London Restaurant Dishes That Sound Disgusting (But Are Actually Delicious)

Helen Graves
By Helen Graves Last edited 18 months ago
London Restaurant Dishes That Sound Disgusting (But Are Actually Delicious)
The temptingly named Saliva Chicken. Photo by Su Lin on Flickr.

Saliva Chicken

Yep. Saliva Chicken is actually the name of the dish. At least, that's the way it's listed on many Sichuan menus in London. It's an unfortunate (literal) translation, as it really means that the chicken is mouth-watering and in that sense, it lives up to its name.

A dish of poached chicken in chilli oil, it is served cold and thinly sliced, the wobbly skin still on top. If that doesn’t sound appetising then we must encourage you to give it a try – the slippery texture is addictive and that chilli oil will keep you dipping your chopsticks back into the bowl for another slice.

Boiled Lamb Bones

Now, bear with us. This is one of many brilliant dishes on the menu at Silk Road, a Xinjiang-style restaurant in Camberwell. Now famous, it serves unfussy, powerfully flavoured food that's hard to replicate at home (oh, how we've tried).

South east Londoners will reel off its greatest hits whenever prompted, saying, "get the lamb skewers, home-style cabbage, middle plate chicken…" and they're right, but no one ever bigs up the boiled lamb bones.

You’ll need a few of you to share this dish, which is basically some big old knobbly lamb bones, but clinging to those bones are pieces of tender yet very gnawable meat, so the idea is to pick up a bone and get nibbling. The whole lot is covered in salty stock and soft onions. Sounds weird? It's fantastic — a real treat for those who like their food super savoury.

The Deep Throater is actually a kebab. Phew.

The Deep Throater

This is not something one seeks out in Soho but a kebab at one of London’s trendiest openings of 2015 — Black Axe Mangal. This rock-themed kebab restaurant in Islington has a giant penis painted on the floor out front and a questionable approach when it comes to menu and sign writing (there seems to be a bit of a penis obsession all-round).

If you can get past that though, and the fact that the music is so loud you'll need to shout at your friends, this kebab is pretty tasty. It's not for the faint hearted either, smothered in Sichuan pepper and cumin, with a mutton and anchovy kebab inside. Punchy.

The aesthetically challenged Century Egg. Photo by Lee LeFever on Flickr.

Hundred Year Egg

What? An egg that's a hundred years old?! Well, no. That would be silly, not to mention smelly. The Chinese produce these eggs (also called century eggs), preserving them for weeks or months in a mixture of clay, salt, ash, quicklime and rice hulls. The result is an alarming colour — the white of the egg turns brown with an amber tinge, its texture like jelly, while the yolk becomes green and creamy.

It can be hard to get past the idea that green = mould = unsafe to eat, but once you do, you'll find these eggs are actually delicious. OK, so they can be an acquired taste, but we love their intense, salty flavour. Try them with green chilli at Shu Castle on the Old Kent Road.

The famous dry meat at Whitechapel's Tayyabs. Photo by Su Lin on Flickr.

Dry Meat

Sounds odd, right? It's certainly true that the meat in this dish is cooked for a long time, but the result is very tender pieces of meat, which are covered in a very thickened sauce, so thickened that it can be described as ‘dry’.

An intense spiced paste clings to each piece of meat, making it insanely moreish and certainly one of the 'must-order' dishes on the menu at Tayyabs in Whitechapel. If you've never been, this Punjabi restaurant is one of London's most popular spots for dishes like grilled lamb chops, seekh kebabs and fluffy naan breads. You'll also do well to order the tinda masala — a dish of curried baby pumpkins.

A fine example of head cheese.

Head Cheese

We don't know who came up with the name head cheese, but it's certainly misleading. It's not dairy cheese at all, but the meat from the head of a sheep or cow, which is chopped up and set in aspic or a gelatin-rich stock.

Some may find this gruesome enough, but a name like head cheese hardly encourages you to order it. It’s actually brilliant, and a thrifty and respectful way to make sure another part of an animal is used up. Try it at restaurants like Brawn in east London.

Heston Blumenthal's meat fruit - there's pate inside, honestly. Photo by Su Lin on Flickr.

Meat Fruit

Meat. Fruit. This is a dish served at Heston Blumenthal's restaurant, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. It's based on a British recipe which dates back to the 1300s and is basically a pate, shaped to look like a fruit.

It’s a chicken liver and foie gras parfait, coated in a mandarin jelly and topped with a leaf. It’s made with such care and precision that it really does resemble a mandarin. Until you cut into it, that is.

Paul A Young's famous Marmite truffles.

Marmite Truffles

OK, so some people hate Marmite, but the flavouring here is actually very subtle. These chocolates are made by chocolatier Paul A Young, who uses just a little of the sticky black stuff to enhance his truffles.

The reason this works is the deep savouriness of the Marmite. Think about it — salt and chocolate works well together, as the sweet-savoury combination is an enjoyable one. These are so good in fact that it's now one of Paul's signature chocs.

Mapo tofu, or Pock Marked Mother Chen's Bean Curd. Photo by kattebelletje on Flickr.

Pock Marked Mother Chen’s Bean Curd

This dish, mapo doufu, is one of the most famous Sichuan recipes. It is named after an old lady who used to serve it at her restaurant in Chengdu, and it quickly became famous as it was so delicious. The old lady's face was marked with smallpox scars, which is how she came to have the affectionate nickname.

The dish consists of cubed tofu cooked with Sichuan chilli bean paste, fermented black beans and sometimes, minced pork. It's fantastic. Most Sichuan restaurants will have it on the menu.

Monkey fingers — actually fried chicken.

Monkey Fingers

Do not fear for the hands of the monkeys at London Zoo, for this is actually fried chicken. Served at Meatliquor N1, W1, Meatmarket and Meatmission, these meaty fingers come buffalo style, in the restaurants’ own blend hot pepper sauce.

The chicken is marinated so it's very tender, then battered and fried until crisp. Covered in hot sauce they're insanely addictive, and there are no bones to bother with, so you can hoover them up like a pro.

We asked Yianni Papoutsis, co-founder of Meatliquor, what the name is all about and he told us: "it was inspired by a wind-up monkey in a computer game. And yes, a surprising amount of people do ask if they're real monkeys' fingers..."

Last Updated 10 August 2016