‘Just to let you know, we’ve run out of ants. We do however have mealworms instead.’ I tried to stop myself giggling like a maniac, but to no avail. ‘Did you hear what she just said!!?’ I asked my lunch companion incredulously. He nodded slowly and appeared to be turning a little green. With a mouth-watering menu of ethically sourced meats like zebra, wildebeest and crocodile, Archipelago explores the exotic, serving up a sensory dining experience from across the globe with few surprises along the way…
Golden buddhas, peacocks & palms embellish the walls of the restaurant, while on the tables lie menus rolled up like treasure maps and plump cushions in regal colours decorate elaborate armchairs. The décor was certainly exotic so if that was anything to go by, we were in for an exciting meal indeed. Although I’m always striving to broaden my culinary knowledge, I’ve never had the privilege of trying alpaca or kangaroo (although I did try snails once for a dare) and in my day to day life, sushi is about as exotic as it gets. I thought the best way to make the most out of the experience would be to go for the sharing platter, so I could try a little bit of everything. I ignored the option to ‘add bugs for £2.00’.
‘Are you feeling adventurous?’ asked our maître d’, I had been hoping she’d forget. ‘Would you like mealworms and crickets on your Thai salad? They’re fried in chilli and garlic.’ ‘Oh delicious!’ I smiled, maybe a little too enthusiastically. ‘Yes please!’
Waiting for my food to arrive was a pleasant if not slightly unnerving experience. I sank down into my incredibly comfortable chair as the sizzling of crickets added an interesting element to the jazz soundtrack. What did arrive were seven beautiful bowls of food; a banquet for a jungle king and I couldn’t wait to get stuck in.
First things first, there was one dish that needed my immediate attention, the Thai salad with crickets and mealworms. With a deep breath, I loaded up a forkful, opened my mouth and in they went. They were certainly crunchy, but not unpleasant. Impressed with my own bravery, I polished off the majority of the dish wondering if this could be the future of sustainable snacking.
The first meat I tried was kangaroo. Subtly spiced, it was cooked as a kebab in a ‘Zhug’ marinade not dissimilar to tikka, and boy was it tasty. After crocodile bites and belly pork I tried the alpaca which was utterly delicious, like a superior version of pulled pork. Fragrant and tender, the melt in the mouth alpaca dish was my favourite of the lot.
The dessert menu was mysterious, ranging from the unusual ‘Pharaoh’s Treasure’ with accompanying curry ice cream & 24 carat gold leaf, to the downright intriguing ‘A Visit from the Doctor’. My companion pointed out that I clearly hadn’t had my fill of insects, as my choice was ‘Mediaeval Hive’; a brown butter ice cream with honey and butter caramel sauce. Oh, and a honey poached bee.
All conversation ceased to exist as I ate my dessert and the only words I could utter were simply ‘mmm’, ‘oh my god’, ‘mmmmm’. Beautifully presented, a chunk of real honeycomb lay amongst buttery ice cream, a rich golden sauce and a crunchy caramel biscuit. Unspeakably decadent, I can honestly say it was the best dessert I have ever had. When I was finished, there wasn’t a morsel left except the little bee which I wasn’t sure was edible and besides, I’d had enough bugs for one day.
Archipelago provides a totally unique and exotic dining experience, from its charmingly mismatched cutlery to the diverse delicacies on the enticing menu. I thoroughly enjoyed the relaxed environment and feel like it would make Archipelago an ideal date destination. For the adventurous, it’s somewhere to awaken your taste buds and explore the unknown.
I did have a slight worry that once the meal was over, the waiter would come up to me in fits of laughter and say ‘Oh you weren’t supposed to EAT the bugs! We just say that for a laugh!’ Fortunately, this wasn’t the case and the bugs are in fact a delicacy in countries across the globe. I’m not sure I’ll be snacking on mealworms anytime soon but on the other hand, I’ve discovered an amazing new dining experience as well as a dessert sent from heaven. S-wings and roundabouts.
Click here to explore the exotic with Archipelago. Grubs up!