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Restaurant Review: Big Easy Barbecue & Lobstershack, King’s Rd, Chelsea in London

If I’d been organised enough to Google-Map the precise location of Big Easy on King’s Road, I would have realised that it’s at the far end, and possibly wouldn’t have planned a journey to Sloane Square. But then, a leisurely stroll down this upscale retail strip is hardly any hardship, especially on the night of our visit, where the approach of December transforms the walk into a mass of twinkling lights, with things occasionally glimpsed in shop windows and added immediately to mental Christmas wishlists. The downside? An increasingly urgent need for the bathroom, which meant that the hostess who smilingly greeted us at the entrance of the Big Easy swiftly had her pleasantries interrupted with a plea for directions to the loo. This was the first point at which it struck me that the tables in this establishment are very close together. This is no place to be rushing, much less clumsy. Enough said.

Big Easy Barbecue & Lobstershack, King's Rd, Chelsea in London
Founded over 20 years ago, the legendary Big Easy Barbecue and Lobstershack combines the finest American cuisine made using quality ingredients with an impressive wine list, frozen margaritas and toe-tapping live music every night

Waiting for my companion to return – oh no, you didn’t think it was me barrelling between the tables did you?! – gave me ample opportunity to check out other aspects of the decor. It’s pleasingly authentic, from what little I know of genuine crabshacks, with red and white checked tablecloths and dark wood walls, over every available inch of which business cards are pinned (by the end of the night, ours have joined their ranks). There’s industrial pendant lighting and mounted blackboards; dotted here and there are rusty, distressed pieces of signage with sayings of the “Life’s a Beach” ilk. There’s a satisfactory mix of diners, too, from twosomes, to small clusters of smartly dressed lads, to a couple of birthday gatherings. There’s a family with three teenaged girls who alternate between staring avidly at their phones, bickering amongst themselves and appealing to their parents to tell the others off. An older couple are led to seats at our side and look suitably alarmed at our proximity. The tables really are that close together.

“Don’t worry,” I say cheerily. “I promise not to eavesdrop on your conversation. Well, only the good bits.”

The gentleman’s got a fair bit of charm left in him yet. “Oh dear, well, I’ll have to make sure I speak entirely in Portuguese!” he twinkles. “Oh but we’re amazingly fluent in Portuguese!” I laugh, in reply. And like that, any awkwardness dissipates.

Big Easy Barbecue & Lobstershack, King's Rd, Chelsea in London
Big Easy try their best to buy local where possible; selecting sustainably caught crabs and clams from Cornwall, hand-picked oysters from the South Coast and freshly caught Scallops from Scottish waters

Which is an important factor in our enjoyment of the evening, I think. When you’re dining in such close quarters to total strangers – and dining with the unflattering addition of a large, plastic bib to your outfit, no less – you have two choices: you can either stare resolutely at your companion and refuse to engage with those around you, or you can get on board with it and have some fun.

In a venue as jolly, low-key and convivial as Big Easy, the latter is surely the only feasible option. Fortunately, our new neighbours seem to have the same attitude and the woman, not to be outdone by her twinkly co-diner, takes advantage of the squeeze between our settings to touch my companion’s arm whenever she talks to us. I really can’t blame her, to be honest. He has exceptionally nice arms. And this is a place that encourages you to just go for it.

So go for it we do. Eschewing smaller starters – the likes of which include Voodoo Chicken Wings, Fresh Atlantic Crab Claws, Deep Fried Jumbo Shrimp and Stuffed Jalapeño Peppers – for a shared Chilled Mumbo Jumbo Combo – sees us eyeing each other excitedly over a selection of seafoods presented on a bed of fine ice. Shellfish crackers are wielded and lobster picks are dug avidly into spidery legs, leaving no morsel uneaten. “I refuse to believe there’s none left,” comes the determined mutter from opposite me, accompanied by a savage spiking and twisting of the pick.

Big Easy Barbecue & Lobstershack, King's Rd, Chelsea in London
The lobster is sourced from the icy waters off Nova Scotia

Daily Specials run from Monday through Thursday; for £20 per person, and depending on the day of your visit, you could be feasting on limitless fajitas, deep fried shrimp, or Bar.B.Q, accompanied by beer or a cocktail. Alas, it’s a Thursday when we visit: the offering is steak and lobster, and we’re just not in the mood for the steak. I’m sticking with seafood and opt for the Crabshack Combo: Peel’n’Eat Giant Shrimp, Crab Claws, Clams, Mussels, and fries. For him, Bar.B.Q is the order of the day, but “If I’m having ribs, I want a full rack,” he says, pointing to the option that serves up Baby Back Ribs accompanied by coleslaw and wild, shell-on, Jumbo Shrimp cooked over a charcoal grill. Okay, maybe we didn’t need to order the sides of green beans and creamed spinach, but a bit of green on the table makes me feel like I’ve checked some vague nutritional box for the day. Besides, the waiter tells us they’re delicious, and he’s right.

The couple next to us – I’m going to call them Sue and Richard – fairly gawp when the mains arrive. “Are you going to eat all of that?” says Richard, a tad enviously. Sue’s hand flutters out towards an arm that’s already about to spring into eating action. “Are you a rugby player?” she asks, admiringly.

Big Easy Barbecue & Lobstershack, King's Rd, Chelsea in London
Big Easy offers an impressive drinks list, with a special emphasis on mouthwatering cocktails

We liked Big Easy a lot. It’s not necessarily a restaurant you’d rhapsodise about, but it’s a good place for a chilled night out. It’s crowded and noisy, but not so that you have to raise your voice to have a conversation; just enough for you to know it’s a popular spot. The service is charming. The food is, as the name suggests; easy: it’s tasty, unfussy, fresh and big. The only slight surprise is that so is the bill: £130 for two, despite the fact that we’ve only had two drinks each. It’s not an enormous amount in itself, but it’s rather more than you might expect to pay for closely sandwiched tables, a downhome atmosphere and the wearing of a plastic bib. We’ll definitely be back though: aside from the fact that our lovely waiter is our new BFF, I spied someone eating fajitas on our way out, and they looked amazing.

Address: Big Easy Bar.B.Q and Lobstershack, 332-334 King’s Rd, Chelsea, London SW3 5UR
T: 020 7352 4071

bigeasy.co.uk