As we departed, a voice said, “the zebra is best, you should return in the evening”. Where were we? Not on an African safari as you might expect, but a restaurant in London’s Fitzrovia where I’d just eaten a very unusual meal.
We stumbled on Archipelago by accident, although my friend had read about it. One dish on the lunch menu outside caught my eye: Ethiopian Berbere spiced kangaroo burger. I’d just booked a holiday to Ethiopia and in all my pre-reading, failed to spot the fact there’d be kangaroos! Although we’d originally being going to get a simple sandwich or perhaps a toasted Panini, we decided the restaurant just had to be tried.
There’s so much to say about Archipelago it’s difficult to know where to start, but I’ll begin with the food.
To try as many dishes as possible, we ordered the sharing platter – Zhug marinaded kangaroo skewer, spicy crocodile bites, jerked alpaca stew, bison steak (instead of a rather passé Mexican spiced belly pork which was off), ratatouille and mashed potato. We asked if we could swap the mash for one of the other sides, but the reply was ‘no’. We declined to add a ‘side order of bugs’ at £2.
The bison looked and tasted rather like a rare minute steak and was delicious. But we felt a little zing was required and ordered a black garlic mayonnaise and chilli relish but both failed to deliver what a dab of Coleman’s English mustard would have. The kangaroo skewer again was tender and as a dark meat, possibly more akin to pork. Our favourite was the alpaca which arrived trendily ‘pulled’. It was dry, but succulent and rather hot with tiny pieces of red chilli in evidence. The croc burgers were like spicy fish cakes with a golden crisp breadcrumb coating. We had a salad of dressed rocket and spinach leaves, the mash and a ratatouille, which rather than having a tomato base, tasted more like a delicious curried piccalilli. We both had a large glass of wine which arrived in a small carafe and was poured at the table.
After plates had been cleared we were presented with an old hardback book with the dessert menu stuck into the middle pages which were marked with a red ribbon stuck with a wax seal. We decided to forgo a pud but were tempted by Bushman’s Cavi-Err (caramel mealworms, bilinis, coconut cream and vodka jelly) or chocolate covered locusts. Instead we settled for a pot of tea.
Everything on our table, including cutlery, water and wine glasses was mis-matched which added a rather quirky flavour and was totally in keeping with the rest of the décor. The place is adorned with artifacts from all over the world: snake skins on the walls, a stuffed peacock in the window, Golden Thai Buddha’s, Indian carvings with all the furnishings being in rich, opulent, glittery colours.
There’s a different menu in the evening when I suspect then the atmosphere changes. The website says it is a Multiple award winner in the 2014 Open Table Diners’ Choice Awards for Special Occasions, Best For Romance and Best Ambience – I can well believe it.
As we left, I asked about the Ethiopian kangaroo and was told it is Aussie kanga marinated in Ethiopian spices: not a combination I expect you see on many menus.
This is not a place to bring a vegetarian or anyone who is slightly squeamish about what they eat. But if you want something very different, then I’d highly recommend it.