Crab House Café, Dorset
…moments later shrapnel from the first mighty hammer blow cut through the air, perilously close to the left ear of an otherwise relaxed elderly lady sitting at a table towards the other end of the patio outside of the small wooden shack. Health and safety? Protective goggles are definitely not provided as part of the small set of offensive implements delivered by the waitress alongside the vast decapod crustaceans that form the café's trademark dish.
Implements for the job: authentically aged woodwork hammer, crushing board, crab pliers and flesh–prodder (for want of a better word).
A neatly folded apron is also included. I chose instead to become dressed with crab juice and flesh, smashed, splattered and spurted out of the claws and the legs of my victim.
After an initial tentative attack, I retreated into the runny brown material within the natural bowl of the crab body. Unfairly described by some as 'grey gunge', a less than delicate taste of the sea (or in this case the Fleet lagoon) is the reward. Delicious whole grain bread helps to mop up the juices, while a few ink–dyed legs of octopus and olives added variety (nibbles provided while waiting for my main course). And then the onslaught really began. Half an hour later, with more calories lost than gained, I had ripped the monster crab to shreds, having extracted all of the good bits – some of them extremely good, the best being the firm pink point triangles pulled from within each claw.
The Crab House Café is perhaps an odd candidate for being one of the trendiest restaurants of the moment. As John Walsh explained in his recent Inependent review, it is both basic and quirky. Straw hats are available for loan to diners, who may sit outside under pink plastic straggly retro–sixties umbrellas. But the food is excellent. Other diners were overheard heaping praise onto the variety of dishes consumed, including hallibut, skate, john dory, sardines, eels, bream and lobster. I chatted briefly to the manager and one of the chefs. They really know their seafood. They are also motorcyclists – a clear sign of cullinary genius.
Should I mention that the Hugh Whittingley Fearnley celeb pig farmer bloke rates it as one of his top seafood spots in Britain?
Crab House Café
Ferry Bridge Road