If I had to sum up our lunch at Shrimpy’s the other day in one word, I would say it was ‘filling’. I had been warned by my friend Millen and Philippe that the dishes at Shrimpy’s were filling (no wonder given that their signature dish is a burger filled with deep-fried soft-shell crab and guacamole) but in all honesty I had underestimated just how filling the food would be. And the portions are by no means humanguous so I am still puzzled as to why we were all so full after what, at least on paper, seemed far from a generous lunch.
The last time Millen and Philippe had been at Shrimpy’s, they got to sit at the bar and observe all the dishes being churned out by the largely Spanish-speaking kitchen staff. As such, we knew to order the calamari with olive tapenade, the soft-shell crab burger as well as the pistachio sundae. And so we did.
To pace ourselves we shared two starters between the four of us. Veal hearts with chorizo and caperberries and the calamari. Although heart is not for the faint-hearted (oh the irony), I actually really like heart – especially when they come in the form of grilled beef ‘anticuchos’ and are served with a spicy sauce the way Terra Peru serves these. And the veal hearts at Shrimpy’s did not disappoint either. Although the meat might have been a bit juicier had they cooked the heart in a bigger piece rather than the thin slivers we were served, the flavour was spot on and the vinegary capers and the spicy chorizo provided a nice contrast both in terms of taste and texture to the concentrated veal flavour in the dense little slivers of veal heart.
My favourite of the two starters was the panko-covered deep-fried calamari rings served on a bed of fennel slices and drizzled with a black olive tapenade. I usually find black olive tapenade far too salty but here the saltiness was finely balanced and played off so well against the fresh fruity and liquorice flavours from the fennel. A nice addition to the dish were the fennel seeds that had been mixed with the panko crumbs – I usually never season panko or bread crumbs with anything more than salt and pepper but I have clearly been missing out!
For my main, I ordered the soft-shell crab burger and this was pretty delicious. Although the burger could have taken a bit more heat or acidity (to cut through the deep-fried crab and the creamy guacamole) the little bottle of ChipotleTabasco served with the burger did remedy the richness of this dish somewhat. Philippe found that the crab flavour was a bit lost between the deep-frying, the bun and the guacamole and although I do agree with this to some extent (and if I were to cook this dish, I would pair the deep-fried crab with a fresh salsa, maybe a pineapple, coriander and lime), I definitely found the dish yummy. So yummy indeed I totally forgot about the basket of fries in the middle of the table (and the table agreed they were very yummy fries).
My friends ended up ordering the veal chop served on a bed of olives and fennel sauted with Sambuca as well as the fried chicken, sweet corn and red pepper polenta. Although I am not entirely sure how the veal chop fit the South-American / US Diner theme of the restaurant, the dish sure looked tasty and got good reviews at our table. The fried chicken was described as a twist on a Chicken Kiev (and I ate far too many Chicken Kievs in boarding school to find a variation of that dish even mildly appetising) and the polenta looked a little dry. All in all I was quite pleased with my burger, even though I ended up too stuffed for dessert.
So this is the thing. I would not even describe the portions at Shrimpy’s that generous, but I was so stuffed the only thing I managed after my burger was a single shot of espresso plus half a teaspoon (not joking) of Millen and Philippe’s brownie and pistachio sundae (which was indeed very good – gooey brownie, cold and creamy ice cream and candied pistachios – simply marvellous!). I ended up slowly walking home – not that I had much energy left after our feast but the thought of standing on the cramped, hot and sticky tube for even one stop made me feel slightly nauseous.
Verdict: would I go again? Maybe. Shrimpy’s does feel like the kind of place where it is fun to go once but then you are kind of ‘done’ with it. Although a fun and funky place with some good people watching, the food wasn’t outstanding. And, at GBP 40 a head (given that we had one main each, starters to share, 2 sides to share, 3 cocktails, 1 glass of wine, 1 dessert and 3 espressi) it is definitely not cheap.
I leave you with some pictures of the restaurant both inside and outside.