The Big Easy first opened its doors on the Kings Road before launching a ‘bigger little sibling’ in Covent Garden. I’ve never been to the King’s Road location, but the Covent Garden restaurant is an incredible building. Built into an old electrical power station, the space dates back to 1883 when it was the HQ for the Charing Cross & Strand Electricity Supply Company.
The power station was founded by the Gatti Brothers and first used to light their own restaurant, ‘The Adelaide’ on the Strand. The power station went on to light many of the businesses around Covent Garden, the Strand, and the West End. Big Easy opened in February, 2014 after renovating the space, but kept many of the original features over the 3-story, 10,000 sq ft space.
Big Easy did a great job of keeping the copper conduits, exposed timber framework, original brickwork, and steel and concrete girders of the original structure and combining it with steampunk-esque tiling and metal-work.
Big Easy is a bit of an American BBQ/Crabshack hybrid that you would find in the southern US. The Covent Garden location features a 2.5 meter Argentinean-style parilla charcoal grill as well as a two-meter rotisserie spit that roasts whole hogs, and a 2.5 metre wood burning oven. They also have a BBQ pit area that houses two, 1.5 tonne J&R wood burning smokers imported from Texas. They smoke their meats for up to 18 hours using Oak, Hickory, Apple and Cherry wood to infuse various smokey flavours.
This smokiness is really what sets Big Easy apart – especially when it comes to their burger. It’s the most flavourful beef patty that I’ve had in London, full stop. It’s as if the grill tops have been infused with months and months of wood smoke and various other cuts of beef, pork, and chicken – and then when they cook a burger, the grill imparts that melting-pot of flavours into the beef. the “Smokehouse Burger” comes served atop of some crispy veg and fried onions and topped with melted and smoked cheese, BBQ sauce, and THICK cut bacon.
The bun is purely a footnote as the beef is brought to the front and centre with this burger. The flavour is unlike anything you can get at any of the other places I’ve reviewed. And while many burgers out there have more ‘premium’ beef or wider ranges of toppings, none can capture the flavour spectrum that comes from massive amounts and varieties of BBQ sharing the grill-top.
From the smoke pits Big Easy also offers BBQ pulled chicken, pulled pork or chopped brisket sandwiches. All of these plus the beef Smokehouse burger sit on one of my “best value in London” lunch/pre-theatre deals. For £10 (between noon-6pm or from 10pm-close) Monday through Friday, you can pair one of these delectable sandwiches with a good-sized starter or desert cupcake for just ten quid. AMAZING!
For your starter you can choose from mussels, hush puppies, calamari, mac’n’cheese, caesar or wedge salads, popcorn shrimp, or the wood chicken wings. If you opt for dessert you aren’t as spoiled for choice; chocolate or red velvet cupcakes. I naturally went for the chicken wings to see just how ‘Buffalo’ they make ’em at Big Easy. Here is the volume of food I got for my £10. how can you beat that?!?
If you are a hardcore BBQ fan, I highly recommend the huge meat feasts from the Big Easy Pit. The BBQ Blow Out Platter is the most American of the over-eating you can do, and for just under £20 per person you get a massive deal for that. They serve pit-smoked chicken, St Louis pork ribs, and Carolina pulled pork with cornbread and fries in massive amounts on an upside-down trash bin lid. It’s a meat lover’s dream… AND you can add brisket to that mix for another £3.
I love that Big Easy actually calls out those who would be put off by pink color in their meat. You should be completely fine with that, but just in case you don’t like pink meat or happiness, Big Easy provides this disclaimer: If there’s a pink ring around your meat, don’t worry. The pinkness is a result of our long, low and slow smoking process and it’s exactly what you should look for in real smoked BBQ. Well put.
If you’re more seafood inclined, you’ll be happy with the equally massive seafood platters. I’m not a shellfish guy, being highly allergic, but my mates seemed well-pleased! For £20 you can do the Big Easy lobster fest or £18 for the Crabshack combo, both of which are huge messes of shellfish goodness. The Combo contains giant shrimp, crab claws, mussels, clams, and new potatoes all smothered in hot-n-spicy or garlic white wine cream.
Another speciality which is a huge hit is the jumbo fried shrimp baskets. On Tuesdays they do bottomless baskets of the shrimp which can get out of hand. Big Easy shrimp really are jumbo, unlike many London restaurants who try to pass off cashew-sized prawns as a jumbo shrimp.
Meat and seafood aside, the Big Easy Covent Garden easily has the most impressive bar in London – in my humble opinion. Sitting on the ground level facing out into the restaurant is the nine-meter long bar, glowing like a beacon of bourbon-y hope. Boasting over 500 bottles on nine levels of liquor racks, Big Easy focuses on domestic and American whiskeys, as well as rare tequila, rum, liquor and French and Spanish brandy. Don Draper, eat your heart out. You too, Roger Sterling.
The bar also offers frozen Margaritas as well as Manhattans and Old Fashioneds on tap! Their take on the maple old fashioned is one of the nicest versions around for the uninitiated. The bar list goes on and on to include ‘Boozy Juices’, ‘hard milkshakes’, and a wide range of imported craft beers.
As Big Easy says, “Our inspiration; the Gulf Coast, the Belle of the South, the home of Bar.B.Q. A melting pot of cultures that is reflected in the parties they throw and the many spirits they serve. And Big Easy lives up to that inspiration, delivering a festival of BBQ flavours that I feel is unrivalled in the London BBQ scene.
Big Easy Smokehouse Burger – 41/50
Beef (9): Smokey and delicious with hints of all the other BBQ’ed meats infused.
Bun (6): functional and takes a backseat to the things between it.
Toppings (8): Thick cut bacon is amazing, but wish they had a few more options.
Value (10): The Lunch/Late-night menu is an amazing value.
Ambiance (8): The old power station might not be exactly like dining on the bayou, but it’s a little haven of smoke pit amazingness and the bar doesn’t hurt!
The Big Easy has three locations now, the first and last on Kings Road and Canary Wharf respectively, but my favourite is in Covent Garden. You can find them at 12 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden WC2E 7NA or visit their website here.