Image credit: House of Crabs
It’s a place where mess is so vigorously encouraged that gloves and bibs are stationed at every table and anything that might contain the carnage brought on by demolishing bags of sauce-heavy crab (namely plates) are nowhere to be seen.
Jumping on the Americana/Cajun/creole bandwagon that has been hurtling down our culinary main street for a few years now, House of Crabs is a Louisiana crab boil created with a flagrant disregard for table manners that makes it so bad it’s awesome. Sort of like an episode of Swamp People.
Upstairs at The Norfolk has been bedecked with fishing tackle, plastic sea life and even a wooden dinghy hanging from the ceiling to resemble a classic American seafood shack. It’s garish and over the top in a way the Drink ’n’ Dine Group (The Forresters, Queenies and The Oxford Tavern) do best and it would be a prodigious nightmare paved with cheap and tacky nautica were it not for the fact that it all works so bloody well.
The menu is split into snacks and bigger items from either The Grill or The Boil. Really, though, you’re there for the crabs so order a few bites to start and skip the non-seafood options (baby back ribs can be had elsewhere).
A plate of lobster fries ($12) are essentially french fries drowned in lobster gravy, crispy shards of bacon, sweet corn and a good layer of cheese. As fun as these are, it’s the popcorn balmain bugs ($16) that have been tossed in cayenne seasoning and served with Old Bay mayo (an American classic that you’ll want to eat with a spoon) that really gets us going.
The Boil comprises SA mussels, Little Neck clams, QLD prawns and blue swimmer, snow and Alaskan king crabs. Everything is served in 500g bags ($19 - $45) and drowned in some rather tasty sauce options (go with the spicy Cajun or fragrant coconut curry). Choosing the right crustacean can be a tough one. All are good, however the massive king crab legs offer the best value for money when it comes to the pearly meat within.
A side of Jambalaya rice ($9) is a tasty filler while you wrestle meat from its respective shell, but be sure to order a few serves for the table as each tiny bowl probably won’t stretch further than two tummies.
This is the kind of place for which drinking frozen margaritas ($12) right through dinner is perfectly acceptable. You can also choose from a range of southern-style cocktails (the peach cobbler or bourbon-heavy backyard julep are clear winners), hipster cider and surprisingly affordable wine.
Moral of the story is drink like Cooter Brown, order with an open mind and be prepared for a cracking good time.