‘Instagram-friendly crab restaurant’ (Instacrab?) might not sound real.
Yet that’s what Fancy Crab is. They’ve scrawled ‘#fancycrab’ on the glass surrounding the semi-open kitchen. They’ve festooned their bathrooms with 50s-style crab comic book covers (‘Red King to the Rescue!’). And before you even order a drink, the head waiter is ferrying a Alaskan Red King crab to your table. It’s all so very ‘grammable’.
But hold on. Fancy Crab is probably the only place in London serving Alaskan Red King Crab, a sprawling titan weighing 5kg and a leg-span that would struggle to fit in a car boot. They promise only to use wild, sustainably sourced crab from the Barents Sea. And it tastes amazing #sogood #blownaway.
Words: Chris Zacharia
Much like the Alaskan Red King Crab itself, single-ingredient restaurants are a tricky beast. You don’t want to be serving crab-everything – crab cocktails, crab creme brulee – but neither do you want one solitary catch-all dish, scaring away the drab one in your group who doesn’t like spice, or flavour, or life.
Fancy Crab avoid both scenarios by offering a concerto of seafood, with crab as the leading instrument of flavour. Our protagonist appears in about two-thirds of the plates, including the marquee-name big hitters of pure king crab (£100 per kg, with a crab being between 3-5kg. Good luck with that mortgage application).
It’s a shame you can’t really Instagram service, because Fancy Crab’s staff are doing a really good job. Knowledgeable, helpful, and efficient, they recommend, discuss, and serve with pride. Well done them.
The interior decorator’s done a good job, too. It’s as if a Renaissance painter got hold of a Macy’s catalogue, a credit card, and a copy of Country & Town House’s Christmas special, and then asked himself, how can I use these materials to glorify crustaceans? We’ve got leather booths, hangover lamps held by hessian cords, and a throwback velvet curtain separating the seated from the waiting-to-be. Part prohibitionist speakeasy, part postmodern Cape Cod crab and cocktail shack, it’s an inviting place in which to linger.
All of this would be wasted without the food to back it up. Our starters are decent. King Crab bon bons are nice enough but three for £13 is a bit punchy, and their accompanying sweet chili sauce too sweet. Grilled king prawns are nicely done, big and juicy.
But the best by far is the Fancy Ceviche. A fierce volley of acid brings the sauce to life, with crunchy toasted corn providing a perfect dusty contrast. Diced tuna chunks are tender and delicate, soaking up the flavours. By the end we’re scraping that mustard-yellow sauce with forks and spoons.
Together those three starters reach £50, although you could probably share them. If you’re doing three courses and trimmings here, remember to push back your new flat/car/wedding by about six months (nine if you’re going for the whole king crab).
Between starter and main, we’re entertained by our cocktails. Fancy Crab’s cocktails are excellent and well worth the asking price. The formidable Drunken Pear, the Rosemary Gin Fizz, and the Apple Twist are all galvanised by that zingy, citrusy sharpness which zaps through the palette like an electric current. Anointed with fresh herbs, candied citrus fruits and sprinkled petals, they’re unmissable.
Rather than choose between pure crab and the crab-based mains, we go for the minimum serving of crab legs (400g, with 100g coming to £18) with a king crab burger and Singapore chilli crab to share. Roasted Jerusalem artichokes and green beans give us some fibre.
Each bite leaks a lilting, subtly seductive flavour, a honeyed tenderness which lingers long after the mouthful
The burger is actually plenty of fun, as it should be for £17. Avocado makes it rich, the crab makes it delicate, and the brioche brings out the sweetness. And the Singapore chilli crab is ok, although sadly its sweetness is one-note, its fieriness too restrained.
But those crab legs! Wowee. You’ve got to pull them apart with a pair of pliers and a two-pronged fork, but it’s all worth it. Really. From the moment you put that tender meat into your mouth, you can see why they went all the way to the Barents Sea to get it. Each bite leaks a lilting, subtly seductive flavour, a honeyed tenderness which lingers long after the mouthful. Don’t let it vanish from the palate undetected: close your eyes, take your time, explore that flavour.
The hot-butter-and-herb sauce accompanying it is fine but really this flavour is so heroic it doesn’t need a partner. It’s the best thing on the table. Make sure you try it.
How do you get crab into the dessert? Fortunately, Fancy Crab don’t risk it. Instead you’ve got Anglo-Saxon crowd-pleasing classics. Chocolate fondant, creme brulee, panna cotta, ice cream and gelato…yep, humans like to eat these things, especially at the end of a meal. Classic dessert menu.
The chocolate fondant is surprisingly good: properly, unapologetically gooey in the middle, equipped with a rich and satisfying coffee ice cream (at least I think it was coffee: surely the salted caramel industrial complex is here somewhere?). The lemon tart is…well, it’s sharp. Not sure about the set-custard texture though. There’s dessert wine, too, if you really want to torture your bank manager.
So perhaps this is the future. All restaurants vying to go viral, engaged in an arms race of attention-grabbing gimmicks, food as a vehicle for selfie-maximisation. Think of yourself not as a guest, but as the restaurant’s digital marketing manager for the evening. Win-win.
Will it impress your Instagram fans? Who knows. Who cares. Put your phone down, pick up a crab leg, and get stuck into the real star of the show.
92 Wigmore St
Tel: 020 3096 9484