From noodles to macaroons, charcoal's the new hot ingredient: Foodies claim it cures hangovers and bloating

Do you think of charcoal as nothing more than that rank black stuff you find at the bottom of your barbecue? Well, think again. 

Charcoal, it turns out, is the latest food fad. And its cropping up in everything from macaroons (yes, seriously) to thirst-quenching summer drinks.

Trendy London restaurant Bull In A China Shop serves burgers in black brioche buns. Pizza restaurants serving charcoal flavoured bases are springing up everywhere. And at the capitals Oxo Tower restaurant, diners tuck into charcoal ice cream.

They are all using activated charcoal - most commonly found in water filters to remove impurities. Just like charcoal on your barbecue, its derived from carbonised wood or other vegetable matter which has then been specially processed.

The treatment boosts the surface area, turning the porous charcoal into an effective internal cleanser. As charcoal is an insoluble fibre, it doesn't get absorbed into the gut, but simply soaks up nasty toxins.

Activated charcoal is extremely effective as a medicine to rid the body of toxins in acute situations,says nutritionist Angela Dowden.

However, it's hard to be sure how much good it does in the tiny amount you find in foods. 

Even so, foodies claim it's great for treating everything from a hangover to bloating. So, it's no surprise supermarkets and online retailers are turning basic foods black. But what do they actually taste like?