Pestaurant Pop-up by Rentokil
One New Change, London, EC4M 9AP (map)
Bug exterminators, Rentokil are holding a pop-up insect restaurant today at One New Change. If you’re never tried ‘Salt & Vinegar Crickets’, ‘Scorpion Lollipops’ or ‘Chocolate Dipped Ants’ here’s your chance.
As part of their 85th year anniversary Rentokil are celebrating decades of pests killing experience with a one day pop-up restaurant in The City of London. They are serving Entreés, a Main Course and Desserts for free to anyone wanting fried, dried, or chocolate coated insects. For those who are less adventurous, you can skip the entrée and dessert. Stick to the more familiar main course of “Pigeon Burger” (pigeon, venison and bacon).
- Salt & Vinegar Crickets
- Crispy BBQ Mealworms
- Sun-dried Emperor Moth Larvae (Mopane Worms)
- Sweet Chilli Pigeon Burger
- Chocolate-dipped Grasshoppers
- Chocolate-dipped Ants
- Blueberry Scorpion Lolly
I spoke to David Cross, Head of Technical Training Academy at Rentokil about the project. Curiously, I did not see him eat a single insect at lunchtime.
INTERVIEW: David Cross, Head of Technical Training Academy, Rentokil
Why has Rentokil created this ‘bug pop-up’?
“It’s celebrating Rentokil’s 85 years of hard work controlling pests in the UK. We also have our experts here on-hand to answer any questions you have about pests or the food.”
Are there any benefits of eating insects instead of meat?
“There is a lot more protein in insect than meat. Pound for pound, crickets have four times as more protein than chicken and half the number of calories. Insects also also contain trade elements of potassium and sodium which are needed by the body”.
I’ve heard a suggestion that you’re emptying out the day’s ‘catch’ from your vans…
“[laughs] No! All the food here has been farmed for human consumption”
How have people reacted to the food here today?
“We expected everyone to be a little hesitant, but the reaction has been amazing. Everyone’s been tucking in [gestures to the 'starter' table which is 3 people deep]
There is a lot of talk about insects becoming part of a regular diet, do you think this will happen?
“I don’t see why not. It’s just a case of getting used to it”
So, did you try any insects?
Yes – I tried everything on offer. The only thing I didn’t sample was the scorpion encased lollypop. But I have one in my bag for later.
Putting my food critic hat on. The pigeon burger was nice and gamey, cooked to a solid medium, fresh salad garnish was peppery and complemented the meat well. All the standard sauces were on offer. The mealworms I sprinkled on top added a bit of crunch but not flavour.
All of the entreés tasted very similar to my ‘un-insect-refined’ palate with the unsurprising exception of the ‘Salt & Vinegar Crickets’ and the ‘BBQ Mealworms’ which reminded me of… Salt & Vinegar Crisps and BBQ Flavoured Crisps. My initial conclusion is that bugs are the flavour equivalent of escargot of the non-western world. They taste of the sauce they are cooked in.
All the insects and larve I ate had a surprising crispiness, there was no exploding goo coming out of the grubs (See this video of Bear Grylls). The texture varied from ‘puffed rice’ to ‘prawn cracker’ depending on the size of the critter you bite into. The only exception was the dried mapane moth larvae which were a little chewy… the consistency of a stale prawn cracker.
The desserts were all bugs which had been fried or sun dried. From what I could understand, dessert in ‘insectivore-speak’ means “covered in chocolate”. Predictably, everything tasted of… chocolate… Albeit with crispy bits inside. I think I could probably replicate the dessert experience by adding crushed cornflakes or ‘Rice Krispies’ into a chocolate bar.
OVERHEAD ON THE DAY
“I’m a vegetarian… I’m not sure where this fits…”
“Mmmm… crunchy, that Thai Curry one reminds me of Walkers [Crisps]“
“I think I’ll remove that… [stinger on the tail of a scorpion]“
“Do you think they [Rentokil] getting rid of what they’ve caught today”
“This is disgusting, why would anyone eat this stuff… [reaches over and grabs a third handful of mealworms]“
Would I eat bugs again? I don’t see why not, but I won’t be seeking them out anytime soon. If the environmental claims and ability to efficiently feed the growing human population are true we may all be chowing down on insects sooner than we think. After all, 80% of the world’s population already eat bugs without problems. The ‘fussy eaters’ are us, the 20% minority in The West.
PROPOSAL TO THE INSECT MARKETING BOARD
Here’s a suggestion to the insect eating marketing board, (if one exists). To fit in with current naming trend started by “The Cronut” (The ‘croissant-donut’ hybrid) I propose we rename ‘insects’ to a ‘prawn cracker-escargot’ hybrid called “The pra-go” to reflect the ‘prawn cracker texture’ and ‘escargot-like blandness’.
Firstly it’s close enough to the Italian word ‘prego’ to confuse non-Italian speakers who might assume it’s a long lost Italian delicacy.
Secondly, if you consider that ‘prego’ when used in the context of opening a door means “after you” or “you first” I believe it’s perfect for anyone who has never tried insects before. Whaddya think?