Crabshack, Wellington - Big Welly Buffalo 6.5/10

The Big Welly buffalo burger, 300g pattie w beetroot, chipotle slaw, smoked provolone cheese & tomato - $26

 I had heard good things about the Crabshack on Queens Wharf, which offers a priced down version of fine cooking.  It is attached to Shed Five, which is the high priced half of the duo - commonly referred to as fine dining.  Factor in a focus on seafood = even more pricey.

However, its not often that one can afford to go to a "celebrity" chef's establishment.  And Simon Gault is definitely in the "celebrity" category in New Zealand.

I'm guessing that this fine cooking by celeb chefs is a trend.  One that I have been noticing on telly and the news, where top chefs bring quality food to the masses at a lower price point.  I'm all for it.

So when a good mate of mine came down from the big smoke (Auckland) and wanted to hook up for lunch - and then suggested the Crabshack - I hopped in my Chrysler.

Tin roof...rusted. ???

So, after having to explain away my poly-chromatic lenses, and catching up on the past few years (all about life with kids), we finally got down to checking out the menu.  I already knew what I was ordering.  The other two (Nik and Emma) ordered the fish burger (Captain Waru) and the fish special respectively, which both came with cajun seasoning.

The contents appeared to have been slapped together 
giving it a lopsided appearance.
For a priced down eatery, the Crabshack was still relatively pricey, with the big welly buffalo burger chiming in at $26.  Granted it was a 300g pattie.

So at that price and with the reputation, I definitely had high expectations.

And upon arrival the presentation of the Big Welly Buffalo didn't disappoint.  The burger was wholly wrapped in wax-paper camouflaged as newsprint.  And the headlines and text on the newsprint was burger-related to boot.  The BW handwritten on the wrapping was pure theatre!! Also on the tin plate were a handful of Steak fries and a jar of creamed corn.

Unwrapped, the burger didn't look nearly as impressive.  It was a relatively large bun, and the contents appeared to have been slapped together giving it a lop-sided appearance (see pic 2).  Upon opening it up the cheese was nicely melted, but again, this was undone by the poor construction (see pic 3).  Fine dining for the masses surely doesn't mean less focus on preparation?

poor construction let the burger down
Fortunately I do have some assembly skills and reconstructed the fillings so that they were proportioned evenly across the bun.  Unfortunately there was little i could do with the sauce on the top.  Obviously, this is not something that you want or expect to have to do with a meal...

Once that was done and I sliced through for the cross-section shot I was once again excited.  The pattie was well cooked, with a slight pink tinge in the middle.  The grind was not too fine, which suggested good texture and flavour.  So finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I got to the tasting.

As expected the pattie was the star!  Excellent texture.  Meaty flavour with a slightl buttery taste in the background.  Sweetness from the beetroot.  Crunch from the coleslaw.  Not sure the tomato added too much and the chipotle flavour must have been pretty mild.  The bun, while tasty in its own right, didn't necessarily perform the function of keeping the package together very well.  It was a bit flimsy.  It also wasn't toasted enough (if at all).

The pattie was the star.  But was it 300g?
Most critically, what the burger really missed was pickle.  While the coleslaw added crunch, the sour tartness of a quality pickle was missing.  Poking out the end of Nik's fish burger there was a pickle, and it was all I could do to keep myself from Nicking it and adding it to my Welly Buffalo.  I didn't.  I should have.

Ultimately, it was a good burger.  But it wasn't outstanding.  The pattie was the star - (not quite 300g I didn't think, which may be why the burger looked out of proportion) - but the supporting cast let it down.  As to the sides, I don't remember even trying the creamed corn and the chips were just ok.  At the price point, and with high expectations, I couldn't give it more than a 6.5.

Folks lining up outside just to get down...

To be fair,the Crabshack's main focus is seafood.  So kudo's for putting a beef burger on the menu.  I am guessing that there is a bit more effort in their treatment of the Kai moana - the paddle crab and clams in particular.

And the Crabshack itself was a pretty cool laid-back joint.  It had great atmosphere and did make you think you could actually be somewhere in the US.  The theme was consistent throughout.  From the menus through to the tin plates, and the beer arriving in jars.  The wait staff were excellent and accommodating (swapping Em's potato for fries without hesitation) and the atmosphere was homely and relaxed.  I can definitely see myself there for a different take on buffalo -buffalo wings.  According to their website, they are 50c a pop on a Friday.  I'm a starter for a cheeky dozen at least!!

So come on and bring your juke box money!!


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