Last year the editors were persuaded by our chef, Ed Latter to sample the dining experience at Pembrokeshire’s Grub Kitchen – the restaurant that is a part of Dr Sarah Beynon’s Bug Farm near St. David’s (on the Fishguard road). Now featured on BBC 2 as The Grub Couple we thought we would share again our experience of dining at the Grub Kitchen. Here is Ed’s review…
“The toilets are over the courtyard. Head for the light by the door, go through and it the other side. Then follow the path to the horse stables. They’re in there.” I already knew that this was going to be an unusual dining experience, but the fabulously random nature of Lower Harglodd Farm lends itself to pushing your boundaries and to think outside the box. Need a pee? Well then you’re trudging through the rain to get there. Want to eat? Well then you’d better be prepared for Black Ants, Crickets and Mealworms.
I’d been directed to the toilets by Dr Sarah Beynon, a Pembrokeshire girl come home, the driving force behind her bug farm and all round thoroughly impressive person. You know, the type of person who makes you wish you’d tried a little harder at this or that in school.
Originally set up as a research centre for the equally entomologically obsessed, Dr Beynon’s Bug Farm developed into an educational centre and now, an unlikely foodie stop off. It was a wild January evening in Pembrokeshire, and I’d managed to convince three victims to come and push their culinary boundaries with me at the UK’s only insect restaurant.
The Grub Kitchen – the UK’s only insect restaurant is more than an oddity. Chef Andy Holcroft produces outstanding cuisine. A MUST visit!
There are sound political and philosophical reasons for encouraging the use of insects in everyday foods. High in protein and low in fat, easy to cultivate and devoid of the usual concerns about animal welfare, insects are seen by some as the panacea to the insatiable attitude of the west for meat products. However, this is a food article not a political soap box. Ultimately, if the food tastes bad, there is no way that insects will be on the dinner tables of families across Wales. Fortunately, the Grub Kitchen is being steered through choppy, uncharted waters by Andy Holcroft, mad scientist, and leading chef, behind the dishes and Sarah’s Bugsy to her Malone.
For anyone obsessed with ecology, sustainability and protecting the natural world, the ingredients that Andy uses are of the highest order. Freshly caught Crab straight out of the Irish Sea was mixed with a simple Hollandaise and piled on top of some lightly griddled Bruschetta. Rich, buttery and moreish – how anyone can prefer Lobster is beyond me. No insects in that, but we didn’t have to wait for long. A beetroot, fennel and smoked goats cheese salad was stunning in it’s own right – clean flavours of earthy beetroot and the light smoking of the goats cheese sat side by side with the sweetness of the fennel. What also sat on the salad was a sprinkling of black ants. Before anyone asks, yes they looked like ants and yes they crunched in your mouth. But once you get around the mental block of them being ants – actual proper ants – they add a different texture and a zesty flavour to the salad that really brings the whole thing together. So 1-0 to the insects. Among other starters, we also ate bug bhajees, with a lovely homemade flatbread, Tzatziki (fresh, clean and delicious) and a warming seasonal soup with a Cricket crumb on the top. Again, executed brilliantly.
Main courses were equally mind boggling. I ate a dish of Gnochhi with a caramelized cauliflower puree, white wine sauce and multitude of insects mixed through. This was more of a challenge as there were lots of them and they were big. Cue a few bits of deep-breathing and eye-closing before taking my first mouthful. Again, the dish itself was cooked beautifully. The Gnocchi was light and fluffy, the puree indulgent and the insects, whilst a step up from Black Ants in terms of the texture, added a nutty flavour to the dish that was very pleasant. My colleagues had a Bug Burger – blended together and finished with Gruyere and polenta chips – which is an excellent introduction to eating insects if you’re feeling a bit squeamish.
All in all eating at the Bug Kitchen was an experience not to be missed.
Would I take someone there on a first date? Probably not, I’d imagine there are safer options. But in terms of a food experience unlike any other, the Grub Kitchen will blow you away. Go with a group of friends, an open mind and an open mouth and it may just make you think differently about food forever.
To watch Sarah and Andy on BBC click here