In a trip designed for the adventurous, I went with a group of people from Friday Cities to Archipelago, a restaurant that promises ‘the sensuous indulgence of tantalising global cuisine’. The innocent sounding ‘global cuisine’ belies the true nature of what’s on order: kangaroo, gnu, zebra and crocodile, locusts and scorpions and bumblebees – and of course, lentils and chicken. Surely, though, with this edible zoo of the weird on the menu, you’d be tempted to give in to your safari instincts and look beyond the chicken.
In our group of 13, all exotic items on the menu were accounted for. There were a few twinges of guilt, mostly over eating zebra; curiously, the kangaroo was the most popular main dish and didn’t elicit any feelings of regret. The bug salad was also popular to order, although less so when people were facing a lettuce/garlicky-locust mouthful. Chocolate covered scorpion (stinger removed) was an expensive pudding at £7.50, and despite the theatrical crunching noises it made when eaten, the taste was described as a mild ‘rice krispie flavor’.
The food on offer is clearly intended to be a talking point, but it’s not just a triumph of flash over substance. The cooking is genuinely good: my starter was an ordinary seafood and chili stir fry, cooled off with a cucumber tzatziki, and was very good at being what it was. The kangaroo was nicely laced with garlic and spices, with a creamy nutty dipping sauce and vegetables on the side. I did dip into the bug salad and emerged with a locust on my fork, which contained more shock value than anything really worth eating (and the flaked-off legs and abdomen there were resistant to being swallowed were, I admit, on this side of horrid). The dining experience comes at a price, with us paying £32/35 a head for 2/3 courses. But, with that money, you’re buying a meal that is both tasty and a showpiece.