Pests provide Londoners with a tasty alternative treat


Posted on August 16, 2013 at 3:47 PM

LONDON (AP) -- You'd usually want them exterminated, but for one day only, they're lunch.

The 'Pestaurant' - staged to celebrate 85 years of international extermination service Rentokill - is serving a unique variety of exotic dishes, giving everyone a taste of a creepy crawly.

From crispy barbecued mealworms to salt and vinegar crickets, a lunch like this is definitely not for the faint-hearted.

If you can stand the taste, 100 grams of crickets contain just 121 calories compared to 288 calories in beef.

But for some, it's all in a days work.

David Cross, head of Rentokill Technical Training Academy says they're used to hunting down such creatures.

"Some of the things that we've actually got on the stand today we would normally find as pests in businesses and in domestic premise. For example we've got the yellow mealworm beetle, or the larvae of the yellow mealworm beetle actually in there. It's been barbequed, so it's barbeque flavour, obviously it's been cultures especially, we've not just pulled these out of people's houses," says Cross.

But that isn't all that's on offer, for the the sweet toothed Pestaurant serves a variety of deserts including chocolate-dipped grasshoppers, chocolate ants and blueberry scorpion lolly pops.

"We've also got in there the house cricket, the domestic house cricket, which we've got there as salt and vinegar flavour. Again, cultured properly and not just dragged out of people's kitchens," says Cross.

Far from being scared away, Londoners can't wait to get their teeth into a creepy crawly.

"Some are salty, some are sweet, you've got the chocolate covered ants over there, but yeah it's terrific," says Anthony Kaye.

Despite being from Vietnam - where insects are sometimes served as delicacies - Chang Nguyen (pronounced "win") says she's still getting used to the fare here.

"Well the sweet stuff looks normal, I mean, you wouldn't tell, you wouldn't be able to tell what it is if you just look at it from outside and if no-one tells you what it is. But the other stuff, I don't know, I'm not sure if everyone will take it. I did try it, it tastes pretty yummy I think," says Nguyen.

Others are less squeamish about feasting on insects.

"The scorpion was interesting, it was crunchy, didn't taste how I thought it would taste. It was actually quite nice, so," says Ryan Brown.

Undoubtedly Pestaurant's signature dish is the sweet chilli pigeon burger cooked with venison and bacon and topped off with a choice of condiment.

While pigeon pie has a long history in European cuisine, pigeon burgers are a relatively new introduction to the British palate.

But rest assured - these aren't the mangy pest pigeons you see fluttering around the city. These are specially bred wood pigeons, farmed away from the city and fattened for the purpose of eating.

Chef Dennis Clifton says the recipe tastes great: "Simple yeah. I haven't even had to add any ingredients to it, no seasonings and anything like that, just the bacon alone adds to the saltiness of the pigeon as well as to the venison. So just natural juices really that's all it is, just keep it simple - just the sauces that people use themselves,".

Edible insects have recently been identified by a number of different bodies, including the UN's Food & Agriculture Organisation, as a potentially valuable source of food for the world's rapidly growing population.

According to the UN, over two billion people worldwide already supplement their diet with insects.

If the success of Pestaurant is anything to go by, there could be few more dining out on insects rather than having them exterminated.