For a touch of the exotic then look no further than the Archipelago restaurant dining experience.
Nestled on an unassuming street in London’s Fitzrovia district is an exotic enclave of the weird and wonderful, mixing gastronomic excitement with gustative satisfaction.
Walking in is like entering a Moroccan riad, decorated with the spoils of a lifetime of adventure in far-flung corners of the globe. Making our way through the palm trees and peacock feathers, we were seated beside a giant golden Buddha, framed by African tribal masks and vintage maps of the world. The ground floor seating area is well contained, small yet private, with the intimate feel enhanced by the engulfing and eclectic mix of travel-related ornaments and paraphernalia, setting an avant-garde, dusky tone, bordering on the romantic.
Once nestled into a cosy corner seat in the restaurant, the journey began with a theatrical introduction and menu talk-through from the erudite and engaging maître d’, with the menus delivered in a treasure chest and adorned with exotic flowers. Another novelty touch was the hand towels to freshen up with before the food was presented: unveiled as tiny small discs which dramatically grew in size when placed on to a warmed bowl of moistened rose petals, they helped set the scene for the food to come. Along with this, we sampled cocktails from the drinks menu – a highlight being the bloody mary, served with a pipette of specially prepared spicy liquid – only for the brave!
The service was attentive throughout and the explanations of each dish really engaged you with the overall experience and, after following the recommendations of the house, we were not disappointed by our starters: crocodile, seasoned and wrapped in vine leaves and served with plums and samphire, and zebra ‘jerky’ with garlic and ginger oil.
All very delicious, with the carefully crafted combinations of ingredients enhancing the exotic flavours and textures of the meats. Head chef, Daniel Creedon, is definitely not relying on gimmicks and marketing to deliver the goods here – the dishes really do speak for themselves, and they look stunning.
One snag for the oenophile was the limited wine list. The only one we were offered was the house red (which transpired to be a decent Tempranillo), but perhaps we were not forthright enough in our request, maybe you just need to be a bit wilder in a place like this?
That brings me back to the maître d’, Sasha, who is deserving of a special mention here. She is very straight-talking, to the point of being ‘rude’, but then it is all theatre. On the python vodka, which has an actual snake in the bottle: “What’s wrong with you? Are you not a man? This will make you strong like an ox!” On the kangaroo skewers: “If you want lamb, then go next door!” All-round very entertaining and great fun.
For the mains, we had marinated kangaroo skewers with candy beetroot and red onion salad with added ‘wildlife’ (mealworms and locusts which, incidentally, taste a bit like burnt toast) and the bison rump steak. All the meats were tasty, gamey and succulent, with the added flavours and garnishes, too many to list here, enhancing and complimenting the outlandish, yet refined, dishes. Truly an exotic and exciting ‘man food’ experience, and not to be missed.