Despite numerous recommendations, I never made it to the original branch of The Big Easy, a crab shack and BBQ purveyor on the King's Road, probably because I'm so rarely in that part of town. When I heard there was going to be a second outpost in Covent Garden, however, I couldn't wait to try it, and finally got the chance last night.
Although the original location has more of a low-key southern US crab shack feel to it, the Maiden Lane branch is a slicker operation. There are still lots of nice details in the decor, including a serious of bar-tending- and mixology-themed books and some very cool pendant lamps, but you could see the place fitting in to Manhattan as well as Baton Rouge.
We walked past the awesome bar and to our table, which was downstairs, just next to the small stage where they often have live music. The menu is huge and is filled with all of the American classics, from steaks and burgers to barbecue and, of course, the lobsters. There are also daily specials — Thursday's surf-and-turf special with a steak, half a lobster and a frozen margarita for under £20 is a real steal.
I'd like to say that I studied the menu at length, but to be honest, the girls in our group were already angling to share a bad-ass lobster, so I decided that that was the way to go — they are flown in from Nova Scotia and can be as big as ten pounds. It was £65 for a 6-pound lobster for four of us, including fries, salad and a frozen marg. The cocktail was essentially an adult Slush Puppy, although they gave the marg an extra kick with some ground peppercorns. Dangerously drinkable...
I'm still not very good at getting out all of the meat from the shell, but between the four of us, we left the poor fella pretty cleaned out. There was definitely a lot of meat in there, and it was really tasty too and served with jugs of melted butter and garlic butter. Not very healthy, but very tasty.
The boys shared a barbecue blow-out, with St Louis ribs, chicken and pulled pork, with fries, coleslaw and baked beans. I had more than enough food of my own, so I only tried a bite of the pulled pork and it was delicious.
I didn't really have room for a pudding, but I managed half of the baked cheesecake. It would have been even better if it had involved chocolate and/or peanut butter instead of sultanas, of course, but was still really good, and was served with the creamiest ice cream I've had for a long time.
The Big Easy isn't cheap cheap, but it's very good value for money, given the generous portions and the quality of the food — especially the fish and meat. The combos are particularly good value and will often give you a beer or frozen cocktail as well as a main course for between £15 and £20. They also do a few all-you-can-eat evenings, for the particularly gluttonous. The service is great and there's a really cosy but fun atmosphere. And the final advantage is that I didn't need to eat breakfast this morning!
The Big Easy Covent Garden. 12 Maiden Lane, London, WC2E 7NA (Tube: Covent Garden). Website. Twitter.