Although many consider Halloween to be a very American holiday, us Brits have a distinct fascination with the macabre running through our collective veins. Was it not here, after all, where many of the greatest Gothic authors were born and bred? The Yorkshire town of Whitby was part of the inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s Dracula, while Mary Shelley was born and raised in London. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde whilst visiting Bournemouth, and Oscar Wilde used London’s underground opium dens to inspire debauched intrigue in The Picture of Dorian Grey.
London is often at the heart of horror stories. With its old buildings, winding cobbled streets, narrow passageways and sinister history, it lends itself to ghoulish stories. From Jack the Ripper to the Great Plague, London has had its fair share of horror. Perhaps this is why we seem to relish the time of year comes when Halloween begins to rear its delightfully ugly head once again.
The restaurant scene jumps on the Halloween bandwagon with particular gusto, and this year has gone above and beyond. Creepy pop ups have taken hold; Les Enfantes Terribles theatre company brings us the immensely popular Dinner at the Twits, where questionable cocktails and gruesome gastronomy take the stage. Even the humble pastry cannot escape the horror, with Frankenstein hybrids such as Dominique Ansel’s ‘cronut’ selling out within hours of hitting London.
We also seem to be developing a taste for the gruesome. No more the reserve of flesh-eating zombies, brains, blood and offal are on the up in kitchens around the capital. Clipstone are serving ox tongue with carrots and pickled radish, while the Japanese soul food joint Nanban is offering twice cooked pig tripe with spicy miso. Our pick of the bunch is the spiced venison, liver and lamb brain with Malabar Parotta at Lotus; a deliciously spiced, melt in the mouth dish that will make you completely forget its squeamish origins.
If blood and guts just aren’t your thing, fear not. Halloween has manifested itself in slightly more palatable ways in menus around the city. Shoryu’s ‘Dracula Ramen’ features caramelised black garlic mayu and garlic chips to ward off those vampires in the most delicious way possible. Meanwhile, Benito’s Hat are celebrating El Dia de los Muertos, otherwise known as Day of the Dead, with their blood red ‘Devil’s Margarita’.
Whether you are tricking, treating or just eating this Halloween, embrace the Halloween spirit and relish the culinary experiments that come with it.