For most of the year, the sight of a wiry black hair in your starter is about as terrifying as dinner gets. Come October, though, restaurants, bars and cafés across the city pull out the stops to turn your meal into a spooky Halloween spectacle. Here’s the best of this year’s bunch.
RECOMMENDED: Find more scary sights with our guide to Halloween in London
Bone Palace cake from Lily Vanilli
What the devil? Another stunning seasonal offering from the much-loved east London bakery, which previously grossed us out with its bleeding heart cakes.
Fear factor: 3/5 With its gleaming meringue bones, this looks like a macabre throne a cartoon monster might sit on. Incredibly impressive, although not especially terrifying to look at. Unless you’ve got an egg allergy.
Taste test: 4/5 The meringue is perfectly chewy, and goes excellently with the blood-red-velvet sponge underneath.
Cakes are made to order and prices vary. Enquire via www.lilyvanilli.com
Trick or treat shots from Porky’s
What the devil? A foursome of fearsome boozes – half of them nice, half of them nasty.
Fear factor: 4/5 Pretty grim. And it’s unclear which are supposed to be delicious and which ones are supposed to make you gag, which could complicate your evening a tad.
Taste test: 4/5 The brain haemorrhage (on the left) has an odd, chewy texture. A shot of bourbon and Tabasco is like drinking fire.
£12 for four. Available at Porky's October 22–October 31.
The Black Widow from PizzaBuzz
What the devil? It’s a pizza with a black base that’s been infested by spiders. Or olives artfully cut up to resemble spiders, at least.
Fear factor: 2/5 Just sorta looks like a burnt pizza, so definitely more Freddie Starr than Freddy Krueger.
Taste test: 3/5 The dough tastes exactly the same as the traditional light-brown-ish variety. Toppings – tomatoes, onions, peppers – are fairly conservative. Could’ve used some disgustingly spicy sausage or something.
£9.95. Available at PizzaBuzz October 26–November 1.
The Cosmopolitan of Darkness from Rocket
What the devil? A pitch-black cocktail (of wild berry vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice and lime juice) with some seriously gory garnish.
Fear factor: 5/5 As simple as Frankenstein, as stylish as Patrick Bateman and blacker than Dracula’s underpants. Top marks.
Taste test: 3/5 Unexpectedly sweet and surprisingly sippable. The blueberry-stuffed lychee garnish isn’t bad, either.
£5. Available at branches of Rocket October 26–31.
What the devil? Just like the ones you get after a plate of chop suey in an American film, only black and with the vague, one-size-fits-all prophecies replaced with blunt, borderline upsetting insults.
Fear factor: 3/5 Not especially scary, unless your biggest fear in life is an after-dinner treat telling you that you smell like donkey balls.
Taste test: 2/5 Tastes like a fortune cookie.
RRP £10. Available at Selfridges.
Brain burger from Cinnamon Soho
What the devil? It’s a burger, only with the lovely beefy bit swapped out for deep-fried lamb’s brain.
Fear factor: 2/5 Looks just like a chicken burger. But maybe that’s the point?
Taste test: 4/5 Brain is a fairly soft, bland protein, it turns out, but the coriander chutney pairs well and the onion topping adds crunch. Overall, it’s nowhere near as offal as we’d feared. £12.50.
Available at Cinnamon Soho until October 31.
Spooky biscuits from Gail's Artisan Bakery
What the devil? A selection of ghoulish bakes, including meringue ghosts, skull-topped cupcakes, skeleton cookies and horribly lifelike severed fingers.
Fear factor: 3/5 The skeletons are fairly unintimidating. The meringue ghosts are just plain cute. But those fingers! If you can pick the almond nail off without squealing like a frightened child, you’re made of tougher stuff than us.
Taste test: 4/5 Utterly delicious, with the intensely chocolatey skeleton cookies the definite stand-out. Consider yourself lucky if one of these lands in your trick-or-treat bucket.
Skeleton cookies £1, monster fingers £1, meringue ghosts 70p, skull cupcakes £2.90. Available at branches of Gail's until November 1.
The Smashing Pumpkin from Bread Street Kitchen
What the devil? An appropriately theatrical cocktail of Monkey Shoulder scotch, pumpkin syrup, fresh lemon and mint leaves, served in a hollowed-out pumpkin.
Fear factor: 4/5 The dry ice adds a touch of witch’s brew class and the diddy little pumpkin is about as Halloween as it gets.
Taste test: 4/5 The ferocity of the scotch pairs well with the spicy pumpkin syrup, which is all neatly cut through by the freshness of the mint and the lemon. We sucked up a couple of raw chunks of pumpkin toward the end, though.
£10. Available at Bread Street Kitchen October 26–November 5.
The Coffin Box from Hotel Chocolat
What the devil? A selection of truffles and pralines in a cardboard casket. Hold onto that – you can re-use it when your hamster dies.
Fear factor: 1/5 Try as those little golden skull emblems might, the £50 price tag is the scariest thing going on here. That’s £1.79 per choc!
Taste test: 4/5 Smooth, rich, creamy chocolate. No complaints there.
£50. Available from branches of Hotel Chocolat.