Places To Eat In London: Big Easy, Covent Garden
On Monday the second, Covent Garden branch of the King’s Road’s American surf n’ turf institution the Big Easy is going to open in Maiden Lane. Now, I must admit to being just about the only person among my London set of friends who has never been to the Chelsea branch for steak, lobster and frozen slushie cocktails, so when I managed to snag a lunchtime table for their soft launch on Tuesday you can imagine how excited I was to not only finally be in the know, but to be a bit ahead of the curve for once! Also, as you can see from the pictures below, a very large dish of assorted shellfish was presented to me that my lunch companion was simply shocked that I managed to finish. Anything in a hard shell from the ocean makes me very, very happy.
I absolutely adore the space. Big, dark and full of attitude. I also love how fantastically large it is with so many different seating options both on the first floor and in the basement, where there is a second bar. Yes this is Covent Garden and Big Easy is very popular, but this gives you much more of a chance of getting a seat without a reservation. Some of my favourite places in Covent Garden to eat at such as Miskins are tiny so I usually end up at The Diner, so it will be nice to know that trying to get into the Big Easy would not be a futile exercise!
Before we went to eat and to give us a moment to browse our menus (seriously with so many steaks, burgers, shellfish options, different types of Southern barbecue and lobsters to choose from, how do they expect anyone to make the right choice?) we propped up the simply stunning upstairs bar for a drink and to chat to the bartender about our favourite places and recommendations in Los Angeles, where she was soon headed. He had one of the impressive list of craft and draft beers on their list, and I honed in on one of my all time favourite cocktails (who cares if it is girly), the Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri. The classic Daiquiri is one of my go to’s, and in my mind it can only be improved by being strawberry flavoured and frozen. They mix them up in the slushie machines behind the bar, and flavour wise it was perfect, and far more refined than most frozen drinks I had encountered. It also did not melt quickly, and the sprinkling of cinnamon over the top, while it sounds odd, was the perfect finishing touch to balance the flavours. The only way it could have been better was if it had been served in a giant slushie cup from a drive thru place in New Orleans. While most of America has by European standards some pretty insane alcohol laws, you’ve got to hand it to good old NOLA. (Further reading: The History Of Frozen Slushi Cocktails In America)
Because we wanted a starter, but we thought if we had one each we would not be able to manage, we shared the Thick Cut Bacon with Pickled Watermelon. We were intrigued, and for me the flavours were strong, perfectly balanced and very, very delicious. As in, we both really wanted to eat this for breakfast every single day. The watermelon sounded intriguing when we saw it on the menu, which was one of our main motivations behind ordering, and it did create some great sharpness. I only wish there had been more of it with the bacon.
So my feast of the Lobster Bake. A whole lobster, split, mussels, clams, a crab claw and king prawns all steamed and baked in a garlicky sauce (there was also a spicy option) with a big lemon wedge. What can I say? All of my favourite seafood on one plate, were a bib, pick and claw crackers are required. Certainly not date food, and really messy eating; but don’t worry about that bit, there is a wash basin in the middle of the restaurant for that purpose. It was all delicious and perfectly cooked, and while I was told there was no way I’d finish it, I polished off every last bit. A must for other shellfish lovers such as myself.
While I only looked up from my shellfish mountain once or twice to steal a bite of the South Carolina Barbecue Chopped Pork and the baked beans it was served with to tell you they were delicious, I was too engrossed in what was in front of me to notice what else was being eaten at the table! Looking at these photos now I can see as well as it being supremely juicy and tender, it was served also with a very Southern style potato salad, pickles and slaw. In case you were interested.
One thing about Big Easy though, which is to be expected with the amount of lobster and steaks on the menu, is that it is rather pricy. With his barbecue, my lobster bake, our shared starter and two drinks each it came to just over £60, and this was at a soft launch where we had 25% off of drinks and 50% off of the food bill. However, to mitigate this Big Easy does different ‘nights’ every day of the week. On Monday’s you can get limitless family style barbecue and a brew beer all day, on Tuesdays limitless shrimp and a slushie cocktail or a brew all day, on Wednesdays limitless hog roast and a slushie cocktail or brew all day, Thursdays steak and lobster, and a slushie cocktail or brew all day and on Sundays you can get the wood smoked prime rib roast and a slushie cocktail or a brew all day. Also on every day of the week you can get the special Lobster Festival for £20 which includes a whole lobster, chips, slaw and a free slushie or brew, too.
Are any of you fans of the Big Easy in Chelsea already, or are you excited to try the Covent Garden branch as a first timer like me? I think honestly this is the best place in London I know for good American food from the deep South, and there is no way that I’m not going to be going back to sample yet more of their epic menu. As it opens on Monday, might be a good idea to get a jump on and book your weekend reservation now!