Yum Bug, a North London startup serving up insects to its customers, invited us along to their opening night. Here’s what we thought.

Last Wednesday, The Climate was lucky enough to be invited to the opening night of Yum Bug’s restaurant, a startup on a mission to change perceptions and make edible insects mainstream. 

Surprisingly, insects, specifically crickets, not only compare with the nutritional value of traditional meats but also surpass them as an exceptionally sustainable option. Yum Bug crickets are farmed at a vertical farm just one hour by car from central London, using a fraction of the land, water and feed of traditional livestock. The team claims they produce as much as 10 times less CO2 than beef.

Popping up from October 26 to November 11 at Old Street’s “The Bower”, home to some of London’s biggest food and drink concepts, Yum Bug’s new restaurant has a menu designed by top UK chefs, including Sam Clark, chef-owner at Moro, and James Nathan, a previous MasterChef winner.

Now, before you start envisaging a bushtucker trial-type situation with whole crickets being shovelled into my mouth, let me tell you, Yum Bug are pros. After extensive market research, the team found that while people enjoyed cricket meat, they would not want to eat or buy them whole. 

So, this formed the approach that we now see in the Yum Bug restaurant — they process the cricket meat into different forms, such as mince, chunks, meatballs, powder and miso, to improve their usability in a western diet. The all-star cast of chefs then incorporated this cricket meat into different dishes, which we were lucky enough to try.

But before jumping into what we ate and how it tasted, let’s look at the reason behind eating crickets a bit more. 

Crickets and other bugs are eaten by around 2 billion people globally today as an accessible and cheap source of protein. They are also super high in vitamins, with more iron than spinach, more calcium than milk, more potassium than bananas, more B12 than red meat and more fibre than brown rice, according to the UN. In short, they are super healthy. 

Not only that, bugs are one of the most climate-friendly sources of protein, generating 1.6 grams of CO2 equivalent per kilogram of protein, versus cows, which generate 2,850 grams. 

Each kilogram of protein from crickets also needs just 1.7 kilograms of feed (which Yum Bug is working to make from Brewdog waste), versus the 25 kilograms that cows need. So, they are a super sustainable form of protein, too.

But while the stats are important, we know the real reason you’re here. What were these dishes we ate, were they nice, and, more importantly, was cricket tasty? Here are the highlights:

To kick things off, we were given cricket mince-topped hummus with seasonal crudites. our first proper try of the cricket meat. It was tasty.

Hummus and vegetables on a plate with cricket mince.
Cricket mince topped hummus with seasonal crudites (Yum Bug)

The cricket was well seasoned and delicious, with an interesting texture, a bit like a mixture between pork mince and a nut roast. Honestly, very good. I ate it and thought this kind of meat would have worked in tacos or bao buns. The mince holds seasoning really well, so I didn’t taste a cricket flavour too much.

After that, we moved onto their spiced mince flatbread with pomegranate, and onion and frankly, this was incredible. Damn. 10/10 would eat again, and it really had me wanting to eat a cricket pizza. 

This one had a more ‘crickety’ flavour, which I found to be a bit nutty and somewhat bitter. However, it balanced well with the pomegranate. 

Next up was calabrian chilli and tomato pappardelle with cricket pieces. Again, this was superb! We sat next to an Italian man who gave it very strong approval, saying his nonna could have cooked it. While I don’t know his nonna, I imagine she cooks well because this was extremely tasty. 

I preferred these chunks of cricket the most, their texture almost resembling beef — super soft and tender. They paired really well with the spicy tomato and made me curious to see the taste of cricket in bigger quantities, say, a burger patty. Definite approval there.

A flatbread covered with onion, a white sauce, pomegranate and cricket meat.
Spiced mince flatbread with pomegranate & onion (Yum Bug)

To finish, we were served up a brownie tart and cream with cricket powder and spiced apple pie gelato with whole and powdered crickets. The ice cream stood out here, as it showed the versatility of cricket — who knew bugs in desserts could work?

In all, I left brimming with ideas and would have actually bought some cricket pieces if I could. I think this is a look into the future of the meat market — it’s a great alternative to lab grown meat (which right now is very expensive) and very nutritious. It’s also land-efficient, and climate-resilient; crickets are farmed indoors and can be fed on certain agricultural waste. 

There are tonnes of reasons why I think the cricket market is going to boom here in the UK, but here’s three:

  1.  They’re eaten all around the world. It’s just a cultural barrier stopping people from eating them. Yum Bug’s approach is smart and negates this. Trust me, go to their restaurant, and I reckon you’ll leave willing to cook ’em up.
  2.  They are healthy, protein-dense and affordable — gym bros, it’s your wildest dream.
  3.  They are actually good for the planet.

Convinced? We certainly were.  

To book a table at the Yum Bug restaurant, head over to their website. If you do take a trip, let us know what you think.