Published on November 5th, 2014 | by Gavin1
Big Easy, Covent Garden
Summary: Authentic American BBQ cooked to perfection
Word of advice to anyone that knows me. If you have a need to butter me up, (Possibly because you’ve put a red sock in the wash with my favourite white shirt or written off my car) just take me out for a great American style BBQ dinner and all will likely be forgiven. There’s nothing I love more than getting messy with a huge slab of slow cooked cuts of meat covered in a rich, sticky sauce- I’m salivating wildly just thinking about it now. And this brings me onto Big Easy. A long time BBQ staple of the Chelsea dining scene, the owners set up a new branch in Covent Garden earlier this year that sent shockwaves around the London BBQ scene. Other commitments have meant that I have yet to sample what some claim to be ‘London’s Best BBQ’; however I made sure I cleared my diary when I was invited to a special BBQ and Whisky masterclass.
Walking through the entrance, Big Easy is everything you expect; loud, brash, and unashamedly in your face. The place spans two floors and makes full use of the space available with tables squeezed in like the perfect game of Tetris. For our masterclass, we have the pleasure of sitting around the bar downstairs looking directly at the impressive number of American, Scottish, and Japanese whiskies behind head bartender and whisky host for the evening, Matt Critch.
In my opinion, whisky and barbequed meat are an equal match for any steak and red wine pairing; and looking at tonight’s one off menu, the whiskies on offer during each of the 6 courses are all fantastic. However, before we can get to the meat, we begin with Big Easy’s other feather in their cap, seafood. More specifically: Atlantic crab claws, Nigerian shrimp, and West Country mussels.
As the dishes arrive, it quickly dawns on me that I came unprepared wearing a crisp white shirt and business suit, because this was going to get hella’ messy. Luckily, Big Easy provide giant plastic bibs for all guests; perfect if you don’t mind looking like an overgrown infant. With bib tightened, sleeves rolled and plenty of caution, I begin to tackle the crab claw with the nut crackers provided. I patiently get the meat out from every nook and cranny before attempting to eat, and it’s certainly well worth the wait as I’m rewarded with a fresh treat as good as any shellfish you’ll find in the West End.
Likewise, the Nigerian prawn (which is humungous by the way) is just as juicy, but much more manageable to get into, apart from the stray shell piece which decides to flick into my eye. To accompany, we are given Mackmyra, a whisky that, unusually, heralds from Sweden. I must admit that it didn’t quite have the same effect that a good white wine would have, but it’s always good to try something new, and can now tick Scandinavian whisky off my bucket list.
Next up, it’s my second favourite dish of the evening; a bowl of wood smoked mussels. Although cooked well, the show was stolen by the peppery broth concocted by chef Mike Boulos especially for tonight to complement the Port Askaig whisky. Every mussel that went down my throat was even better than the last and it was finished all too soon for my liking, and I nearly demanded a second helping if it weren’t for the meat feast that I had been warned was to follow.
Pitmaster Pete Daverasa, a New Yorker who spent many years in Texas learning the BBQ ropes, talks us through his C.V. and the long nights spent creating the perfect pit smoked chicken, dry-rubbed St Louis pork rib, Carolina pulled pork and more. It’s clear this man is passionate and it shows in his cooking. The chicken has been marinated well, so well in fact that I resist my natural urge to cover the poultry in the accompanying home made BBQ sauce.
Next is my favourite dish of the evening; St Louis traditional pork ribs. It’s clear that Mike is proud of this dish and has gone as far as getting this cut personally made for him by the butcher. And what a cut it is; juicy, tender, and what proper barbeque is meant to taste like. What’s more is that the sweet Corsair Triple Smoked single barrel American whisky gives it an extra dimension.
After the highs of the chicken and pork rib, the Carolina pulled pork unfortunately doesn’t quite reach the same giddy heights and found it a bit dry in comparison. However, this is more than made up for by the exquisite Abelour whisky, a 59.7% peaty scotch perfect for sipping.
This set me up for the final course of the evening, a traditional southern state cornbread pudding with caramel sauce. The perfect antidote to the ensuing meat coma that was coming thick and fast- think sponge cake with more flavour.
As far as first experiences go, Big Easy lives up to the billing and then some. As an American BBQ enthusiast, there’s not much I can fault and I have a funny feeling those St Louis ribs will be getting ordered again sooner rather than later. Oh, and another note to anyone that knows me; if you accidently set my flat on fire, a trip to Big Easy may be the best time to tell me.
Big Easy, 12 Maiden, Covent Garden, WC2E 7NAShare This Post