By Jonathan Hatchman, Food Editor, @TLE_Food
For anybody that doesn’t live or work in the area – Canary Wharf is a strange place. Many people, in fact, are unaware that Canary Wharf – as an address – refers to an area, juxtaposed to just the building, the one that used to be the tallest in London before the Shard came along and ruined it for the most eastern of London’s skyscrapers. Then again, at least the name of London Bridge station hasn’t been changed to ‘The Shard’, just yet. Instead, 99% of their restaurants are incredibly difficult to track down, purely because we’re all looking in the wrong place, not knowing that there are multiple sites that fall under the umbrella of Canary Wharf. Fortunately, with the opening of the new Big Easy Bar.B.Q & Lobstershack, the restaurant specifies that it can be found on the top floor of Crossrail Place, accessible by a beautiful roof garden that’s not dissimilar to the Sky Garden on the top floor of 20 Fenchurch Street (Aka. The Walkie Talkie – or that hulking, fat building that joins the city landscape and melts posh people’s cars).
For anybody unfamiliar with Big Easy, the restaurant first opened its doors in Chelsea upon the King’s Road in 1991. Then having become famous for its take on American cooking inspired by the deep south, the team behind the restaurant opened another in Covent Garden last year, 23 years later. Having gone from strength to strength during this current decade, there’s now a brand new opening that’s the biggest to date – with space for 400 covers, as well as some outdoor terrace space. Also with the new venue, the design pays appropriate homage to the local area, specifically West India Quay, evoking a 19th century dockside warehouse stacked full of cargo shipped from around the world. So it’s only right that there’s also massive focus on rum at the prominent bar.
Also exclusive to the new opening, there’s an all-American big breakfast menu that’s available from 7am. As a matter of fact, however, the thing that’s probably most impressive about Big Easy is the bar, displaying over 500 bottles of whiskey and bourbon, more than 100 rums (alongside casks of rum on tap) and an equally extensive cocktail list – with the world’s most expensive cocktail shaking machine on hand. During our breakfast visit though, my girlfriend and I decide that it’s far too early to indulge in any of the hard stuff, even though the breakfast menu (and our waiter) suggests otherwise. Instead, we opt for one of the interestingly named cold-pressed juices – only to find that they’re not in stock yet, although advertised on the menu.
There is a reasonably priced set breakfast menu on offer, ideal for local workers, yet it’s the more American, artery clogging plates that grab our attention. The Lumberjack Breakfast is a ridiculous feat: a gigantic plate is piled with three eggs, three rashers of bacon, three sausages (there’s a theme here), BBQ pit beans, fried potatoes, mushroom, a grilled tomato and Texas toast that tastes absolutely no different to English toast. The mountainous heap of scrambled egg is cooked well and features a welcome, if not terrifying, amount of butter. The bacon is thick and hearty but a little lifeless – possibly benefitting from a few more minutes in the pan, yet the sausages are perfect. On their own, the pit beans are delicious, yet the smoky sweetness from the barbecue sauce is not at all suited to this dish. A huge fan of The Wolseley’s eggs benedict, my girlfriend opts for one of the many variations of brunch time classic on offer here at Big Easy. Pulled pork and beef brisket options are available, but the ‘Nova Scotia’ that uses lobster to replace the more classic ham (or salmon in eggs royale) is the most provocative choice. Everything on the plate is cooked and prepared very well, indeed. The hollandaise sauce isn’t too vinegary or overcooked, the egg boasts a rich amber yolk, and the muffins aren’t too doughy. The delicate flavour of lobster, however, is completely lost here: a real shame given the prestige of the luxurious shellfish.
Apart from a couple of what are hopefully just teething problems, Big Easy’s Canary Wharf restaurant offers a huge breakfast for a relatively reasonable price. Needless to say, following the Lumberjack, my next mealtime wasn’t necessary until the following morning. Just be sure to dine during an hour that’s socially acceptable to take advantage of the impressive on site bar and cocktail list.
Big Easy Bar.B.Q & Lobstershack Canary Wharf can be found at Park Level, Crossrail Place, London, E14