What would your ‘death row dish’ be? The last meal you requested before heading to the gallows? The tradition is that condemned prisoners are allowed to choose their final meal before meeting their maker and have carte blanche when it comes to the menu. It’s a bizarre moment of humanity, immediately before the state deals out the most brutal and inhuman punishment possible. But one that got us wondering… Some god-awful state penitentiary in the backend of Texas probably doesn’t have access to the best food on the planet, but living in the one of the world’s foodie capitals, London, we certainly do. So where could we go to recreate the most famous death-row meals, but do it properly?
Charles I was the first king to be tried for treason and met his divine destiny at the choppy end of executioner’s axe. His grisly demise was prefaced by a walk in the park with his dog and a breakfast of bread and wine. Nowadays, King Charles with his (literally) spaniel-like locks and flouncey dress sense might today gravitate to Shoreditch where, sans armour, he could lead a fulfilling life as ‘something in marketing’ or maybe one of those posh DJs.
And it’d be ideal because he’d be just around the corner from Plate London. Rather than the husk of Hovis and three-day old Jacobs Creek that the king enjoyed on his death day, he could pop to the east London restaurant and take advantage of their ‘Bread Flight’. Treating bread with the same level of respect (or, at least, nomenclature) as cocktails, the ‘flight’ involves a selection of excellent bread described by a colleague as ‘genuinely the best bread I’ve ever had’, and she went almost trance-like at the memory of the butters. On the wine-front, too, Charles wouldn’t be disappointed, this French restaurant takes its wines very seriously.
Ted Bundy is one of the most notorious serial killers in American history, confessing to over 30 murders and almost certainly committing more. He was sentenced to be executed and sat in the electric chair in January 1989.
Bundy’s last meal consisted of medium-rare steak, eggs over easy, toast with butter and jam, hash browns, milk, coffee and juice. He didn’t eat any of it, and although history doesn’t record whether this was because of pre-stage nerves or food snobbery, we reckon that if he’d been served a Hawksmoor steak and eggs he’d’ve wolfed it down like it was the last meal he ever eat. London’s Hawksmoor is pretty much the place to come for meat in London and their breakfast steak and eggs is incomparable. Served with fried eggs and hash brown, the range of steaks is wide, but we’d hook Bundy up with a 300g fillet.
Adolf Eichmann was the engineer of the final solution, the monster responsible for carrying out the insane and inhuman policy of the Nazis. Despite escaping Germany after the war, he was hunted down and extracted from South America by The Mossad to face a televised trial followed by death by hanging. His last meal was half a bottle of Israeli wine.
Perhaps not a mainstay of restaurant wine lists in London, Israeli wine is well regarded and worth tasting. Wine bars often stock it, but the best selection of wine in London has to be at 67 Pall Mall, a private members club just for wine lovers. Tasting wine here is a delight. You could alternatively head over the road to Berry Brothers & Rudd and pick up a bottle to enjoy at home!
Saddam Hussein was the hapless yet ruthless ruler of Iraq for thirty years before fleeing when the country was invaded by a US-led coalition in 2003. Finally dragged from a hole in the ground close to his home town of Tikrit, he faced trial and was sentenced to death by hanging. His last meal was a simple dish of boiled chicken and rice with hot water mixed with honey.
Saddam, why didn’t you go to Absurd Bird? The Shoreditch and Soho chicken joint would’ve been right up his street with it’s hipster vibes (moustaches galore) and its incredible range of friend chicken. Maybe next time, Saddam?
Lefty hero Che Guevara was a Marxist revolutionary who exported the spirit of Cuba’s communism overseas, heading to Congo and then Bolivia, where he was caught by the CIA and Bolivian military and summarily executed. The last account of Che alive saw him eating peanut soup.
Had Che survived he could’ve come to Stratford, maybe along with John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn, and experienced Zoe’s Ghana Restaurant. Showcasing West African food and formerly based in Pop Brixton, the restaurant is currently in pop-up mode, with founder Zoe Adjonyoh playing resident chef at Mortimer House. Adjonyoh’s big break came in 2010 with a pot of peanut butter stew and it remains a signature dish. Che would approve.
Marie Antoinette missed a total trick by not having her last meal at The Connaught. Sure, she was imprisoned in the Conciergerie and missed Hélène Darroze by approximately 225 years, but she’d have loved Le Poulet du Dimanche at Hélène Darroze at The Connaught. From Empress to prisoner to guillotine, Marie Antoinette’s fall from grace was rapid and grisly. Despite being famed for saying ‘let them eat cake’, the queen’s final meal consisted of one whole chicken.
Darroze’s modern-day Le Poulet du Dimanche feast is available from her eponymous restaurant at Mayfair’s Connaught Hotel. As the name suggests it’s chicken based and it’s brilliant.