A musty and damp Friday evening in Cardiff isn’t particularly fun to walk through, but it does make the prospect of a hot meal at the end of it even more appealing. And in the case of a Louisiana-style crawfish boil, make that absolutely piping. Hosted by Neighbourhood Kitchen, an appropriately welcoming and cosy venue for its name (a reviewer way of saying it seats only a handful of people) with a rotating lineup of street food chefs, this is apparently the first of its kind in the city: a two-week celebration of the Cajun delicacy helmed by ‘Crawfish Bob’, whose company Crayaway has been rehoming non-native crawfish from British waterways onto British plates for more than 15 years.
Still mourning the loss of fast seafood at the ill-fated Burger & Lobster in Cardiff, I couldn’t pass up a chance to sample its namesake’s smaller relative. Not to mention the fact there aren’t that many places specialising in fish, in general, in Wales’ capital, which is odd considering its coastal location. The demand speaks for itself though – this pilot event sold out within a day.
Crawfish, I’m told, are considered pests in most places, and their lowly status seems to feed into their presentation: tipped out onto some newspaper on our table, not even worthy of plates. Cutlery is also unnecessary in the traditional Louisiana way, so once cooler, it’s a smash’n’grab situation. Served with a medley of flaky red potatoes, lightly charred corn on the cob, prawns in their shells and hunks of smoked sausage, the boiled jumble is sprinkled with Cajun spice by our chef and then spritzed with a tangy lemon solution like you might mist a house plant with. Instructions on how to expertly open the crawfish up are a bit lost on me, though it’s easy enough to brute force your way into and plunder its contents – or suck if you’re feeling confident. And while not as meaty as lobster it has a distinctively brinier taste reminiscent of darker fish.
Personally, I might have preferred it to be more buttery and left feeling like I had room for more, though supply and demand issues apparently resulted in a smaller product than they’d originally ordered. But as a unique social experience, it is definitely worth trying when it returns, bigger and better, this July: robust, refreshingly simple food you can literally dig into with friends.
words HANNAH COLLINS
80 Tudor Street, Cardiff. Info: here
Neighbourhood Kitchen’s Louisana-style crawfish boil returns at Tramshed, Cardiff, Sat 16-Sun 17 July. Tickets: £30 (includes crawfish feast and drink on arrival). Vegan option also available. Info: here.
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