Entertaining: Silver service at the bushtucker trial

There are Mopani worms aplenty when Zimbabwean silver sculptor Patrick Mavros jets into town. Hester Lacey joins the celebratory feast
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With his shock of unruly hair and jaunty bush hat, there is something distinctly wild about the ebullient Patrick Mavros. He looks as though he could leap up from the immaculately elegant lunch table and head straight off on safari at a moment's notice. And all his guests would no doubt be delighted to accompany him. This is a set of seasoned travellers who know and love the wild parts of the world and their tales are all of pitching camp in the wilderness and experiencing the bush at first hand.

Patrick's home is Zimbabwe, but he is on a flying visit to London to check up on his latest venture, a new showroom in the polished purlieus of Fulham Road. As well as being an experienced bushman, he is also a renowned sculptor in silver. He's bought an unusual shopping basket with him. You wouldn't find many of the ingredients for today's feast in your average British supermarket. Patrick has brought such eclectic fare from his native country as Mopani worms, spicy Shona relish and porridge-like sadza. "It's a taste of home," says his son Alexander, marooned in winter- time London. "I'm getting quite emotional."

The Mopani worms, which no one turns a hair over crunching up, look like big grubs or chrysalises and taste a little like pork scratchings. Some delicacies, however, don't travel. "This time of year at home we'd be out catching flying ants to fry," says Patrick.

Not surprisingly, the conversation among the grand guests consists of recounting recent adventures. "Stories and storytelling are a big part of African culture and I tell my stories through the silver animal sculptures on the table," says Patrick. Lady Alexandra Spencer-Churchill has just come back from India and Bhutan, where, she recounts, one of the local pastimes is hunting wolves with golden eagles. German royal, Princess Corinna Sayn-Wittgenstein, describes swimming with sharks. There is a healthy respect from everyone for the beasts they have encountered.

By the end of the meal, we are all more than ready to follow Patrick by canoe down the Zambezi. Tourism in Zimbabwe has been hit hard by the current political situation but, says Patrick, travellers are sorely missed by local people who need the income. "There is a huge political issue, but if you are concerned about animals and conservation, come out and see them."

What's on the menu?

Grub's up

Who's who? Sculptor Patrick Mavros and his son Alexander. Plus, Princess Corinna Sayn-Wittgenstein, Lady Alexandra Spencer-Churchill, Harry Heathcoat Amory and the novelist David Mason, all long-standing friends of Patrick's.

What's the occasion? Patrick is hosting a lunch to celebrate the opening of his new showroom (104 Fulham Road, London SW3, tel: 020 7052 0001, www.patrick mavros.com)

What's cooking? Mopani worms (genuine grubs, dried then deep-fried) and biltong to start, followed by fillet of beef on sadza (maize porridge) with a Shona relish (a spicy mix of vegetables made by a tribe that lives near Patrick's home in Zimbabwe), roasted sweet potatoes and butternut squash. Dessert is lemon polenta cake with fresh mango, and gorgeously dense and satisfying vanilla ice cream made following Patrick's wife Catja's secret recipe.

And to drink? Virgin Mary cocktails, then South African wine: Bouchard Finlayson Galpin Peak Pinot Noir 2002 and Bouchard Finlayson Crocodile's Lair Chardonnay 2003, made by friends of Patrick.

Any style tips? Everything is "out of Africa". The table is a riot of exquisitely sculpted silver animals, from the elephants that circle the candle-holder to the hippo salt and pepper shakers to the silver dung beetle place-card holders.

What's the gossip? The best way to make biltong out in the bush (hang your strips of buffalo from a high tree, out of the way of salivating hyenas)... The iniquity of plunking Identikit Western-owned spa resorts in every remote, unspoilt corner of the world. "Time slows down in Africa," says Patrick. "Developing it kills the very reason to go there."

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