Emu steak,

30 July 1999

Emu steak,

fried croc,

ant, locust?

Coming up

Want something different to have with

your coffee after dinner? Then forget

After Eights and try chocolate-covered

honey ants. Tim Relf finds an unusual

offering in one Surrey butchers

AT first glance the Parade in Claygate looks like any other row of shops. You can get newspapers there, stamps, flowers, pet food, that sort of thing. But call in at No 24 and youll soon realise it is no ordinary butchers. Because here, among other things, you can buy locusts, snake and crocodile meat.

"We want to become known as the place where you can get the unusual," says Martin Ellis who runs the Game Larder with Sheila Daley.

"Some people want to get a reputation as a host who gives their guests something different. If you want something unusual to impress your friends with, this will work," he says of the exotic food range.

And exotic the range certainly is. Read the notice boards inside and – alongside the beef, lamb and pork cuts that youll find in any butchers – is wild boar, peacock, squirrel, bison, ostrich, emu and kangaroo.

Some of it has to be ordered. The kangaroo meat, for example, comes from Australia and the locust from Africa. "But our imagination is only limited by what we can store and what people want to buy," says Martin.

"We keep a small amount of stock – but we can get stuff very quickly. Were almost selling our knowledge of where to get it."

The interest in crocodile coincided with the growth in Australian theme pubs and the taste, says Martin, is a cross between chicken and fish. Wild boar has the flavour pork used to have. "Its got the most superb crackling youve ever tasted."

And ostrich, he reckons, is like fillet steak used to be – without the gristle. "Its a nicely-flavoured meat, best cooked for a short time. But there again, I do like my meat almost mooing."

The idea behind the venture is simple – it gets people into the shop. And if theyve come in once, hopefully theyll come again. "Its all about creating a niche. Its all about differentiation.

"If you are comparing price with price, you cant compete with the supermarkets – their buying power cripples everyone else. You have to get people to spend more for a better-quality product.

Customers soon become fans of the more unusual meats, says Ron Chamberlain who works in The Game Larder. "People wont risk buying a pound of, say, wild boar – not the first time. They want a sample. Theyre expecting something unpleasant – but are pleasantly surprised," says Ron.

"Simply scrumptious," says Marlene Maguire of the wild boar ribs she barbecued recently. "They were very tender – Ill have them again."

But the most exotic foods, such as locusts, are not for everyone. "I can think of better ways of getting my nourishment," says Claygate resident Ann Rae, who popped in to buy ham and eggs. "Its like eating a pile of grasshoppers. No, I couldnt imagine doing that."

And even Martin has reservations about the locusts. "Id give them a miss every day of the week," he admits.

Recipe suggestions

Locusts: Stir fry in garlic

butter. Serve with honey.

Emu: As for fillet steak. Season with salt and pepper. Fry gently in butter.

Crocodile: Stir fry in butter with mushrooms, onions, red pepper and mange tout with a little ginger. Add cream and serve on a bed of rice.

Kangaroo casserole: Season and brown in hot olive oil a small amount at a time. Return to the pan with red wine, onions and mushrooms. Cook gently for two hours.

Try the unusual, say Ron Chamberlain (above right) and Martin Ellis (right). But the thought of eating locusts doesnt appeal to Ann Rae (above). "I can think of better ways of getting my nourishment,"

she says.

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