Much (if not all) of the fun of being a restaurant reviewer is having novel experiences. It was therefore quite anomalous that Gourmand Gunno had never paid a visit to Archipelago until earlier this week. The venue has been a fixture in Fitzrovia for over twenty years and has a very clear mandate: to “explore the exotic.” From alpaca to zebra, Archipelago dishes up options that are far from mainstream, but perhaps ought to be more so. Beyond the intrepidity of the kitchen, there is a lot to be said for a more varied protein-based diet. If crocodile or kangaroo might be your thing, then Archipelago will cater for you, but insects also feature heavily on menu. Get over the perception factor and they’re actually pretty tasty as well being very good for you; high in animo acids, vitamin B12, calcium, iron, potassium and zinc. Probably the bigger challenge for diners at Archipelago is the kitsch factor. Diners are forced to sit in a room stuffed with bric-a-brac that would not be out of place in a junk shop. Further, when the venue rang to confirm the booking, I was told I needed a password (spoiler alert: it was ‘crocodile’) before being allowed to enter. Sure, a generous assessment might suggest that this is all part of the experience, but I found it an inconvenient distraction. Scepticism aside, when we were seated – albeit as virtually the sole diners in the venue on a midweek lunchtime – the food was pretty impressive. Archipelago offers options from across the globe and it is testament to the kitchen that they can serve the likes of both chermoula crickets and python carpaccio simultaneously. Your reviewer went for the former as his starter. While the salad leaves which accompanied my bugs were drably underwhelming, the crickets themselves offered a fascinatingly delightful texture. The taste sensation was a blend of savoury crunch, somewhere between tuna meat and pork scratchings. My main of jerked alpaca was even better. Whereas I had sampled this close relative of the llama in steak format in the Andes many years ago, here the meat had been slow cooked for nine hours and was super-tender, juicy and flavoursome; deep and earthy. The accompanying ‘love bug salad’ of mealworms, silkworms and locusts was a perfect foil. We concluded with a plate of chocolate-covered locusts. The prevailing impression was a satisfyingly sweet crunch. When paired with a Sauternes sweet wine – who might have imagined it? – the combination was genius; memorable too. At ~£80/head (with a bottle of wine included), you’re paying not just for the food, but also for the experience. It’s mostly worth it.