If the universe of haute cuisine ever starts to bore you to the point of narcolepsy, with all its mind-bending complexity and conservative overtones of sophistication, what you really need is a dose of something so raucous; so uncivilized; so astronomically simple that it puts the humanity back into eating out.
I’m talking about the kind of close quarters eating where diners from neighbouring tables stand a 50:50 chance of knocking your drink onto your lap, as they brush past you on their way to the toilet; where a bottom of the barrel covers band blasts out familiar and palatable pop songs all evening long, forcing the entire room to raise their own decibel level to stand a chance of holding a conversation. I’m talking about the Big Easy, which is found on Kings Road in self-important prick capital, Chelsea.
During the evening, this place becomes a bustling bedlam of American ranchy fun. Meaning everywhere you look there’s wood, waitresses and wankers (joke). To be fair, the crowd is an eclectic bunch, ranging widely in age and station. A feat attributed to the welcoming, unpretentious environment. Equally deserving of the credit is the sheer array of affordable comfort foods on show, spanning the gamut of American ranch classics, from barbeque ribs and burgers to seafood and steaks.
Deep fried calamari £7.95
More than a half pound of calamari comes deep fried in a Tempura style batter in a little metal bucket, with a mediocre tartar sauce and slightly better red sauce which I think was chili and tomato based. I was so hungry when it arrived that you could have fed me a steaming lump of turd and I’d have been grateful. My gauge for how good or bad it tasted hadn’t quite kicked into gear yet, though I vaguely recall liking it.
Deep fried jumbo shrimp basket £14.90
Back from the brink of hypoglycaemia, I was now capable of appreciating a basket of jumbo shrimp, prepared in much the same way as the calamari. The warm, battered shrimp was as comforting as sitting in front of a fireplace on a big fluffy rug, roasting marshmallows.
Prime sirloin steak sandwich with house made coleslaw £10.90
A chargrilled steak sandwich served in a toasted ciabatta couldn’t be more forgettable. Vine tomatoes and mayo make it at least a little enjoyable, but the beef itself is just chewy rubber.
Whole 1 & 1/4 lb. fresh Nova Scotia/Native lobster £16.90
£16.90 by British standards is pretty good value for a whole steamed lobster. I opted for a creamy and cheesy thermidor sauce which comes unusually in a pot instead of on the lobster itself. The lobster is cooked well and served with the usual implements to crack and extract the meat from the claws. It doesn’t boast the freshness or presence of a Burger & Lobster equivalent, but it more than holds its own.
The side serving of chips doesn’t fare as well: Just soft, textureless strips of coated potato. But that’s ok because I was stuffed by this point and happy with what I’d had and with how little I’d spent. It’s great value, and there’s even a daily specials offer to improve matters further.
So for an evening, rip up your wine-paired taster menus; let your hair down; and get ready to dine in the culinary equivalent of a mosh pit. The atmosphere is electric and the food is more than adequate to supplement the fun you’ll have. If you are too scared witless to make the perilous trip over to the impoverished crime ghetto of Chelsea, West London, then worry not, for Big Easy mark 2 is headed for Covent Garden and due to open sometime this summer.
food : 7/10
service : 7.5/10
ambience : 9/10
value : 8.5/10
Big Easy Bar.B.Q & Crabshack
332-334 Kings Road, Chelsea, London SW3 5UR
020 7352 4071