Luxury London pays homage to seafood royalty at Marylebone's latest gourmet offering
Dinner at Fancy Crab, a new opening on Marylebone’s Wigmore Street, is not for the faint-hearted. Soon after my guest and I slide into our blue leather booth, a giant live specimen of the restaurant’s speciality, the red king crab, arrives at our table. Its beady eyes are watchful during the anatomy lesson given by our waitress, during which we learn that the species is a relative of the Alaskan king crab, transplanted to the Barents sea in the 1960s by Soviet scientists, where it flourished beyond expectations.
We observe a nearby table being served it whole – complete with showy sparklers – but we decide to start smaller and opt for the crispy king crab bites, crunchy crackers topped with tomatoes and crab meat drowned in a mayo-based sauce. Next up is a (pricey) crispy king crab claw served with potato fries and a side of pickles, which provides the perfect sour balance for the succulent, sweet meat.
In between courses, I take a closer look at some of the artworks: recognisable classics photobombed by crabs. Think Grant Wood’s American Gothic, where the pitchfork has become a crab; or Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine, which has been reimagined as: lady with a rather menacing-looking crab.
We move onto our mains and, you guessed it, there’s more crab, although a burger and grilled chicken with yoghurt dressing should satisfy those who prefer turf to surf.
We try a merus (the larger part of the leg) raw and a whole leg grilled with butter, preferring the latter for taste but the former for its mango, squid ink and chipotle mayo dips. Not able to pass up the signature dish, we also try the Singapore chilli crab with rice. The sauce is a little lacklustre and not as spicy as I’d expected, but brings some much-needed variety to the way the crab is served over the course of the evening.
But it doesn’t end there: the crustacean has managed to scuttle its way onto the dessert menu, too, although thankfully only in appearance. Shellfish fans can tuck into a king crab claw-shaped cheesecake with berry compote. Having had enough crab for one day, I politely bypass this for chocolate fondant with house-made salted caramel ice cream, while my defeated guest opts for the salad of desserts – a single scoop of refreshing cucumber sorbet.
Purists expecting to don plastic bibs and roll their sleeves up might be disappointed by the lack of tool work involved at Fancy Crab (the clue’s in the name). But those who find the pincers and armour plating intimidating will be in good company. Now, put down your pliers and take a bow to seafood royalty.