It's hopping off restaurant menus as fast as you can say Watership Down. According to the London Evening Standard restaurant critic Fay Maschler, rabbit is the "chicken of the Nineties". At the Mayfair restaurant Le Gavroche, chef de cuisine Michel Roux Jnr says he is getting through a record number of rabbits specially shipped from France: "There is definitely a revival of interest in rabbit. Maybe it's something to do with people being more health-conscious, as it is white meat with no fat." Although not all Michel's customers are convinced. "Psychologically some people will never go for rabbit. In this country the overriding image is still of a fluffy white animal in a run at the bottom of the garden."
KNOW YOUR RABBIT: There are two main types: farmed domestic, and wild. Wild is much cheaper. but according to butcher Graham Portwine one drawback can be that "it's been shot so it may be messed about a bit". Farmed is generally more tender, paler in colour and has less flavour. Wild rabbit is more pungent. Graham attributes rabbit's new popularity to the fact that when people go out to a restaurant they want something unusual. "They tend to choose something they probably wouldn't have at home and rabbit seems to fit the bill."
WHERE TO GET YOUR RABBIT : Portwine, 24 Earlham Street, London WC2 (0171- 836 2353) (wild from pounds 2.50, farmed from pounds 6.50). Le Gavroche, 43 Upper Brook Street, London Wl (0171-408 0881) (French farmed rabbit always on the menu). Circus, 1 Upper James Street, London W1 (0171-534 4000) (This new modern European restaurant serves wild rabbit from Kent.) Waitrose sells four different cuts of Belgian farmed rabbit, starting at pounds 2.99 for shoulder - (01344) 825232 for stockists. Tesco sells fresh rabbit from France at pounds 9.99 a kilo and frozen rabbit (cubed) from China at pounds l.99 for 454g.
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