Cigalon has been on my gastronomical hitlist for quite some time now. I have never heard anything but praise about this fine dining import from Provence, but for reasons unknown, I haven’t been able to make a visit.
I also feel that due to there being such an expansive range of diverse restaurants on offer in London, narrowing down the list can prove a little laborious.
However, I was informed that Cigalon had just launched an ‘Insect- Inspired Menu’ which sounded far too interesting to ignore, so my guest and I made a bee line for Chancery Lane.
Insect menus aren’t necessarily something new – I have heard of friends trying these sorts of things elsewhere, but to me it often sounds like such a novelty. If my food is going to come with a side of wildlife, I want to understand how these elements can come together to create a delicious dish, I don’t want them to be there just for shock factor.
I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when Cigalon came up with these dishes. Sorry to give away the plot early – but they totally hit the (S)’nail on the head with this one.
Upon walking into Cigalon, my guest and I fell in love with the venue. Whilst the insect menu is running, they also have a butterfly exhibition on. Everywhere you look is beautiful, calm and tranquil.
To kick things off, we ordered cocktails. I went for the fragrant lychee and lavender cocktail. This was a perfumed delight of gin martini with lavender, lychee liquor and lavender bitters.
My guest ordered the Boulevardier which was an amalgamation of Bourbon, Campari and Lillet Rouge. Both beautiful, both powerful.
After perusing the menu, as my guest and I had never been here before, we decided we would make the most of the experience by one of us ordering the insect-inspired menu, and the other à la carte.
(The idea was to share this, so we tried as best we could.)
The waiters were delightful and made a wonderful wine recommendation, the Ile de Beauté – Corsica Domaine Poli 2015 – we genuinely needed and appreciated the advice as it was a Monday night – so we wanted to err somewhat on the side of caution and not get a couple of bottles, but one that would complement both of our very different dinners. The suggestion was superb – full bodied, warm, but not overwhelming or too intense.
For starters, I went for the Duck Foie Gras “Croquette”, Aromatic Artichokes & Tenebrio. I do not understand how someone can make food with insects look so good, so this showcases exceptional skill. The foie grois was coated in meal worms and this gave some much needed crunch as I often find foie gras can lack texture. This balanced the dish beautifully.
My guest opted for the Cured Grey Mullet Carpaccio, Verjuice, Red Currants & Flowers. Which may I just say, was one of the most beautiful dishes I have ever seen. The delicate, finely sliced mullet was as light and fresh as it looked.
For main, I went for the Vermouth-glazed cod with white asparagus and wood ants.
The cod was flaky and moist and the creamy tangy sauce was to die for. I feel obviously, I need to focus on the ant seasoning. This sounds odd, but it was the ants that made it.
The dish was delicate and creamy – delicious in its own right, but the ants genuinely added a really tangy, slightly acidic edge to the fish – which rounded everything off. I was so surprised to find I actually preferred the insect main to the lamb that my guest ordered. If a restaurant knows how to garnish a dish with insects – and make the dish as tasty as this, I am in equal measure, shocked and amazed.
My guest opted for the lamb with artichoke. Of course, we did share, but I let him enjoy the majority of this one to sate his carnivorous appetite. The lamb was perfectly cooked – medium rare with juicy artichokes and a slightly sweet cauliflower purée. This was divine too, and he was happy. However for me, I would order the cod again.
The dishes we had up until this point were just exceptional. We revelled in the incredible flavour combinations but we were slightly doubtful as to how this would translate to dessert.
Clearly uncertainty doesn’t hold me back, as I opted for the sweetcorn and lemon posset with grasshopper. I was so in love with the presentation of this.
The lemon posset was beautiful – everything you would want a sweet creamy citrussy dessert to be, and the sweetcorn added a crunchy element.
I couldn’t believe that when I tried the grasshopper – it also worked. They added a whole other earthy component which was surprisingly welcome and aided alongside the sweetcorn to cut through the sweet lemon dessert.
I honestly would order this again and again – insects included.
My guest selected the iced nougat, cedrat, pear & juniper which was just sublime. The nougat was lighter than air, yet slightly chewy and the marriage between the cedrat (a citrus fruit)pear and juniper was fragrant and delicate.
I have to say, the evening we spent at Cigalon was an absolute pleasure and I strongly urge everyone to check this place out. It’s special.
You feel like you are being whisked away into this provincial paradise. The staff are attentive, friendly and very knowledgeable. The food – insect and A La Carte has most certainly broadened my culinary horizons. It’s quite wonderful to know that there is a restaurant out there who has honed their craft so much so that they can incorporate these unconventional ingredients and still serve food that is tasty – not novel.
What an evening. Cigalon, rub a dub dub, thanks for the grubs.
115 Chancery Lane, London, WC2A 1PP