Inside South Africa’s Insect-Only Restaurant Where Bugs, Flies, and Roaches Are The Only Things On The Menu

By  |  August 5, 2019

There’s a restaurant in Cape Town, South Africa, which serves only insects. And it’s gathering quite the buzz.

Mopani worm polenta, soldier fly larvae croquettes, and deep-fried dark chocolate black-fly-larvae ice cream. Those are just some of the dishes on the menu of South Africa’s first insect-only restaurant.

Think you are a foodie? Do you consider yourself the consummate food adventurer? Well, wait until you’ve had insect experience at Gourment Grubb rub by chef Mario Barnard who first started cooking with insects after a trip to Thailand where he found himself eating scorpions and tarantulas. Now he’s whipping up various kinds of bug-inspired meals at his restaurant in Cape Town.

Chef Mario Barnard

Gourmet Grubb started by introducing Capetonians to something called the bug ice cream but it has since stepped things up a notch by opening a pop-up bug restaurant called The Insect Experience, considered South Africa’s first insect-only restaurant.

As was earlier stated, chef Barnard delved into the world of ‘insect cooking’ after an experience in Thailand which he maintains didn’t exactly happen smoothly as he had his struggles with ingesting the insect-based food at first.

“They were a little bit hard for me to eat. But, since I started experimenting with [insect-based] powders and messing with the food and hiding in it in a kind of gourmet way, I’ve found it’s a much easier way to eat,” Barnard tells Business Insider South Africa.

“We try to present it as visual as possible to Westerns to make it easier to eat.” And it does like they’re starting to score points on that front as the restaurant is attracting a good number of visitors amongst which are genuine lovers of insect-based cuisine and those who just like to play truth or dare.


Gourmet Grubb was launched in 2017, and in many ways, it was the result of research from the product manager, Leah Bessa, who studied food science and insects as a protein source. It began with turning black fly larvae into protein power and then graduated into making black-fly-larvae milk and using that to make ice cream. And now it’s an actual restaurant with a menu laden with insects.

As Leah said; “Insects are very under-utilised. I was looking at modern ways of bringing insects into the food processing and how Western consumers eat, that was the original inspiration. Gourmet Grubb was a way to bring it to the forefront of people’s minds and transform consumer perception about eating insects, one of the biggest barriers to entry.”

The South African company is hoping to inspire what will be quite a shift in the dietary preferences of people by getting them to ingest more insects and products containing insects. This, they believe, will help with the food shortage problem that may soon become evident as global populations grow and arable land becomes limited.


The store is about introducing South Africans to the concept of eating insects” said co-founder Jean Laurens. And the restaurant does have some backing.

Gourmet Grubb has been able to set up The Insect Experience with sponsorship from True Food and Mane South Africa. The Insect Experience now has other scrumptious insects like mopane worms on its menu. 

The store officially threw its doors open on July 11 but before then, it was already trying to not creep people out at the GOODFood market, in the Iron Works shopping centre in Woodstock, Cape Town.

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