Bea’s Crayfish Boil – All-You-Can-Eat Crayfish & A Good Cause!
Published 27 August 2012
Love Crayfish? Join the club! Despite this little water critter being eaten in hue amounts in many parts of the world like in China and the US, crayfish is seen as quite foreign to British plates. Although our rivers are teeming with predatory American signal crayfish, its still really difficult to find chefs that are interested in making crayfish dishes – apart from Pret-A-Manger, who have been championing crayfish sandwiches for years.
So when I heard that Bea Vo, founder of Bea’s of Bloomsbury was opening up a pop-up all-you-can-eat crayfish buffet feast, I signed up immediately. I’ve always had an affinity for shellfish, even going as far as travelling to Billingsgate Market at 4am on a Saturday morning to pick up some fresh live lobsters. Crayfish meat is similar to lobster and prawns, but there is very much less meat per crayfish, and their heads are huge. So it takes a-lot more effort shelling crayfish for the amount of meat you get. But the meat, if fresh, is so sweet and delicious that nothing quite compares to it.
So why is Bea, owner of the cupcake show Bea’s of Bloomsbury, opening up a crayfish feast? First, she’s a big fan of crayfish herself – and the recipe that she uses for this Crayfish Boil is one used by her folks back home in Louisiana – mountains of Spiced Crawfish, Potatoes, Sweetcorn, Sausage, and Garlic Bread along with cocktail sauce, comeback sauce and our special cajun butter sauce for dipping. Secondly, she’s teamed up with Crayfish Bob, a man on a mission to get rid of the invasive American Signal Crayfish away from our rivers. They were introduced a while back, have now multiplied rapidly, and are threatening the survival of our own native white-clawed crayfish (hmm… I wonder how those taste!).
So enough about the history, back to this all-you-can-eat crayfish party! The first one was held on the 14th June – and due to overwhelming demand, Bea is hosting them every week until the 13th September, on Thursday and Friday evenings. The location of the Crayfish Boil is at 76 Druid Sreet (London SE1 2HQ), which is a random industrial estate between London Bridge and Bermondsey. The venue is a converted space underneath the railway arches – a pretty weird place to host a pop-up restaurant:
Inside though, there are some long benches with wax paper for tablecloths, and paper plates and no cutlery. Definitely not the place to come for a first date (unless the date is crazy about crayfish of course, and would go to the end of the world to get it!):
A small selection of drinks are available, including some fancy Brewdog beers, margheritas, and strawberry lemonade. But the main attraction, of course, is the big pot of boiled crayfish, corn on cob, potatoes, and some sausages:
While you may think the sausages are there just to fill you up and get you to eat less crayfish, they actually turned out to be some pretty darn good sausages. Not the usual processed frankfurter kind! The stock used to boil the crayfish is a bit spicy, so the corn on the cob does have a bit of spicyness, but its nothing too hot and don’t be worried even if you normally can’t take spicy food.
Eating crayfish takes time to get the small sliver of meat out from the exoskeleton armour that its wrapped in – so make sure you leave plenty of time for this crayfish buffet! For beginner crayfish eaters, here are some instructions on how to get the crayfish meat out of the shell:
First, break the head off. Discard the head. For the tail, remove all the brown and grey matter from exposed end. Then carefully start to peel the shell off the tail – this is tricky, and might be quite hard. Once you have the whole tail meat out, remove the “spine” part of the tail, which contains the digestive track (its sometimes black). Then dip the tail into one of the sauces provided (smoked Tabasco was my favourite) and eat whole!
Service at Bea’s Crayfish Boil was efficient too, better than I’ve seen it at some Michelin starred restaurants. When you get to the bottom of your metal tub of crayfish, they immediately come round with a new steaming full tub!
And then after the meal, when you feel like you can’t eat any more, they come round with boxes of home made popsicles, with great flavours like lemon and ginger, watermelon, and toffee. Awesome end to the evening!
So do I recommend Bea’s Crayfish Boil? Absolutely! Even if you’re not a big fan of crayfish, its an interesting night out (the location itself is a story to tell), the crayfish is tasty, £24 is quite reasonable if you’re a big eater, and best of all you’re doing the British river ecosystem some good by eating these invasive American Signal Crayfish. So go – before it finishes in mid-September!
Bea’s Crayfish (or “Crawfish” in American parlance) Boil takes place on selected Thursday and Friday evenings at 7pm onwards until mid-September. Full information and schedule available here.