About this time last year I travelled to South East Asia for the fourth time in my life. While Thailand could almost be argued to be a second home to me now, I had never until then ventured that little bit further East to Cambodia and Vietnam. While very similar to Thailand, both of these new countries had their own characteristics, and this was most commonly seen in the style of food served.
South East Asian cuisine is my favourite. It’s colourful and vibrant, eclectic and exciting and is the thing that keeps me returning to this part of the world. It can also be a little exotic; another characteristic I like of my food. And so, one night in Siem Reap after a day of exploring the Angkor Wat temples, we ventured to a place called The Bug Cafe. No prizes for guessing what was on the menu at this place.
Since enjoying that evening of dining out on scorpions, tarantula, meal worms and snake, i’ve had a craving for trying even more weird and wonderful exotic dishes. So when TimeOut began offering vouchers for three exotic courses and a glass of prosecco at Archipelago in Fitzrovia for £25 each, my two best friends and I leapt at the chance.
Archipelago is one of London’s most extraordinary restaurants, hosting a tantalising menu offering meats from around the globe with intriguing twists that bring a familiarity to the table.
Dishes include crocodile wrapped in vine leaves, crickets pan-fried with dried fruits and a carpaccio of python… and that’s just the starters. The mains aren’t quite so extra-ordinary, but there are dishes inspired by every corner of the planet, including South African Bunny Chow and Ethiopian Lamb.
Having enjoyed so many interesting insects whilst in Cambodia, I wanted to use my visit to Archipelago to enjoy some meats I hadn’t tried before.
While it always makes sense to order different dishes you each of you can try as much of the menu as possible, I never restrict myself from ordering the dish I want most if someone else has ordered it too. So the three of us started our meal with the crispy zebra “jerky”, boerewors (a type of sausage popular in South African cuisine), with carrot & ginger fluid gel and biltong soil.
The zebra was outstandingly succulent. It was tender and fell apart, reminiscent in flavour of spare ribs that fall from the bone at the lightest prompt. The meat was sweet and the colourful gels each had a tangy individuality. The biltong soil was a bit of a nothing and added little to the plate – biltong is best in big strips and its a shame this was it’s only feature on the menu. Perhaps they’d do well to offer it as a snack to go along with aperitif – it’s certainly something i’d have ordered.
With our plates were scraped clean our mains soon arrived. Again, Janey and I had ordered the same main dish of Kangaroo Skewers while Beckie ordered the Alpaca with cornmeal slice, buttermilk jelly and patecones, joined by crisp plantain.