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Snail meal slips down so easily

PUBLISHED: 18:14 28 May 2008 | UPDATED: 14:51 25 August 2010

RETICENT: Reporter Jules Cooper appears a little fazed before his first mouthful of snails

RETICENT: Reporter Jules Cooper appears a little fazed before his first mouthful of snails

CAN the gardener s old enemy catch on as a culinary delight in the UK? Jules Cooper finds out…

CAN the gardener's old enemy catch on as a culinary delight in the UK?

Jules Cooper finds out...

National Escargot Day, a celebration of the slippery garden visitors, fell last Saturday and inspired chefs at Café Rouge to invite the Times to try it's one-off slither-menu.

I would usually feel guilty for merely crunching a snail underfoot but in the name of reporting I agreed to dive into a plate of snails like a famished starling.

For £4.59 your waiter can shell out a plate of cooked snails with garlic butter, with the optional addition spinach with goat's cheese or mushrooms.

Apparently, the best snails are said to be three or four years old and subjected to a two-week fast to clear the digestive system.

My French waiter tells me my snails came from Bourgogne, but assures me I could eat the blighters in my own back garden should I wish. I decline.

Each snail-snack is helpfully camouflaged by a facade of topping, so things are not too scary at a glance.

My unshelled snails are only about 5cm long and are curled into happily bite-sized circles, although I'm told they can reach a frightening 15 inches.

Their flavour was very rich and a little salty, and once over my irrational belief that they tasted like a scoop of garden debris, the snails were thoroughly enjoyable.

The thick texture, akin to mussels, means that a mouthful takes a little chewing which gives more time to enjoy the flavour.

Whilst the goats cheese was delicious, it over powered the snail favour, whereas mushrooms complimented it.

But a word of advice for the squeamish - it is best not to inspect your meal too closely.

You may find yourself wondering what all the squiggly parts of your meal's undercarriage are.

Ignorance is most certainly bliss on this occasion.

Café Rouge's snail menu is available until this Sunday.

jules.cooper@archant.co.uk

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