Sunday, 3 August 2014

Big Easy - Big Sloppy

7 years ago we went to Big Easy on Kings Road and absolutely hated it. The lobsters were frozen, the fries were soggy, most of the food turned up lukewarm and the place was a trashy dump. For some obscure reason, 7 years later when Big Easy decided to open shop in Covent Garden, I got excited enough to accept the table for 10:30pm on a Friday night.

The only positive thing of this dinner was that my date wasn’t late this time. From that point on, the series of wreckage began: first we were shown to the table next to the live band, or more accurately, next to the drums. There was no hope of conversation, not without someone getting stabbed anyway. After 15mins of waving at the sparse number of staff, we were finally moved to a table nearer the bar, next to Mr Homer Simpson that wouldn’t stop wolf-whistling at any tune that the band put together. Grrrr.

After more waving, I asked for a Calle 23 100% agave white Tequila with Watermelon juice. Apparently the juice was freshly pressed at the bar – ah yea, maybe freshly pressed a couple of weeks ago, and it should have said the ‘juice’ was mixed with lots of water. In short, it was gross. The chocolate milkshake was easier to stomach, but nothing worth writing home about.

Crispy Calamari with Tartar sauce
At this point, it was way past 11pm and we were starving. The calamari was good, a well-seasoned batter with pieces of squid that was full of bounce. Could have been better though; the batter had fallen off to leave large lumps of deep-fried dough; some pieces had more batter than squid, but overall good.

Chilled Atlantic Crab Claws with Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce
These were downright awful. The 5 claws arrived clinging onto the edge of an ice bucket, uncracked on the shells and frozen to absolute lifelessness. We had to ask for the tools to break into the meat, which became shreds of defrosted mass with as much flavour as a melting ice cube. The sickly sweet dip was pure honey no mustard, which would have made no sense with any seafood. But given the claws had no taste to them, it didn’t matter. Simply not worth the effort. 

Deep fried Voodoo Shrimp with Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce
We decided to add this to our order after our waitress said this was her favourite. And damn right this was possibly the best of the worst, well, at the time anyway (first thing the following morning, I was told even this shrimp basket wasn’t that great). The large (frozen) prawns were deep fried in a thin batter, remarkably fleshy and crunchy, brought about great satisfaction. Personally I liked the blue cheese dip, but the tartar sauce from the calamari worked too.

Lobster Bake

Half ½ pound Lobster, Peel n Eat Jumbo Shrimp, Mussels, Crab Claws & New Potatoes, Garlic White Wine Sauce
This was an epic failure. It looked so good, too deceivingly good. I started with the jumbo shrimp, coated with generous seasoning and fragrant white wine sauce on the shell, only to find the flesh mushy to the core. I think they left the prawns in water for too long before cooking. The lobster was rubbery and sinewy, all the sweet shellfish juice had been drained from the overcooking, leaving the muscles curled up and shrunken. Mussels were no better, the once-plump morsel shrivelled in the shell and parched from the excessive baking, chewy and unpleasant. We decided not to battle with the crab claws after the starters.

The dish was largely left untouched. We pointed out the flaws to the manager. He was apologetic and took 50% off the dish. While the gesture was appreciated, this kind of standard for a restaurant that calls itself “crabshack” is still unacceptable.

Dry-Rubbed St Louis Pork Ribs (6hrs)
No, it wasn’t just the seafood, the bbq meat was no better. I can only assumed the barbeque ribs were smoked for 6 hours, and it surely looked that way. The slab of meat arrived looking dry as a rock and black as charcoal. The actual ribs weren’t terrible, the meat was easily torn from the bone, though I have had much juicier ones elsewhere. The rub was too salty and that goddamn bbq sauce on the side was an unnecessary overkill. My tastebuds were numbed by the heat and the combination of over-seasoned meat and chilli attack just wasn’t doing it for me. The ribs were also left largely untouched.

Service was dire from start to finish; we were ignored by the receptionists because they were too busy gossiping; given only empty glasses because they forgot our water; constantly signalling for attention as the staff ran pass our table. The manager apologetically explained 4 waiting staff called in sick. I could only be sympathetic to an extent; customers shouldn’t suffer as a result – if you can’t handle a full house, then don’t open up the whole restaurant. Judging from the food, I could only assume half the kitchen didn’t turn up for work either. The meal was a car crash – quality of seafood was poor, recipe was crude and cooking was slack. I was right 7 years ago; Big Easy is still sloppy.

I’ll give you the hot tip: Stick to Burger & Lobster.

12 Maiden Lane
Tel: 0203 728 4888

Big Easy on Urbanspoon
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