Archipelago – Scorpion and Crocodile for Dinner

Archipelago London is filled with vibrant eclecticism where you can gorge on insects and exotic meats till the cows come home.

archipelago London review

Dinner dates can be quite uneventful, but one sure-fire way to spice it up a little is to have it at Archipelago, a smaller, rather unusual restaurant in Fitzrovia just around the corner from the BT Tower. Archipelago is stands out in the over-saturated field of London restaurants as it has meats such as kangaroo, zebra, wildebeest and even a few insects on the menu. Which makes it ideal territory for adventorous carnivores and a damn good litmus test of your dinner-partner’s, ahem, audacity. The interior appearance of the restaurant is just as remarkable, resembling an Asian antiques and bric-a-brac shop with paintings and random cultural artefacts hanging out of every nook and crevice. Service was friendly, warm and informative.

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The Philosopher and I, as per usual, decided to share our starters which allowed me to sample a nice swath of the Archipelago London menu before moving on to my main course. First up was crocodile wrapped up in vine leaves. The old cliché about crocodile tasting like chicken is still true, although in this case it tastes like particularly tough, leathery chicken wrapped in equally tough vine leaves. Although the meat had a citrusy flavour which made up for this to a certain extent, the leaves didn’t taste of much. Since this is the second time I’ve had crocodile, I’m starting to think that there’s a good reason this meat isn’t more widely available in Britain and is more commonly found in handbags. meat London restaurant

Despite its apparent simplicity the locust salad instantly created a palpable buzz. There’s no mistaking it for anything else either – it’s definitely a scattering (not a plague or even a swarm) of locusts on top of a salad of spinach and rocket. The spicy taste was almost certainly due to the piquant dressing, while the locusts themselves were crispy with an unexpectedly nutty, enjoyable moreish flavour. The effect is somewhere in between crispy soft shell crab and prawn shells. Next up was a comparatively more sedate and everyday dish – grilled unagi or eel. It’s a popular and common sight in Japanese restaurants. Here the meat and skin were very soft and oily with a slightly piquant flavour and was quite pleasant in its own right, but I prefer my unagi with a firmer texture and a crisper layer of skin. crocodile London restaurant

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If you’re expecting a visual flourish from having zebra meat on a plate, then I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed – it looks just like any other red meat. The waitress warned me that it might be a little stringy, but that wasn’t the case in my experience. It was quite tough and coarse though, vaguely resembling pork in texture but tasting more like beef or venison which was enhanced by the port-based sauce. The accompaniment of Japanese soba noodles looked and tasted a little out of place, but it was quite refreshing and tasty in its own right with a zesty, grassy flavour that was quite unlike other soba noodles I’ve had. archipelago menu eclectic restaurant london

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Being a Scorpio myself, I couldn’t leave Archipelago without trying the chocolate-dipped scorpion. The waitress warned that it was imperative to chew the tail to prevent the stinger from doing any damage as it made its way down my throat, so I was expecting an anthropod of monster proportions. The little critter that turned up however was dwarfed by the slate it was resting on. The chocolate was dark and a little bitter, but otherwise unremarkable. Sadly, the same could also be said of the little scorpion – apart from a crispy, shell-like texture very similar to that of the locusts there’s little to be said for it. Archipelago is certainly an opinion divider, but those with a taste for fun and whimsy will fast forgive the scale of the dainty scorpions for the novelty of eating zebra. exotic meat London restaurant

 archipelago London dress code
crocodile London eat crocodile London

Archipelago London restaurant address: 53 Cleveland Street, London, W1T 4JJ
Archipelago opening hours: Monday-Friday 12-2.30pm; then 6-10.30pm
Open Saturdays 6-10.30pm

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