Archipelago is a small, intimate restaurant tucked quietly away from the chaotic streets of London with the emphasis very much on the exotic.
On arrival, you’re greeted by the soothing sounds of music from the east, candlelit tables, extravagant peacocks and palms that obscuring you from other guests.
Archipelago transports you to an oasis that could be taken from a book. At the end of the restaurant a large golden Buddha which looks down on guests with a calm, meditative gaze.
I was seated in a plush armchair. with the menu – in the form of a rolled parchment – poking out from a small wooden box on my table. It listed an assortment of exotic dishes ranging from the safe, confit duck to the daring insect salad.
There are plenty of options to satisfy adventurous or not-so-adventurous tastes.
My anticipation for the starters – especially the python – grew as I waited for it to be served. I was keen to find out what snake tasted like; the waitress had warned us that python is a “very chewy” meat.
Although at first I thought she was exaggerating, as soon as I took a bite I knew why she had placed emphasised on “very”. It was dry, chewy and sadly, bland. Other condiments were provided to make the dish more exciting, but after the first mouthful I was ready to move on to the next course.
Crocodile was a tastier, more exciting dish. However, the meat was slathered in a thick, spicy paste, so it was difficult to know what the actual crocodile tasted like.
It seemed to be more succulent than the python, which I was thankful for. Wrapped in vine leaves and paired with bitter, crunchy passion fruit, the texture and ingredients complimented each other well.
There are plenty of mains to choose from. I chose kangaroo, however it failed to excite me. The meat was tough, despite being cooked medium-rare.
The side-dish was a more interesting experience. I’m not normally a salad girl but when I saw ‘Lovebug Salad’ I knew I had to try it as I’d never eaten insects before. When it came out, I expected only a small portion of insects, but my greens were infested with mealworms and two large-sized locusts. The insects were crunchy and left behind a slight barbecue taste. The locusts tasted similar to Twiglets.
For dessert, I wanted to complete the exotic experience and picked the ‘bushman’s cavi-Eer’. Archipelago adds their own twist to the traditional caviar, replacing fish eggs with a combination of mealworms mixed with peanut butter and caramel.
This is served bilinis, with coconut cream and vodka jelly. The mealworm caviar did not have a distinct taste; the peanut butter overpowered the dish whilst the mealworms added crunch. It was a light finish to the meal.
The staff were friendly and knowledgeable about the menu and encouraged me to finish the bug salad. The atmosphere and decor was very cosy and sitting in my comfortable armchair I felt relaxed and snug.
Would I revisit Archipelago? Sadly, I was disappointed by the whole ‘exotic’ experience. Expecting thrilling, unique-tasting food, instead, it failed to meet my expectations.
The dishes are also very expensive, so expect to dig deep into your pockets. Are they worth the price? Only for the novelty of eating something decidedly unusual – I can now tick python and crocodile off my list.
Perhaps planning a trip to Asia to enjoy the culture and exotic food there would be more adventurous and worth the expense.
Archipelago, 53 Cleveland Street, London W1T 4JJ
All images copyright Jasmine Perkins