Travelling the world at Archipelago…

archipelago image (22)

If the idea of another night out eating chicken, beef or maybe, and let’s really push the boat out here, prawns is failing to rock your world…

If you want to sample food from around the globe without the jet-lag or hideous passport photos…

If you want to take someone special somewhere that may very well blow their minds and their taste buds, Archipelago is the destination you’ve been looking for.

Hidden away on a side street in west London, this is not the place you wander past and think ‘hey, let’s give that a go’. It’s not the place to take anyone whose most adventurous culinary adventure to date is cous cous. It’s the place to book in advance for a taste experience unlike any other you’re likely to get in the big smoke. Oh, and don’t forget your password because you ain’t getting in without it…

After entering an exotic cosy room laden with artifacts from across the planet, you’r encouraged to wash your hands in a manner that sets the tone for the evening…small bowls of warm water with flowers that open into delicate cloths. Perusing a menu full of animals only seen on David Attenborough’s Christmas card list, it’s a little overwhelming and it’s hard to know where to start but start you must and I definitely recommend going with at least one other person so you effectively get to sample multiple dishes…

Diving in, we began with Cayman Islands, crocodile wrapped in vine leaves and served with honey poached plums and pickled samphire. The crocodile meat, which looked not unlike fresh pink salmon, was soft and warm with a delicate salty flavour to it, complemented beautifully by the tang of the samphire and the warmth of the plums.

Our other starter was the Burmese Embrace, with the main ingredient probably the one that blew my mind the most…python. Yep, the ultimate cuddle giving reptile was going to be served on my plate in the form of sweet chilli smoked carpacchio with green tea and wasabi crackers and olive puree. The python neither looked or tasted like I expected but really, I can’t even tell you what that would have been. Pale in colour, small in size, with a slightly chewy texture and a salty flavour that worked well with the puree and crackers, it was the one dish of the night that I was glad I tried but that my head couldn’t stop saying ‘yeah, but it’s python! You hear me…python!’

archie 1b archie 2b

We went to America for the mains…native with a Pontiac Rodeo, bison steak served with twice baked blue potatoes and an asian salad and south, with the Peruvian Jumper, jerk alpaca with a cornmeal slice, buttermilk jelly and patecones. Now this was the meal I could happily have eaten again. Mine and his.

Sweet bison steak cooked to perfection with a fresh, cooling salad and potatoes that were delicious but which caused J much consternation. They smelled like potatoes but had a bluey cheesy look and a texture not dis-similar to cauliflower meaning the brain was slightly confused. The tummy however was delighted.

The alpaca was the star of the night for me though – cooked in jerk spices that had a definite kick to them, it was presented looking like pulled pork and, together with the cornmeal and buttermilk jelly which were much needed to refresh the mouth between bites, it was absolutely delicious. The patecones were beyond moreish – made from plantains and with a sweet taste and chewy texture, a whole plate of these alone would have disappeared without any effort at all.

archie 3b archie 4b

Now this was not a dining experience to be frugal with so dessert wasn’t even a question. Cue An Englishman Abroad and Mediaeval Hive; sweet and fruitily sharp acai, hibiscus and raspberry jelly with gorgeously creamy avocado puree and pistachio cream and brown butter ice-cream with honey and caramel sauce and a baby bee. Yep. Sat atop a mound of honey sweet goodness was a caramelised bee. Well, how many times are you going to get a chance to eat that? And how was it? Crunchy and sweet and, I must confess, somewhat hidden on my spoon under everything else. Not something I’m going to need to do again soon but glad I did it once.

archie 5b archie 6

So that is Archipelago. Go for a unique eating experience. Go to broaden your taste and to taste things you just don’t find on every corner. Go, be brave, pick the strangest thing on the menu and pat yourself on the back when you’re done because not only will it have been worth it, it will have been more delicious that you ever expected.

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