Eating Balls in Stoke Newington

Have you ever felt the urge to find out what a pair of testicles taste like? No, me neither.

But I thought, why not? As a meat eater, isn’t it hypocrisy to make judgements about different cuts of meat? Isn’t it wrong to say that one’s better than the other? Have I posed enough hypothetical questions to excuse my testicle-eating now?

Good. Let’s go and eat some balls.

I didn’t want to go on my own as I wasn’t sure I could actually bring myself to eat the stuff. My intestines can be bad with entrails sometimes. If I eat kidney I feel like I’m getting a golden shower with every mouthful. Not a great feeling.

“Would you come with me to Stoke Newington to eat some balls?” I asked the beautiful, ballsy Paula Wik.

“Sure, I ate brains in Istanbul last week,” she answered, showing me a picture on her phone of a brain surrounded by some decorative greens. Lovely. I had an accomplice.

When we rocked up to the restaurant – aptly named Testi – the staff offered to show us the balls straight away. The chef beamed as he revealed the biggest ballsack I’d ever seen. It was pale pink, veiny and downright beautiful in the autumn sun shining in through the window – and a lot bigger than I’d imagined.

  • A chef prepares testicles for cooking at Testi
    A chef prepares testicles for cooking at Testi

Paula and I stared with wide eyes like two children in awe of a Christmas tree. The chef put it on a chopping board, made some incisions, cut away some veiny bits and pulled out a couple of lean, clean looking cuts of meat. They didn’t look so scary anymore.

“Would you like to hold a testicle?” the friendly waitress asked. She gave us a pair of latex gloves each. “For the smell,” she explained.

She picked up two fresh, unprepared testicles from a container and plopped them into our hands. They were heavy in my palm, like a ripe, plump avocado.

A smell was slowly finding its way into my nostrils, one I could only describe as how I imagine it would smell like if you lifted up the ballsack of Satan himself and put your nose in there. Pretty. Pungent. Stuff.

I tried to breath through my mouth and think about a summer meadow. A testicle holds so much symbolism about life. I get the same feeling looking at an egg sometimes. Eyeballs too. The beginning of everything, the circle of life, our similarities to other animals.

In the book Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille, there’s a continuous stream of references to these objects – testicles, eyeballs and eggs. Near the end, one of the main characters inserts a bull’s testicle into her vagina. I had no similar impulses as I stood there holding the giant bollock.

After a while, my thoughts stopped racing. The fear and confusion subsided. The chef smiled. A few moments later he photobombed us.

I’d been on a vegetarian streak for a good few days and now I chose to end it by eating testicles. 

He marinated the testicles with oil and spices and they started to look pretty tasty. We were getting hungry. The testicles were then laid to grill over the open fire.

We ordered a couple of glasses of red wine and a plate of cold mezze. After a while the testicles were carried to our table, gracefully laid out next to a pile of rice and some tomatoes. We drank deeply from our wine glasses.

The moment of truth had come. I tentatively organised a bit of pomegranate onion with a bit of testicle on my fork. I put the fork slowly towards my mouth and said a silent prayer.

I’d been on a vegetarian streak for a good few days and I was choosing to end it by eating testicles.

Then it was in my mouth. I chewed slowly. Hey! It wasn’t bad! Not bad at all. I saw Paula having the same revelation. Chewing slowly at first, her face lit up, and a smile spread across it.

Where I’d expected a tough, depressing texture and a spunky taste, there was instead softness and succulence. As much of a tired cliché as it is: it tasted a bit like chicken.

We happily finished almost the entire plate. The waitresses looked at us with a look that said ‘wow, you girls really like balls.’ Only one bite was left. I asked to take it home with me in a doggy bag.

Those single glasses of wine went straight to our heads – maybe we absorbed some testosterone from the testicles as well. I felt invincible and like I could wrestle someone to the ground.

I don’t think I’ll eat balls anytime soon again. In fact I haven’t had any meat since our gonad adventure. I think that’s one of the benefits with nose-to-tail eating: you’re confronted with the reality of meat, that you’re eating a part of something’s body. And that can be a very sobering experience.

And you know, life is like a box of chocolates – sometimes you just end up with nuts in your mouth. Sorry I had to. I’m going to go and eat some kale and quinoa now.

To try grilled testicles for yourself head to Testi, 38 Stoke Newington High Street, London, N16 7PL

Photography by Callie Vaught