Veniphobia. It’s not an official phobia, like arachnophobia, agoraphobia or my personal favourite, omphalophobia (the fear of belly buttons). But it should be. We all know someone who suffers from it: an irrational fear of venison.
Mac & Wild is the cure. A cosy Fitzrovia newcomer with a Scottish heart, it specialises in wild deer that has none of the off-putting ‘gaminess’ people associate with venison -- it also happens to be mind-bogglingly tender. Most of the meat comes from co-owner Andy Waugh’s father’s estate, the rest from other trusted highland hunters, all of whom use state-of-the-art refrigeration techniques. On our visit we watched a waiter convince a table of fashionistas to go for venison, rather than beef chateaubriand: ‘if you don’t like it, I’ll take it off the bill.’ They devoured every morsel.
Mac & Wild’s origins date back to 2010, when Waugh drove down to Borough Market with a van-load of raw deer meat. This led to him selling venison-based street food (as ‘The Wild Game Co’) at markets and pub residencies, before finally opening a 2014 pop-up. It was so popular that within weeks Waugh and his team were looking for a permanent site.
The result: Mac & Wild, a stylish place filled with rough-hewn wood tables, bare bricks, and modish lighting. The Scandi-leaning Scottish food it serves (the chef is Danish) is mostly sensational. In addition to terrific venison ‘steak frites’ (£11) and order-by-weight chateaubriand, there are beefy alternatives and other wild things: a giant pine mushroom, cleaved in two; a grilled mackerel, served cold with a sticky soy sauce and parsley ash-coated cucumber balls. Best of the all was the ‘venimoo’ (£10): a double patty (one venison and one beef, as the game on its own would be too lean), melted cheese and pickles in a sesame bun.
Only our desserts – an under-boozed cranachan, and three cloying chocolate teacakes – disappointed. But service was exceptional and the ambiance lively. Grab your nearest veniphobe and get them into rehab.