problem. It’s fast becoming clear that this Mac and Wild spin-off bar I’ve been dreaming about opening is, in fact, Mac and Wild. A slight blow to my entrepreneurial spirit, although I still have that food-film-matching goldmine to fall back on, and the masterpiece that is our cranachan for consolation.
So in summary, and to paraphrase another Scottish masterpiece: stand not upon the order of your going to Mac and Wild, but go at once.
Mac and Wild, 65, Great Titchfield Street, London, W1W 7PS. Website.