Being bold

 

The people of London have always been renowned for their ability to adapt and accept in the face of change. Our language, our culture and much of our philosophy is heavily influenced by other nations, albeit with our own spin put on things. The culinary scene has always been a prime example of this and the capital is full of restaurants from nations across the world. From Lebanese to Japanese we’ve always been keen to embrace the variety that different cultures bring to our fair city, as a brief discussion between food lovers on social media illustrated. [hyper link here]

 

What was surprising about that particular exchange, and about noted food critic Jay Rayner’s handling of the situation, was the assertion that even the best culinary traditions must be given time to rest. Eating classic French or Italian food Rayner, and many others, asserted is great for the first few weeks, after which one tends to crave creativity and variety. London has cemented its place as one of the culinary landmarks through its own considerable achievements, that much is true, however it is our welcoming spirit and desire to adopt the food of other nations that has made us the restaurant king.

 

Even so, it’s surprising to learn exactly what the latest food trend is. Adopting the craze in the Eastern world, the people of London have taken to eating insects. Yes, that’s right, insects. The whole idea of having a scorpion or a worm in a bottle of alcohol still shocks many, so eating actual insects in the place of meat? For many it would seem absurd, and yet that’s exactly what’s bringing restaurant-goers out in droves.

 

Head to the Archipelago restaurant in Cleveland Street for example, and you’ll find that insects have been peppered into many dishes. The Love Bug salad is the most popular, featuring crickets slathered in chili and garlic. Served as an accompaniment to a meal, it’s a dish best described as “crunchy”. The texture is odd, and rather reminiscent of dried corn, though the sauce does soften it considerably. A sprinkling of weaver ants is available for a small extra fee, incase you want something crispy and light to garnish your “salad”. It may sound bizarre, however weaver ants are one of the more palatable of the choices offered in the insect world: they’ve been prized for centuries in Asia for their light texture and strong flavour.

 

Archipelago is an extreme example, as it is always looking to showcase new ingredients. Other dishes at the restaurant include bees, crocodile strips and kangaroo steak. However, bugs are slowly making their way into the mainstream. Hungry shoppers looking for a snack in Selfridges for example, can pick up a bag of toffee crusted Chinese scorpions to nibble on whilst they browse. Excellent Mexican chain Wahaca offered grasshoppers with dips and corn chips on their menu repeatedly this year, and they proved a big hit with customers.

 

Insects have frequently been stated in scientific papers as the perfect solution to the world’s growing protein conundrum, and experts have been advocating a change in culture for some time. It’s only now, however, that we’re starting to see a real acceptance for these treats. Suddenly, people seem more willing to try new things and the consumption of insects is becoming more of a routine phenomena. Whether or not the concept will really catch on is highly debatable, but what’s for sure is that this appears to be more than a passing trend. Once the novelty factor has worn off, happy customers seem to be coming for more and if it brings a little more variety to our already extensive bouquet of flavours, we’ll certainly be happy to see it stick around.


October 26, 2017

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