Sam Bompas & Harry Parr: 'Arzak's food was so good I almost proposed to my girlfriend'

My earliest food memory...

SB (left): My mother making an amazing castle cake with tiny men descending the battlements. She used every different-shaped tin she owned; it was awesome.

HP: Foot-long fish fingers at Little Chef. There's something exciting about being on a journey and having strange new food experiences which your parents wouldn't necessarily want you to have.

My store-cupboard essentials...

SB: 24-carat gold. It costs around £25 for 25 sheets. It doesn't have any flavour, but it makes for the most over-the-top desserts – it sparkles and is quite magical.

HP: Marmite is useful for a lot of things, such as making onion gravy for bangers and mash. I also have a collection of jellies from around the world, thoughour own Hartley's jelly cubes are the best.

My favourite cookbook...

SB: Les Diners de Gala by Salvador Dali. It's bonkers but wonderful: it has all these massive double-page spreads of him eating among piles of frogs' legs and ice swans, and recipes for suckling pig with eels and a Casanova cocktail, which Dali says will give you a hard-on if you drink it.

HP: Any of Fergus Henderson's Nose to Tail books, and Simon Hopkinson's Roast Chicken and Other Stories. Also, I recently got into Food Processing Technology by PJ Fellows, about cooking on an industrial scale. It's deeply inaccessible, which makes it sort of magical.

My favourite food shop...

SB: I love getting lost in the Whisky Exchange or Gerry's [Old Compton Street, London] which have these vast libraries of rare and obscure spirits. I also like going to weird off-licences in the middle of nowhere which have freaky liqueurs that have been on the shelves for years. I recently found a bottle called Forbidden Fruit, which is lychee- and passion fruit-flavoured.

HP: Pages [catering equipment] in Shaftesbury Avenue always has fun things. Also, Billingsgate Market is incredible: there's something satisfying about getting up super-early to go there, and it has a great café that does amazing bacon, scallop and cheese butties.

My top table...

SB: The best meal I ever had was in Arzak in San Sebastian [Spain]. I was walking past it with my girlfriend and they had a free table, purely by chance. It was so good, I almost proposed to her, but I managed to tell myself it was the meat talking.

HP: Zucca in Bermondsey. It does amazing Italian food and a really good negroni, which is a cocktail made from campari, gin and vermouth.

My desert-island dish...

SB: A burger. Nothing brings fat and sugar and salt and carbohydrate and meat into such perfect harmony.

HP: Ice would be exciting on a desert island – a big block with seafood on top.

The strangest thing I've ever eaten...

SB: The most disgusting thing was a zebra-meat jelly. We were bullied into making it for a TV show, and it was filth. Luckily, I tasted it off air because I probably would have puked on camera.

HP: A giant prawn in Malaysia: the head was the size of my fist; it was grotesque. Because it was so big, the way to eat it is first to rip of the head and suck out all the corals, so we did that, and the flavour was beautifully sweet. After that, we were about to start on the body and they said, "Don't bother; you've had the best bit."

My pet hates...

SB: The term "foodie". You can't have a normal conversation with someone who introduces themselves like that.

HP: People who apologise for their cooking. It doesn't matter what the food tastes like: the gift of cooking and sharing food goes beyond that.

Bompas & Parr are jelly-mongers, food experimentalists and culinary event curators. They will be running the Rabbit Café at Churchill Square, Brighton, from Monday to Wednesday and are creating the world's first walk-in chocolate waterfall at Whiteleys Shopping Centre, London W2, from Friday to 25 April (

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