As the cold and rain continue to batter our misery-laden, grey old island, my thoughts turned wistfully to freshly plucked, glistening seafood savoured on endless blue-sky summer days. And where better to seek wish fulfilment than at Covent Garden’s Big
Easy Bar. B.Q. and Lobstershack. Specialising in all American tucker from ribs and hogs to steak and seafood, the Big Easy Lobster fest grabbed my eye. But was it really worth shelling out my salary for? Claws at the ready, I set off to find out.
Scurrying in after work on a freezing Friday evening, the tantalising, smoky overtones of barbecued meat waft over me. Cooked low and slow in an open kitchen for up to eighteen hours, Big Easy meats are delicately infused with cherry, apple, oak and hickory woods. Just the scents to get you salivating during post-work starvation mode.
A comforting background din of relaxed laughter makes me feel instantly at ease. With none of the stiff pretension that accompanies some of London’s cooler restaurants, entering the Big Easy is like pulling on an old, tatty jumper.
Providing the tastes of the southern states since 1991, the converted tri-level power station has a distinctly in-your-face transatlantic vibe – screaming from the giant suspended stars to the stripes stencilled along the brick work walls. A gigantic bar offers over 500 bottles of every liquor under the sun while bluesy live music (available every night) adds to the relaxed kick-back-after-work vibe.
Perching over our tall table on sky-scraper stools, we prepare ourselves for battle by donning fetching toddler-style plastic bibs. While this certainly wouldn’t happen at Gordon Ramsay, it all adds to the fun of the evening. My American dining companion gallantly ties my bib for me. Suitably attired, an elaborate series of accoutrements are placed before us. All that’s missing is the scalpel.
Minutes later, the beasts arrive on huge silver platters. Nestled on brown paper, not in keeping with their magnificence, the crustaceans are a sight to behold. From their rich red shells to the intricacy of their tentacles, I feel a pang of guilt at the prospect of tucking into them. An emotion that would be harder to stir had it been ribs or steak. Who could have known that the Big Easy Lobster fest would stir such emotions?
With a sigh of guilt, get stuck in I do. Plucked fresh from the icy waters of Nova Scotia, the pulpy flesh brings back happy memories of a summer spent in Maine where lobster is consumed like soda bread in Ireland. And even McDonalds serve up McLobster sandwiches.
Not having eaten lobster in a while, I’m slightly wary of what’s edible and what’s not. (The bits to avoid are the intestinal tract and the sac behind the eyes.) Getting into my stride, I remove the shell and take each leg off by gently wiggling and pulling – by far the easiest way to tackle the job.
There’s plenty of meat to get stuck into once I remember where to look. The platter is accompanied by Hollandaise sauce (slightly thick for my liking); a garden salad with a surprisingly good dressing and a cup of piping hot chips with an indulgent deep fried crispness. I choose to wash it all down with a schooner of beer, a slushie cocktail is also available as part of the lobster fest deal.
Sated, I survey the carnage while untying my plastic bib with relief – they get unbearably hot while dining. Even after being mauled, there’s still a savage beauty in what remains. Bracing myself for the freezing temperatures outside, I leave the warm cocoon of The Big Easy with the briny taste of approaching summer on my lips.
The Big Easy Lobster fest package includes: a whole fresh lobster, whole lobster roll or whole lobster mac and cheese with a house salad, big easy brew or houses slushie for
Advance booking recommended