Saturday, 7 March 2009

Archipelago, Whitfield Street (Restaurant Review)

Late last year, in a vague effort to impress my husband’s work colleagues we introduced them to Archipelago in Bloomsbury, officially one of the most fun places to eat. According to TopTable, “If Archipelago were a film, it would definitely be one of the Indiana Jones series” and it’s a fair assessment.


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The exotic interior (© Archipelago)


From the moment we walked in, our feet crunching on the (indoor) gravel doormat, we knew this would be interesting. The décor is an eccentric mix of golden Buddhas, giant peacock feathers, palm trees and Greek statuary, and the crockery and cutlery are equally mismatched. Moreover, everything in the restaurant is for sale, from Hindu gods to African drums. Last time we went, I picked up a rather nice Burmese lacquerware pot in an old Bagan style.


Even the menu (which came on a beautiful scroll of parchment) features alarming dishes such as “Gigolo’s Packet” and “Mouse in the House” and ingredients such as scorpions, frogs, and 24 carat gold.


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Scorpio! (© Archipelago)


For starters, we chose Cayman Islands, crocodile fillet seared in vine leaves with a plum dipping sauce and Conquistador Conejito, a muddle of rabbit, pickled walnuts & green peppercorns with mole spread. The crocodile was tender and addictive, an odd but pleasing cross between tuna and chicken, and it’s the first time I’ve ever seen the point of vine leaves. The “muddle” was actually a pyramid of rabbity rillettes which went very well with the intense, savoury chocolate mole sauce. There was also Acapulco Reef, a less memorable but equally tasty seafood dish.


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Croc on a rock (© Archipelago)


Main courses were Hottentot's Discovery, seared zebra with a port, juniper and blackcurrant sauce and kai-lan, Serengeti Dusk, peanut crusted wildebeest with sour green mango soba noodle salad, and Hot Marsupial, “Zhug” marinated kangaroo fillet with water spinach and choi.


According to Wookiepedia, “Zhug” were Duros bounty hunters cast out from Duro after attempting to wipe out a rival, politically connected ruling family around the era of the Jedi Civil War. According to Wikipedia, “Zhug” is a Yemenite hot sauce made from ground fresh hot peppers seasoned with coriander, garlic and various spices.


Whatever, the beef-like kangaroo pieces were delicious, as was the wildebeest (or gnu) which reminded me of spring lamb. However, the zebra was by far my favourite, rich and gamey and tasting a little like duck.


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Colombian Fix with curry ice cream


Puddings were just as enticing (or frightening depending on your viewpoint). Choosing from a vintage, leather-bound book, we went for Colombian Fix, serious therapy for the chocoholic, African Sunset, granadilla bavarois topped with 24 crt gold and champagne glaze, and Baby Bee Bruleé, orange blossom honey and stem ginger bruleé with lemon and lime tuille.


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African Sunset


The Colombian Fix was chocolate fondant with an extra pouring pot of hot chocolate sauce, and also a scoop of ice cream – our waiter declared “I bet you can’t guess what flavour that is”. We decided it was either turmeric or cumin – there was a distinct taste of curry which was surprisingly nice – but then promptly forgot to ask for confirmation. The bavarois was no great shakes, but nibbling bits of real gold was fun and we fought over the accompanying brandy snap basket. The crème bruleé was textbook, its sugar shield cracking into shards of burnt caramel, but it was the garnish which distracted me. Nestling on a huge chunk of honeycombed white chocolate was a bee. A real bee. I poked it with my spoon and let out a yelp when it seemed to quiver a little. It turned out that it had been liberally doused in honey - hubby happily polished off both bee and white chocolate, but his only verdict on the former was “Crunchy”.



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Yes, it's a bee. Yes, it's dead.


I mentioned idly to our guests that we'd almost taken them to a place round the corner with allegedly "fabulous toilets" and the waiter overhead and said "Crazy Bear? Yes, their loos are stunning".



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A Visit from the Doctor


We made an attempt to finish our meal with A Visit from the Doctor (no description provided), but the look of fear accompanied by a "I wouldn't recommend it" from the waiter rather put us off and so we decided to call it a night.


As we drifted off, my husband turned to me and said “We just ate wildebeest, zebra, crocodile, kangaroo and bee! We're like Roman Emperors!”. I simply patted his arm and said “Yes, dear.”



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From the menu, we chose:


Starters
Cayman Islands: crocodile fillet seared in vine leaves with a plum dipping sauce £10.50
Acapulco Reef: seafood wok-seared with chilli, lime and coriander seed and green apple tzadziki £9.50
Conquistador Conejito: a muddle of rabbit, pickled walnuts & green peppercorns with mole spread £10.00

Mains
Hottentot's Discovery: seared zebra with a port, juniper and blackcurrent sauce and kai-lan £19.50
Serengeti Dusk: peanut crusted wildebeest (gnu) with sour green mango soba noodle salad £20.50
Hot Marsupial: zhug marinated kangaroo fillet with water spinach and choi £19.00

Desserts
Colombian Fix: serious therapy for the chocoholic £7.00
African Sunset: granadilla bavarois topped with 24 crt gold and champagne glaze £6.50
Baby Bee Bruleé: orange blossom honey and stem ginger bruleé with lemon and lime tuille £7.00


The waiter really didn't want us to have:

A Visit from the Doctor £7.00



Archipelago Restaurant
110 Whitfield Street
Bloomsbury
London W1T 5ED
020 7383 3346


Archipelago on Urbanspoon



2 comments:

  1. I just had the " A Visit from the Doctor " and it was strong but fabulous... They bring you a valise full of homemade liquor and I took the Absinthe with Snake, then Peri-peri gin. And my date had Vanilla Tequila and the goldschlager and Cinnamon. Normaly it should be one shot each, but the waitress was very friendly ! :)
    Try it next time !

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  2. @Rickardo - Sounds brilliant!

    I knew we shouldn't have let the waiter convince us otherwise - thanks for letting me know :)

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Thanks for taking the time to comment!