92 Wigmore St, London W1U 3RD fancycrab.co.uk
It looks like a Doctor Who style monster in the wild, but once caught and cooked the Red King Crab is one of the finest eating crustaceans there is. Trouble is, it’s not cheap.
Once in Paris I was taken, fatally hungover and feeling like death, to a very expensive and traditional seafood restaurant.
I managed the Lobster Bisque okay, albeit with some heavy pauses, then things took a turn for the worst
The waiters began laying out enough tools around my plate to service a Formula One car, and then came the crab. A whole one, which I was expected to dismantle myself using the tools provided.
Ten seconds after cracking the shell, overcome by nausea I had torn my bib off and was out in the street disgracing myself into a hole dug by the electric company.
The point of this story is to point out, for those people that seem to have been a bit confused, that a King Crab is not the same as a crab and King Crab is the focus of what they serve here.
With a King Crab, you don’t fossick around in the body with surgical tools, carefully avoiding the’dead man’s’ fingers, looking for the brown meat. You don’t go near a King Crab’s body at all.
You’re just after the legs, which are enormous, and claws, which aren’t exactly small either. The meat is white and rich and close to lobster in both looks, taste and texture
So, basically don’t expect a Cromer crab shack experience at Fancy Crab, one where you emerge all smelly with crab juice. This is a far more refined experience, as befits the rather opulent and attractive interior.
And it is all about the Red King Crab which comes frozen from the frozen north, but don’t panic. It’s cooked in sea water and then frozen on the boats, so it’s as fresh as can be.
We approached the mains sideways via some shared appetisers. First guacamole served in a large stone mortar with a bowl of tortilla chips and a bottle of Tabasco on the side.
The guaca was made well; a mixture of smooth and chunky just as it should be. It may possibly have been actually made in the mortar, and not with a blender. I do hope so, I’m a romantic.
Popcorn Calamari with homemade tartar sauce had good squid squares, I always find rings a bit naff, as if they had come from a factory, and they are usually rubbery.
These squares were butter soft with a crispy coat, but the tartare sauce was not as gherkiny, capery or indeed as vinegary as it needed to be for contrast and cut through. Still, not bad by any means.
And so we scuttled onward to mains pausing only to drink very good Broken Dream Stout, from the Siren Craft Brewery. Absolutely delicious beer and perfect with seafood.
There are various ways to eat Red King Crab here, the purist way is King Crab Legs & Claws on ice or baked over charcoal. It’s priced by weight. It is very expensive.
Millennials though can enjoy king crab in a bun, because they do like things in buns. King Crab Burger made from king crab meat with Belkovich (??) sauce comes in a buttery brioche bun with a crab leg stuck where the cocktail stick should be, making it look very jaunty and, of course, prepped for Instagram.
Or there’s King Crab Leg Gratin – crab meat with bÃƒÂ©chamel sauce and cheese crust, or Red King Crab Pappardelle using squid ink pasta with a lobster bisque sauce.
We decided to share some pure leg and claw prepped over charcoal, as well as a dish of Singapore Chili Crab with rice.
The pure meat dish was not a lot of crab for the cash, but then again King Crab isn’t exactly scampi so you can’t expect to get a lot.
It was as good as I remember it from eating it in Norway ten years when I had fierce monsters dragged fresh from the Bering Sea.
As I say, it has the texture and some of the appearance of lobster, although it doesn’t get caught in your teeth as much, and is sublimely sweet. The smokiness of the charcoal was a big plus here
A tangle of pickled cabbage served with it was all that was needed; no fries please, this isn’t street food, and we politely offered each other equal shares of leg and claw.
The Singapore Chili Crab was loaded with fresh red chillies, but they turned out to be less Rottweiler and more Poodle in their aggression.
Normally this would have disappointed me, but in fact it was just as well as the crab meat was delicately flavoured and didn’t need to be savaged by chili. Overall it was actually a little too sweet for my taste, and while it didn’t need chili, a bit of salt might have been welcome.
Garlic and lime flavours came through smoothly and spring onions added a bit of fresh crunch. Talking of which, we didn’t come across any crab shell, something that all too often irritates me in crab dishes.
The rice was rather like Japanese sushi rice, round and not long, I would have preferred Thai Jasmine or simple Basmati.
Desserts are fairly standard, but come out looking very pretty. Mine was too sugary but apart from that it was okay. Nothing to crab about.
There aren’t that many places that do King Crab in London and that’s a shame because it is a very special crustacean which for me, and many others, knocks the claws off of lobster.
Here they have got servicing it down to a fine art, and you don’t have to be rich. Set menus and brunches give everyone the chance to get their pincers on some royalty at a decent price.