I have a bit of an obsession with seafood, to the point where I actually want to be buried at sea to be among the crab, mussels, and squid forever. So when I found out that the Crab Tavern might just have the best crab in town – hailing from my home county of Essex, no less – well, by Poseidon, it was time to set sail and take them up on that challenge.
Venue and Atmosphere
The venue is split across two floors, with the top leading out into Broadgate Circle through floor-to-ceiling glass doors and the bottom playing host to a semi-open kitchen. The interior contrasts wooden, natural browns in its furnishings while the walls are painted with bright, tongue-in-cheek murals of crabs and other weird sea creatures, giving the place a more playful edge.
Being in Broadgate Circle, The Crab Tavern is caught in the epicentre of city folk post-work drinking, so expect a consistent buzz of conversation if you visit during the prime-time drinking hours. On our visit on a Thursday night, the crowd was a mix of young professionals drinking in the bar area (separated from the dining section by a natural divide), couples on date night and the odd larger group taking advantage of the sharing plates.
Food and Drink
After being sat at our table, my friend and I ordered a bottle of dry Gocce Di Favola Prosecco (£35) and quickly turned our attention to the menu. As an appetiser we couldn't resist the 6 Colchester rock oysters (£13) with a prosecco mignonette, which did not disappoint. They arrived on our table in a giant stainless steel bowl packed with ice and you could smell the freshness radiating from the dish.
Whetting our appetite, we decided to dip into two other starters, with my friend ordering the fried black pepper squid with lemon aioli (£6), whereas I, always searching for something new and having only recently been introduced to the wonders of chicken and waffles, opted for the crab ‘n’ waffles (£7), with brown crab mayo and guacamole. The squid was cooked perfectly, soft to the bite without a hint of that dreaded rubbery taste, and the black pepper was the ideal seasoning. Crab and waffle is one of those dishes you don’t expect to love, but after one bite I was hooked. The waffles are tasty, and the guacamole melded well with the flavours - but that crab, sweet Neptune, that crab is fresh. And this was just a starter: my tongue tingled in anticipation for the main.
Luckily, the Crab Tavern caters to indecisive sorts such as ourselves, and so we chose their Hot Platter (£25 per person, min. 2 people) for our main. I’ll tell you right now: this is the ultimate choice. Not only did everything exceed my expectations, but it really filled me up... I don't fill up easily. Served in a metal tray in the middle of the table, it arrives with mussels, clams, shrimp, tiger prawns, king crab and lobster. As an unashamed lover of novelty, having to break apart half a lobster using tools and scoopers was endlessly amusing, with the rewards being the crisp, succulent seafood inside. The mussels and prawns were plentiful and tasty, but the shrimp arrived with a dusting of cinnamon that we didn’t think quite worked well with it (though not enough to spoil the shrimp). However, the main event is the king crab, which I can’t recommend enough. Juicy and delectable, it is my seafood dream come true.
Despite eating what felt like the entire cast of Finding Nemo, we received one more food surprise from them. The waiters overheard me wish my friend a 'Happy Birthday', and at the end of our meal brought out a mouth-watering brownie birthday cake without any prompt. That kind of gesture is top quality service and really rounded off an exceptionally delicious night.
It’s so easy to serve up sloppy seafood that’s under-seasoned, over-cooked and bland, but the Crab Tavern did everything it could to exceed expectations. Visit there to gorge on any of their dishes and you won’t be disappointed, but their namesake is also their pièce de résistance. If you love seafood and crab, you’ve just found your new favourite tavern.