YES, that’s right, snail eggs, or escargot pearls as they are known to the more discerning reader, are now on the menu at the Paris House restaurant in Woburn.
And in the spirit of a good story, reporter Hayley O’Keeffe visited the Michelin starred restaurant to find out what all the fuss is about.
Well I must admit eating snails eggs has never really crossed my mind, and when a very nice lady called up and asked me if I wanted to give them a try I was a little bewildered.
But after hearing the story behind cottage industry Aylesbury Escargot and how snail eggs came to Paris House from charismatic head chef Phil Fanning I thought, “bring it on, you only live once”.
Phil said: “Sophie, who is the owner of the company Aylesbury Escargot turned up at the back door of Paris House with a batch of her raw snails which we used.
“Then about six to eight months ago she turned up with raw escargot eggs and said that they were a by-product and could we do anything with them.”
He added: “In France they are used as a caviar product, but this is the first time that they are available in this country.
“We first used them on our festive menu with braised snail meat and were amazed to see how people reacted to it, and that we had the ability to tempt people with something they wouldn’t normally consider.”
So then it was my turn to try the snail eggs, and no braised snail meat for me. In the kitchen of the prestigious restaurant I watched chef Phil as he prepared a raw scallop with lime juice, salt, olive oil, apple, thyme and of course the escargot pearls.
I won’t lie to you, I was a little apprehensive as I loaded my fork for the first bite.
But it was actually a taste sensation! The snail eggs act as a kind of salty condiment which perfectly complemented the fishy course. I went back for a second fork full. The eggs were not like anything I had tasted before, I was concerned that I wouldn’t like the texture but they were actually firm and easy to eat.
The escargot pearls have been so successful on the Paris House menu that 10 in 8 Fine Dining Group, the company which owns the restaurant, has teamed up with Sophie Wharton of Aylesbury Escargot to help her market the product.
Like caviar, farming and processing the eggs is no mean feat, and the finished product retails for around £1,400 a kilogram.
Based in a secret location in Aylesbury, manager Sophie Wharton, 43, has seen the farm grow from having 70 snails to nearly a million.
Mrs Wharton said: “They are always at it, even when they are meant to have a rest.
“There are so many of them but we do know who they are individually.
“Everyone who has come to see it is quite shocked.”
Mrs Wharton originally planned to relocate to Tunisia and start up the business. However, after a closer look to home she discovered there was an available market.
She said: “Of course they are nocturnal but at night it is amazing to see, they all come out. It’s like a party.”
The family run business opts to breed the snails in a very particular way. They are hand reared, showered daily and fed a herb and cereal formula with a secret ingredient.