Thursday, 13 December 2007
The Big Easy Crabshack, Chelsea
Last week I was dragged on an office party to what was billed as a "Medieval Banquet" in St. Katherine's Dock, in a deafening basement full of a good few hundred inebriated staff from every other company across London with a management too tight to pay for a decent Christmas meal. Served by Polish staff dressed up to look like 17th century prostitutes, forced to do humiliating co-ordinated dances in between serving what can only loosely be described as food, it was like going back 20 years to a time before gastropubs, organics and enlightened British cooking to the days when corporate diners were happy to put up with cold dry salmon, tinned soup and fatty boiled chicken just so long as there was enough free booze in front of them. The general air of holiday camp awfulness was further reinforced by a "host" playing Henry VIII who looked remarkably mediterranean for a famous redhead, and a stage-school wannabe Anne Boleyn who sung medieval classics like Simon & Garfunkel over the PA while second-rate "entertainers" threw skittles around and forced Brian from Accounts to put a dress on so everyone could laugh and take pictures. I've still not quite recovered.
However, much as it pains me to say it after that experience, there is occasionally a place for themed restaurants. There's nothing wrong with some crazy crap on the walls, waiting staff in silly costumes and silly puns on the restaurant's name on menu items as long as - and this is of course very important - as long as the food is up to scratch. The Big Easy Crabshack on King's Road certainly has a very impressive menu, boasting such premium (at least in these parts) items as Atlantic King Crab, Lobster, Clam Bake, Tiger Prawns (sorry "Shrimp") and Oysters. What a shame then, that on eating it was all just a little disappointing.
It all started well, with a bowl of Buffalo Chicken Wings which were at least as good if not better than those served at Bodean's just over the river. The only complaint was that there wasn't quite enough sauce and the dip was I think just craime fraiche and not as interesting as the blue cheese stuff from their rival.
Mains were nothing if not generous, with two whole racks of pork ribs served with nice enough BBQ beans, half a sweetcorn and an actually very nice indeed home made (I presume) coleslaw. But the ribs themselves were fairly tasteless, again pretty dry thanks to a combination of overcooking and lack of sauce, and quite a chore to get through once I'd finished off one rack. To be fair however, a companion's jumbo shrimp were moist and gorgeously cooked and served with home made nachos which you don't see very often. How they'd manage to overcook the ribs, which they must do every serving hour of every day, and get the prawns so right (not easy when you're grilling them) I have no idea, but there it is.
We had also ordered a side of stuffed jalapeno peppers on the back of a positive memory of a similar thing from North America. Here they were dripping in fat and unsatisfyingly soggy throughout - most of them got left I think.
The bill came to about £25 a head and was I suppose good value for money considering the location (our fellow diners were an unlikely mix of big-haired Sloaney couples and kids parties) and the amount of food served. But I can still unhesitatingly recommend Bodean's Grill above the Big Easy - Bodean's may have a smaller menu and a much more limited selection of expensive seafood, but what it does it does very well, and their pulled pork is worth a visit alone.