When this crustacean-loving, dive-bar-occupying house of fried chicken and crab boils opened earlier this year, we damn near choked with excitement. When we heard that the gents who brought it into delicious existence were heading off to work on another project, we almost choked again with panic. But luckily the masterful brothers Balleau (Mick and Will, who also own Chingon, Chingon Taco Truck and Cuban food wagon El Paladar) gave head chef Katie Marron the nod to keep on trucking. So, what started out as Dr Juicy Jay’s Fried Chicken and Crab Shack, is now Katie’s Crab Shack – and it is delicious.
You can still get that crab boil: a hands and chest covering plate of blue swimmer crabs cooked up with potatoes, corn and sausage and drenched in garlicky butter. But now you can also get a big old bucket of prawns and some frosty beers. That’s summer all sewn up.
Those prawns –and all the other produce that’s going into the kitchen at the front of ramshackle boozer the Public Bar – may be Australian as, but the rest of the recipes are all-American. Marron is of US stock and she’s pillaged the family archives. “My fried chicken was my great aunt Lamar's recipe which I have since adapted from the cookbooks she’s written. It’s very Southern; but then the Chesapeake crab burger reflects more of the food style of the North East coast where my mum grew up, with its Old Bay seasoning and so on."
Much of the rest of the menu is determined by whatever Marron can get her mitts on from the market that day. The Shack is just opposite the Queen Vic markets so you could just as easily be smashing freshly shucked oysters, as fat fillets of monkfish captured in a light crunchy batter with a fistful of crisp straw fries. Either way, you’re looking down the barrel of a whole lot of fish-fuelled fun.