Melbourne’s fallen hook, line and sinker for US-inspired dive bars and BBQ joints in recent years, but Miss Katie’s aside, we haven’t really been swimming in authentic Southern-style seafood. Until now. Throwing open its doors today, House of Crabs has side-scuttled into the underbelly of St Kilda’s Newmarket to bring the good people of Melbourne what is quite possibly the worst first date meal ever: the crab boil.
I popped along last night and can confirm sh*t got real. Real messy, that is. While there are ribs and steaks on the grill and I’m sure they’re tender as all get out, you deserve a good, hard pinch if you bypass the signature boil. Leave your dignity at the door and don your bib and blue gloves (don’t try to be cute—you’ll need them), then choose from four types of crab, Port Arlington mussels, or Qld prawns cooked in your sauce of choice—creole (yes), Cajun (yesss), spicy Malay, Singapore or lemon pepper. Then it’s iPhones off the butchers-paper-clad table—seriously—when your piping hot bag of saucy, seafoody goodness arrives, ready for you to get cracking with surgical-looking implements and fingers.
Also on the House of Crabs menu are a tasty mish-mash of Americana eats, including melt-in-your mouth buttermilk chicken bits, soft shell crab tacos, ‘Sizzler’ cheese bread (handy for mopping up sauce), and an incredible ceviche and guacamole combo on blue corn tortilla chips. I must admit I died a little inside when I found out I’d missed the lobster fries, loaded with bacon, cheese and lobster gravy, but quickly got over it by way of another Largerita.
Three fun facts I learnt at House of crabs: 1) mussels are in fact delicious and not remotely ‘fishy’ tasting when cooked in smoky Cajun sauce; 2) peeling prawns with gloves is a bitch; 3) Lageritas will give you a nasty hangover.
Speaking of booze, House of Crabs’ cocktail list veers towards New Orleans favourites, like Alabama Slammas, Peach Cobblers, and Blackberry Mint Juleps, alongside a decent beer selection and handful of wines, with Hurricane Fishbowls for the folks who don’t have to work the next day.
The dimly lit venue itself is suitably eclectic, eccentric, and divey, with netted glass fishing floats and cute crabby wall-art, random basketball hoops and leadlight lamps, and some of the most pimpin’ bathrooms in town. There are a bunch of different seating options to choose from, from cosy booths, to bench perches and communal tables topped with fringed picnic umbrellas.
Until now, Sydney has been hogging all the fun, with the original House of Crabs operating out of Redfern’s Norfolk Hotel since 2013. I’m glad they’ve stopped being so shellfish. #sorrynotsorry
House of Crabs is open Tuesday to Saturday from 6pm until late. Both walk-ins and bookings are welcome.
If you ever need more seafood (so everyday), check out Melbourne's Best Seafood Restaurants!
Photo credit: Supplied