With live music every night and a bustling bar and restaurant, there's more to shout about than just the big portions in this American style lobster and barbecue joint.
You might not expect to find a crab shack in Chelsea, and this is just about the closest you are going to get. The venue is cosy on the ground floor, but it’s worth having a peek downstairs in the basement where you’ll find a more expansive dining hall complete with a stage tucked away to the side; live performers provide music daily, which can be a great focus point should the conversation not be up to much (it happens). Wooden clad walls dotted with the odd fishing cliché, red checker tablecloths and clusters of curious flyers and cards pinned to the walls help create a bit of charm.
Even on a cold Monday evening in February there's a bustle about the Big Easy. The tone is friendly, warm and positively informal, and unlike some of the venues in the surrounding neighbourhood there's no room for posing; patrons here are more interested in cracking lobster and negotiating ribs than pouting. And you look a little silly doing both, frankly.
The Big Easy specialises in lobsters and barbecues, and prices are competitive - not least for the locale. For starters there’s deep fried calamari in tempura style batter (£7.95) served with garlic mayo and tartar sauce. This Japanese style, light batter is well executed and the calamari delightfully cooked. The 'VooDoo' chicken wings (£7.95), a title that may be more of a warning than a description, comes with a vinegar based barbecue sauce (which is slightly heavy on the vinegar) and is served with a celery stick and coleslaw for good measure.
For mains, there’s the mammoth platter of baby back ribs (£11.90/£14.90/£15.90) slow smoked over hickory wood with coleslaw and barbecue beans (baked beans and kidney beans). The ribs are superbly cooked; tender and delicious and bathed in barbecue sauce. The side servings of barbecue beans and coleslaw won’t blow your mind, or your taste buds, but work as a decent accompaniment to the ribs. There are varying sizes of lobster on offer, ranging from lb (approximately £20 but check out the daily board) right up to 10lbs. The 3lb lobster (£29.95) provides plenty of meat for one, with enough to let your company have a taste should you be feeling generous. Both the lobster and the ribs are presented on large round silver plates, and with little fuss. If you are a newbie to lobster then don’t worry, some of the de-shelling work is already done for you as the lobster arrives cut down the middle (there is, though, still enough work for those of us that like to crack a lobster claw or two). Thankfully the tables are well stocked with extra napkins so you can dig in and get your hands every bit as messy as you should.
If you still have room for dessert, the fudge cake (£5.50) is worth checking out and is served with ice cream and biscuit - and isn’t actually as rich as it sounds. Conversely, the cheesecake (£5.50) isn't the light(er) option that you might expect (it's surprisingly stodgy), and is served alongside fruit and ice cream. The ice cream sundae (£9.95), served in a vast martini glass, is most definitely for sharing.
Overall the menu is priced more or less accordingly to its Chelsea post code. That said, the daily specials are excellent value and there are some very affordable offers. For instance, on Mondays it’s all you can eat barbecue for £14.95, with Tuesday and Wednesday offering shrimp and fajitas for the same £14.95 price (this includes a beer!). And watch out for lobster and steak night on a Thursday where you get both a prime steak and a lobster for £19.50.
The big surprise is the extremely comprehensive wine list which offers plenty of value and a great selection. In fact the wine list is award winning (a point which they are not shy about pointing out). The house red is the light-bodied Italian Sangiovese, Borgo Sasso 2011 (£16) which has fruity flavours of strawberries and a little spiciness – an excellent house wine. This list itself is arranged by body and style, which makes it easily accessible to those who might be missing a sommelier. Prices start at a very reasonable £3.95 per glass and £15 per bottle and stretch upwards to £100. There are also some good beers and cocktails on offer and depending on the day of the week, a bottle of beer is often included as part of the daily special.
The Last Word
Perfect for the family, a big group of friends or just a good honest feed, the Big Easy offers big portions, an easy going atmosphere and some excellent deals. The phrase over the door ('A tradition has begun, you’ve eaten at the Big Easy!') is no doubt true for many, and one of the reasons why this place remains so very popular.