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Snail snack slips down so easily

PUBLISHED: 17:42 28 May 2008 | UPDATED: 15:48 16 August 2010

SHELLING OUT: Jules tucks in.

SHELLING OUT: Jules tucks in.

NATIONAL Escargot Day, a celebration of the slippery garden visitors, fell last Saturday and inspired chefs at Café Rouge to invite the Times to try their one-off slither-menu.

NATIONAL Escargot Day, a celebration of the slippery garden visitors, fell last Saturday and inspired chefs at Café Rouge to invite the Times to try their one-off slither-menu.

I would usually feel guilty about crunching a snail underfoot, but on this occasion I agreed to dive into a plate of snails like a famished starling.

For £4.59, your waiter can shell out a plate of cooked snails with garlic butter, with the optional addition of spinach with goat's cheese or mushrooms.

Apparently, the best snails are said to be three or four years old, and have been subjected to a two-week fast to clear the digestive system.

My French waiter tells me my snails came from Bourgogne, but assures me I could eat the blighters in my own back garden should I wish. I decline.

Each snail-snack is helpfully camouflaged by a facade of topping, so at a glance things are not too scary.

My unshelled snails are only about 5cm long and are curled into happily bite-sized circles, although I'm told they can reach a frightening 15 inches.

Their flavour was very rich and a little salty. Once over my irrational belief that they tasted like a scoop of garden debris, the snails were thoroughly enjoyable.

The thick texture, akin to mussels, means that a mouthful takes a little chewing, which gives more time to enjoy the flavour.

While the goat's cheese was delicious, it overpowered the snail flavour, whereas mushrooms complemented it.

But a word of advice for the squeamish - it is best not to inspect your meal too closely. You may find yourself wondering what all the squiggly parts of your meal's undercarriage are. Ignorance is certainly bliss on this occasion. Café Rouge's snail menu is available until this Sunday.

jules.cooper@archant.co.uk

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