London’s sense of culinary adventure has brought some pretty unusual platefuls to the table. Here’s our favourite offcuts and offal…
1 Testicles at Testi
As any experimental Londoner knows, not all genitals taste good. Animal penis is often made into chew toys for dogs because it’s nearly impossible to digest. Testicles, on the other hand, are renowned for their taste. In particular, plump lamb’s gonads, covered in crawling red veins, make for an exciting mouthful. They can be found skinned and skewered at many an east London Turkish grill – including the aptly name Testi in Stoke Newington. This is probably the only time you’ll tolerate your companion playing with their balls at dinner.
2 Calf’s brain at Bibendum
Feeling brainy, London? Head to swanky Bibendum in Fulham for a gory gourmet feast. On the menu is deepfried calf’s brain, atop a delightful Lyonnaise salad with a sweet dipping sauce. You can’t help but feel like Hannibal Lecter when scooping out this wobbly organ, which tastes a bit like a savoury marshmallow. To be honest, the whole experience is a bit of a headfuck.
3 Sea cucumber at Hakkasan
Not, as its name would suggest, a vegetable – it’s a leathery-skinned, animal distantly related to the starfish. Some varieties look like a spiky alien slug, others look like a penis, which may account for its reputation as an aphrodisiac. So you might want to try it if you’re on a hot date at slick Chinese restaurant Hakkasan. The flavour is mild, more like a mouthful of Grimsby sea air than a taste, but they absorb flavours in braises and soups. Not easy to get a hold of, apparently, so you’ll have to order in advance if you fancy some.
4 Ducks’ tongues at Viajante
You don’t need to be quackers to try this next delicacy. Ducks’ tongues. Yes, ducks have tongues and you can eat them. Surrounded by a faint hint of meat and papery thin layers of cartilage, this morsel is packed full of tasty pockets of fat. Chef Nuno Mendes serves them with a portion of brill at his fashionable Viajante restaurant in Bethnal Green.
5 Garlic locusts at Archipelago
Bush tucker adventurers should head to Archipelago in Fitzrovia – with locusts, kangaroo, frogs’ legs and zebra all featuring on the eclectic menu. The locusts are a favourite, pan-fried in garlic and chilli – a satisfying pop upon first bite releasing a gooey mouthful of buttery locust innards. Mmm…
6 Jellied eels at Tubby Isaacs
A pot of jellied eels is about as London as you can get. The slippery fellas are cooked with water, salt and parsley, then set in the gelatine they release. In Victorian times eels were a cheap and readily available source of nutrition for cockney types. But it seems they have fallen out of favour since tastebuds have become more cosmopolitan. Tubby Isaacs is probably the most famous vendor of this authentic East End classic left in town.
7 Meat fruit at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Looks like an orange, tastes like chicken. This is the signature wacky dish at Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner in the plush Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Aptly, this appetiser looks like a mandarin, complete with a leaf, but beneath the glossy, tangy jelly is chicken liver parfait. As always with Heston, there’s more than meats the eye to his culinary wizardry.
8 Nose to tail at St John
Fergus Henderson goes the whole hog when it comes to serving up a pig. Here’s a chef who wastes no part of the animal, including the knobbly and wobbly bits – he’s the king of what’s known by foodies as ‘nose-to-tail eating’. Trotters, heads, liver and lungs get pride of place on his menu at the much-lauded St John. It’s offally good.
9 Acorn praline at Dabbous
Acorns are usually pig food. But when cooked properly, they have an earthy, smoky nuttiness. And chef of the moment Ollie Dabbous obviously knows how to serve them – longside a cut of barbecued Iberico pork at his trendy Fitzrovia eatery. The five-star restaurant has an eight-month waiting list for diners. Now that is nuts.
10 Blood and chocolate pâté at Bocca Di Lupo
Ever wished that your delicious chocolate pud was slathered with pig’s gore? Us neither. Even to an omnivore, a sweet pâté of pig’s blood and chocolate with sourdough bread sounds a bit horrid, but this Calabrian dessert is actually a palatable, tangy experience – for chocoholic vampires, anyway.
Find out more tasty delights at timeout.com/food.