Big Easy, Covent Garden

Getting to the Big Easy on a Friday night reminded me why I always try to avoid eating in Covent Garden. It’s a certain type of tourist who crowds to this part of London. A bit like the ones who go to Camden. What exactly is it they are going to see? The central arcade is boring after 2 minutes, just like the trashy Camden market is. Instead they all just crowd around snapping photos of everything and getting in the way of the unfortunate Londoners who have somewhere to get to. Big Easy fits perfectly into the Covent Garden mould. It’s huge for one, and also the perfect mix of completely false with quite trendy. It’s very much like Balthazar in this respect, another restaurant in the area which is trying to be the authentic New York-French brasserie, and has spent millions trying to achieve this look, but in the end just falls short.

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We were given the worst table in the restaurant. It was essentially hidden from the eyes of any waiter. Well that’s the only reason I can think why they ignored us for the first 35 minutes. That’s right, 35 minutes before we got a drink. I had to ask 3 waiters for a drinks menu before one came, and 4 different waiters for water, which didn’t come until we had finished the meal. And of course they employ that 2 hour rule, which would be fairer if they didn’t take nearly an hour to take the order. To say the service was a disaster would be an understatement. This was comically bad.

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But in a group of 4- this place is made for groups, not a quiet date- once the beer was flowing we stopped caring about the useless staff, and enjoyed the brash vibe. A huge sharing plate (£19.50) kicked things off. How this could possibly be for 2 people as it recommends on the menu, I do not know. You’d have to be American to finish these portion on your own. It wasn’t anything special. I mean it was perfect, but only because everything deep-fat-fried is. Chicken wings, big battered shrimps, calamari,and Hush Puppies (deep-fried cornmeal batter and chilli jam). It tasted exactly like the sharing platter you’d get at somewhere like Sports Cafe in Leicester Square. Something that big kitchens churn out all day without thought or effort. But with plenty of beer (which hits you at £5.50 a bottle here) this is the exactly the type of food you want.

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Next up things got considerably better, and considerably bigger. The Bar.BQ Blow Out(£17.95 per person) was Flinstone size portions of meat. There was enough meat to see you through the week. The ribs were stunning. Big fat juicy things with plenty of flesh to dig into. Then there was 2 giant hunks of chicken with charred crispy skin and juicy flesh. As if there wasn’t already enough pork, there was a pot of pulled pork, that was a good attempt, but didn’t have enough smokiness for my liking. The cornbread was rich and fatty, and the side of coleslaw and pit-smoked beans did a job.

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The Lobster Fest (£20) is either a 1 lb lobster roll or a full lobster, with fries, salad and a pint of beer. Choosing the lobster roll this was one heavy thing, packed with juicy lobster flesh. It wasn’t as good as the Burger & Lobster version, but still no let down. It was just a bit heavy, as if they thought packing in more and more meat would make it better. Something like this needs a lighter touch. And 2 portions of chips? Who’s getting through all them.

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The Lobster Bake (£19.50) was another huge dish, this time packed with seafood- Half 11⁄2 lb Lobster, Peel ‘n’ Eat Jumbo Shrimp, Mussels, Crab Claws & New Potatoes, with Hot ‘n’ Spicy or Garlic White Wine Sauce. Just reading that tells you there’s a load of food. I’d hate to see how much food gets scraped in the bin here because nobody on any of the tables was finishing. Some people will love this, but I wish they’d just cut back a bit and spend more time making sure it all tasted great.

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It would have been impossible for us to try a dessert. We were so full that we had to cancel the night out we had planned. There’s no easy way to do Big Easy. No way to cut back here. It’s the most American sized portions I’ve seen outside of America.There’s a lot to love and hate about this restaurant. It’s obviously not for everyone, and isn’t somewhere you’d come often, mainly because you’d likely die if you did. It’s very in-your-face loud and brash. But at times I love this. The food was as good as it gets for this type of cooking. It was also great value given just how much you get- the bill came to £45 a head with 3 pints each. Given the rest of the restaurants in Covent Garden, you can do a lot worse than just accepting Big Easy for what is is, and coming here.

Food: 6.5/10

Service: 2/10

Atmosphere: 8/10

Value: 8/10

Overall: 6.5/10

12 Maiden Lane, WC2E 7NA

Big Easy on Urbanspoon

Similar: BodeansFlesh & BunsBurger & Lobster

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