London has been home to many a strange food trend over the years, and surely the current hype surrounding dishes made using insects and critters is the weirdest yet? Well, no actually, as several nations across the world have been gnawing on insects for decades. Now that London has finally caught up with the rest of the world, it’s time to push aside thoughts of screeching contestants on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here and get to grips with the wonderfully weird world of insect-led dining. Read below to check out where you can find not-so-creepy crawlies in the capital.
Why: Delightfully quirky Archipelago’s menu stretches across international cuisines and, despite being open for a good while now, remains a must-visit for intrepid gastro-backpackers. Alongside the shock-tastic likes of chilli-smoked python carpaccio with green tea and wasabi crackers or crocodile wrapped in vine leaves with honey-poached plums and pickled samphire, you’ll find a Love Bug salad filled with locusts, mealworms and crickets. If you haven’t had your fill of bugs, opt for the Bushman’s Cavi-Err dessert: caramel mealworms served on blinis with coconut cream and vodka jelly.
Where: 53 Cleveland Street, W1T 4JJ
Ella Canta, Mayfair
Why: Hotel restaurants in affluent areas of London are hardly known for their vibrancy, but famed Mexican chef Martha Ortiz rips up the rulebook with her brand of authentic yet cliché-busting cuisine. The colourful space, which features bright crockery and waitresses dolled up like Frida Kahlo, is matched by an equally vibrant menu. We’d recommend starting your meal with a snack of über-fresh guacamole, which arrives topped with chunks of ricotta and bursts of pomegranate, alongside a crunchy gold-embossed grasshopper. Who said all Mayfair restaurants were boring?
Where: InterContinental Park Lane, 1 Hamilton Place, W1J 7QY
Greyhound Café, Fitzrovia
Why: At this zany London outpost of Asian clothing-brand-turned-restaurant-empire Greyhound Café, you’ll find plenty of unexpected dishes on the pages-long menu. As well as the frivolous likes of ‘happy toast’ (brioche toast served with a range of frozen sauces to top it with), you can tuck into a dish called ‘Bugs in my salad’: green salad topped with soy wasabi dressing, and a smattering of crunchy fried Thai pupae. Wash down your buggy feast with one of Greyhound Café’s famous luminous cocktails, or sip on a freshly-squeezed orange juice instead.
Where: 37 Berners Street, W1T 3NB
Lao Café, Covent Garden
Why: There’s nothing worse than arriving to a restaurant absolutely ravenous and then having to wait another 10 or 15 minutes for your food to come to the table. This is why starting snacks are so handy, as they temporarily fill the gap before the important stuff comes your way. At Lao Café, Covent Garden’s offshoot of Rosa’s Thai, you can nibble on a pre-dinner bar snack of Laotian-style fried insects called Malang Tod. The dish changes seasonally, so to avoid any unexpected surprises, remember to ask the bar staff exactly what it is you’re being served.
Where: 60 Chandos Place, WC2N 4HG
Why: Native’s move from Covent Garden to Southwark hasn’t diverted its kitchen from its mission of serving foraged British ingredients and game, with a zero-waste ethos wherever possible. Interiors reference the foraging theme with faux-derelict brick walls and industrial pipes on the ceiling, with clumps of vegetation here and there (perhaps concealing the insects that end up on the menu). At the end of the restaurant’s multi-course tasting menu, you can enjoy cubes of Meadowsweet fudge, which are served as petit-fours and topped with wood ants. The crawlies have a lemony sherbet flavour, which works rather well with the creaminess of the fudge – who knew?
Where: 32 Southwark Street, SE1 1TU
Santo Remedio, Borough
Why: Guacamole (made with the ubiquitous avocado, no less) is many people’s favourite part of a Mexican meal, and we’ve definitely been guilty of filling up on ‘chips and guac’ before even getting to our main courses. At Santo Remedio, which has resurrected itself in London Bridge following the closure of its Shoreditch site in 2016, you can try a protein-heavy helping of guacamole topped with crunchy grasshoppers sourced from Mexico itself. The variation on the classic dish hails from the Mexican city of Oaxaca, and is finished off with flecks of chilli and lime.
Where: 152 Tooley Street, SE1 2TU