You know what? Maybe we've been a little bit hard on the Cereal Killer Café. Here we have two economic migrants from Belfast just trying to live the dream sold to them by the British all those moons ago – that dream: to open a café on Brick Lane that serves bowls of imported American cereals to cutesters for a fiver a pop. And they went ahead and achieved it. They're living their dream. Who cares if their very existence points to a generation suffering a total collapse in cultural self-respect? You can get Fruit Loops and sit on a bed eating them in public! I mean, can you even?!
Such has been the success enjoyed by these two trend-bucking breakfast broncos, they've been given a book deal, the fruits of which are this:
That's right: the Cereal Killer Café Cookbook. Marvel as Alan and Gary Keery take you on a journey through 1980s nostalgia, naughty cereal-based cocktails, magic eye pictures and, of course, some zany recipes that blend real food with cereal.
Though we trust Gary and Alan wholeheartedly with these recipes (even though as far as we know, their only experience with cooking is putting bread in a toaster and pouring milk in a bowl), we wanted to test them. What did these dishes taste like in reality? Is it all just a big joke? I was to prepare a three-course meal for my friend and VICE colleague, Jamie Clifton, who'd kindly let me ruin his kitchen and use all his butter. But before I got stuck into the starter, it was time for an apéritif...
Cereal Dust Milkshake
This delightful concoction is made by blending vanilla ice cream, milk and crushed cereal. Though the recipe does not state which cereal should be used, I just got one of those variety packs and smashed them all up in a bowl.
The results were exactly what you'd expect. You see people do Oreo milkshakes at the burger restaurant du jour and they seem to work out fine, but I reckon something in the cereal reacts with milk and makes it almost instantly go soggy. No matter, it was time for the taste test. Surely the combination of ice cream and Coco Pops would make for a pleasant taste, if not a gross texture?
Me: So, what did you think of the milkshake?
Jamie: First sip was alright and then quickly became not alright. The bits down the bottom... normally when you get a milkshake with a blended up Dime bar or whatever it's quite nice, but mushy cereal getting stuck in your straw and then stuck in your throat isn't pleasant at all. And then the aftertaste was disgusting.
Do you think maybe it was our fault/my fault that it didn't taste nice? Do you think I made it wrong?
I'd hope that you were following the recipe to a T.
Well, then it's Gary and fucking Alan's fault, isn't it.
Would you drink it again?
I would not.
So, not a fantastic result. No matter; maybe it's me and my cooking skills, which are akin to those of an incredibly wealthy toddler. Fuck it, on to the starter.
The Party Hedgehog
The Party Hedgehog is a spin on that classic 80s dinner party trick: plonking loads of shite on cocktail sticks and sticking them all in a piece of fruit. But, this being the Cereal Killer Café Cookbook, there has to be some cereal-based flair added to it. And it's Cheerios.
Firstly, you have to wrap a halved orange in foil, and twist the tip into the shape of a hedgehog's nose. My sculpting skills aren't so good so it looked a little more like an astronaut's sex toy than a live mammal. The hog's spikes were to be made from a suspicious combination of cheese (I picked Emmental), pickled onions, canned pineapple and the aforementioned Cheerios.
Suffice to say, the entire ensemble looked absolutely hellish. The colour palette was a deeply distressing shiny beige and brown. I didn't have high hopes for the taste test on this one. If this was "food porn", it was granny food porn.
I lit a candle and set a place for Jamie to sit and dig in to his starter. His reaction wasn't stellar.
Me: What did you think of the starter?
Jamie: It was genuinely one of the most disgusting things I've eaten in my life. It reminded me of the time I had Chinese frog legs at a really bad Chinese place in Brighton a few years ago and it was exactly the same feeling I had there. It was a mixture of apprehension at eating it – a psychological thing – so you're already not feeling great about putting it in your mouth and then you put it in your mouth and all your fears are confirmed and it tastes absolutely disgusting. Just, everything that could be wrong with it is wrong with it. And then you gag.
That wasn't just a gag for the cameras, then?
It was a genuine "get that out of my body" gag. It was really disgusting. I like pickled onions, but the pickled onion, the Cheerios, the cheese – all in the same crunch combination – was completely untenable.
Do you think it was a texture issue more than a flavour issue? Soft cheese, crunchy Cheerios...
It was very much both a texture and flavour issue. Just a complete lack of foresight. Obviously once they'd written that combination down – I could see what they were trying to do, it's kind of a harking back to their childhood.
Would you eat it again?
Great. My one-person dinner party is going to shit. That's two dishes I've painstakingly prepared for this ungrateful cunt and not even gotten a sniff of a compliment. Christ, Gary and Alan, what on earth have you gotten me into here? If this was Come Dine With Me Dave Lamb would be giving me a right old pasting. Maybe, just maybe, I can salvage it with the main.
Shredded Sausage Wheats (or Shreddage Rolls)
As you can imagine from the title, this is sausage meat encased in a tube of Shredded Wheat. It's a fairly simple recipe, and perhaps its more normal flavour combinations will save me from another culinary embarrassment.
The filling is prepared by mashing up sausage meat, fried onions, grated cheese (this time I used Cheddar for variation) and sprinklings of salt and pepper. These were then loaded into the hollowed out Shredded Wheats, the tops of which were basted with beaten egg, and plonked in the oven for 20 minutes.
To make up for my previous failings I decided to get a bit "arty" with the design. I painted a heart with an arrow going through it to symbolise not only my love for my dinner guest, but also my dedication to making these recipes as appetising as I physically could, while also vaguely adhering to the instructions.
Me: What did you think of that Shredded Wheat with sausage meat and onions stuffed inside it?
Jamie: That was actually OK. At a push I would eat that again. If I hadn't eaten for a day I'd be quite happy to eat it, I think.
I guess you could say that Shredded wheat is on the savoury side of breakfast foods. Which maybe is what makes it surprisingly bearable.
Bacon is savoury. I'm trying to think what other cereals could make that better. That was probably the best one for that, in terms of mains. I mean, maybe you could do something like you see on Heston Blumenthal, getting fucking cornflakes and encrusting a chicken Kiev with little bits of it.
I feel like Heston would make it good because he's a real chef, whereas Gary and Alan from Cereal Killer Café aren't real chefs and are just like, a couple of fucking jokers?
The only thing they know how to do is buy and sell cereal. And I don't think that gives them carte blanche to make a cookbook, you know?
I agree wholeheartedly.
So you would eat it again?
I would eat that one again if I was like on the verge of death from not eating anything for quite a while. Like a desert island situation, stranded out at sea, rescued by a trawler sort of situation.
So would you not eat any of the other things in the same situation?
I mean, I guess I would.
I wouldn't eat the cheese-Cheerio-thingy combination even if I was seconds from death.
Basically the inherent problem here is that sweet breakfast foods and people-who-aren't-dickhead foods do not combine very well. No one in their right mind would ever combine the bitty blandness of Shredded Wheat with the strong meaty flavours of a Cumberland sausage, cheese and onion. It makes no sense.
And I'm sure you're thinking, 'It's just a joke m8, these recipes aren't meant to be taken cerea-ously! It's all part of the fun!' But what if you're the kind of arsehole who is stupid enough to actually go out and buy this book?
Whatever, it was time for dessert.
Orange You Glad I Didn't Order Milk
Here, we find ourselves in the malignantly depressing situation of pouring orange juice on to Jaffa Cakes and Coco Pops. These two flavours traditionally go way back and history tells us that more often than not, they have worked. But I fear with the sheer slop of the cake sponge soaking up the cheap OJ, this will be less Terry's Chocolate Orange and more Terry's Son's Funeral.
Me: How did you like the dessert, Jamie?
Jamie: I'll go back to what I said I earlier. I see what they're trying to do with this. It's kind of their most thought out of the dishes I tried today. It was a riff on a Jaffa Cake I guess, or a Chocolate Orange – combining a couple of elements of chocolate with a couple of elements of orange but it just didn't really work. Also, orange juice and cereal is just a terrible idea.
Yeah, it's fucking gross right? Do you think it could have been improved in any way?
Milk. It's a very simple answer to that question.
They've taken something that could have been nice and made it shit for laugh, haven't they?
It is a weird thing to do – actively turning people away from the idea of enjoying cereal, considering their business model.
Would you eat it again?
No, not through any choice of my own.
So it was done. My three-course meal was a total failure. Alan and Gary had royally fucked me with their poorly thought out, gross, aesthetically abhorrent foodstuffs. As a kind of penance for putting myself and my friend through the rigmarole of preparing and eating this breakfast-infused gruel, I decided to blend all the items together and give it one last go. Perhaps the combination of weak flavours will combine to create the one mega flavour we had all been waiting for?
Alas, no. I inhaled a bit of oniony sausage, and as soon as it touched the sensitive nerves on my tongue I felt a great sickness come over me. I was embarrassed.
All my nightmares had come true and I'd lost the respect and adulation of my peers. My reputation as a chef has been dashed, perhaps forever, and there's only two cereal trolls responsible. You really fucked me, Gary and Alan of the Cereal Killer Café. You really fucked me, and I won't forget it.