What Does London Taste Like?

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 17 months ago
What Does London Taste Like?

What does London taste like?

It's a question that cropped up in the office, and soon had us pondering the pitfalls of being caught licking the dome of St Paul's Cathedral.  

And then we came across a man who could help.

We asked James Wannerton, a synesthete, to taste London for us.

James Wannerton is president of the UK Synaesthesia Association. He has what's called lexical-gustatory synaesthesia — a condition whereby he can taste words.

He has previously created the Synaesthesia Tube Map, and this time we gave James a 'menu' of London landmarks to sample. The results are strange and rather fascinating. Lumpy mashed potato is reccurring (which makes sense when you realise that lumpy mashed potato='London'.)

And there are a few combinations that all but the hardiest of pregnant women would gag at.

James explains, "The landmarks listed have always given me the exact same taste and texture from when they first appeared to me. This taste and texture is automatic, involuntary and can't be switched off or turned down."

London Eye

Photo: Andrea Pucci.

"Lumpy mashed potato and baked beans mixed together."

Tower of London

Photo: Richardr.

"Ginger beer and lumpy mashed potato."

House of Commons

Photo: Scott Baldock.

"Vanilla ice cream and lemon sponge cake." (Sound delicious. But it's a shame it's not HP Sauce.)

Big Ben

Photo: luca bardazzi.

"Fruit Pastilles and tinned carrots." Very different from The Houses of Parliament as a whole.

The Gherkin

Photo: Andy kirby.

"Marzipan." Nothing like a gherkin then.

Tower Bridge

Photo: Javier Ayala.

"Ginger beer and pork pie."

M&Ms World

"Pear drops." Well, at least it's confectionery.

St Paul's Cathedral

Photo: Mark Etienne Photography.

"Sprouts."

Billingsgate Market

"Bacon and chocolate digestives."

Buckingham Palace

"Sliced, raw carrot."

Royal Albert Hall

Photo: Anatoleya.

"Yoghurt."

Harrods

Photo: Steve Fitch.

"Carrots."

Cutty Sark

Photo: Paul Barber.

"Sliced, hard boiled egg."

The Shard

Photo: Ian Horne.

"Cream soda."

The Walkie-Talkie

Photo: Maggie Jones.

"Shortbread biscuits."

London Zoo

Photo: DAVID HOLT.

"Lumpy mashed potato and dirty, hard marzipan."

The Orbit

Photo: P1ay.

"Gobstopper."

While all of this may sound rather kooky, James is keen to point out that synaesthesia is a very real and well-researched neurological condition — not simply the product of an over-active imagination.

As he explains "My own personal synaesthetic experiences produce a real mouth-feel and not simply an association. It becomes 'personal' for me because putting things in your mouth is an intrusive and personal experience."

"If you don't like the taste of something, you tend to dislike that something and the effects last a lifetime and rarely change. Flavours you disliked as a child usually carry on over into adulthood. This applies to every person, object or situation I happen to come across."

You can also start to work out what various other landmarks taste like for James. So although we didn't ask him what London Bridge tastes like, using the above information, we can conclude it's lumpy mashed potato and pork pie.

We were, we must say, slightly disappointed to discover that James found we tasted like a green bean.

Last Updated 27 September 2016