Restaurants: Gras and flavour

Ma foie! Force-fed goose liver is back on the menu - to the delight of gastronomes and the ire of animal lovers. Nikki Spencer reports
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The Independent Culture
In a society in which animal welfare is pretty high on the agenda, a delicacy produced by force-feeding geese or ducks may not seem like the ideal food to be in for a bit of a revival, but foie gras is currently cropping up on more and more restaurant menus, and in some pretty unusual forms.

At Chelsea's Chutney Mary, notwithstanding its reputation as a favourite with vegetarians (see 50 Best, page 5), foie gras samosas are a recent addition to the more usual fare of curries and tandoori dishes. Sonny's, in Barnes, west London, are offering pan-fried foie gras, while at The Crescent, near Marble Arch, it's marbled foie gras terrine. At Can (right), a bar that opened just before Christmas, appropriately near Smithfield meat market, tins of foie gras are available from New York-style self- service automats. Despite a price tag of between pounds 30 and pounds 100, they're going down a treat, according to one spokeswoman, and are particularly popular with City boys, who eat the foie gras with crackers (pounds 2 a packet). "They open it there and then, and think it's decadent and a lot more interesting than peanuts.

"I think people have come out of the closet about foie gras," she adds. "We're all eating veal again, too, though personally I never stopped."

Not words that would fill Andrew Butler, of Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), with delight. Peta, which claims to be the world's largest animal-rights group, recently ran a campaign against foie gras, using a video, Victims of Indulgence, narrated by Sir John Gielgud. Last year, the group was successful in preventing a foie gras festival in Germany.

Butcher Graham Portwine, who sells foie gras from his shop in Covent Garden, sums up the dilemma for consumers. "It's best not to think about what the ducks and geese go through too much, unless you're particularly concerned about animal rights, in which case you wouldn't touch foie gras with a barge pole... but the thing is, it is delicious!"