First Look: The Crab Shack
By Catherine McGregor. Photos by Ken Downie.
Step into The Crab Shack’s wide, glass-roofed atrium, take in the sweeping views of the Downtown Ferry Terminal and the Waitemata Harbour beyond, and “shack” probably won’t be the first word that springs to mind. But, as owner Simon Gault (of Euro, Masterchef and best-selling cookbook fame) might say, The Crab Shack is less a physical space, more a state of mind.
“This is honest and fun food, served on wooden boards and aluminium trays,” he says. “There’s nothing prissy about it.”
But that’s not to say Gault’s team (Gault himself won’t be cooking here) doesn’t take the food seriously. While there’s lots on the menu for meat-eaters – and even a couple of vegetarian options – The Crab Shack is first and foremost a celebration of seafood of all kinds, and in particular kai moana from our own waters.
Gault says that before the first Crab Shack opened in Wellington, they toyed with naming it The Pipi Shack instead. They ended up settling on a compromise: a Cape Cod-style seaside eatery with a heavy emphasis on New Zealand ingredients and flavours.
The house bread is rewena (aka “Maori bread”), topped with golden syrup and an olive and pork crackling crumble; tuatua fritters come with sauce of corn, pecorino and jalapeño crème fraiche; mussels and Cloudy Bay clams are served by the scoop, with a choice of creamy sauces. “Clams are one of New Zealand’s best kept food secrets,” says Gault. “If there’s any natural produce we can be proud of, it’s these.” And they’re sustainable too.
Craving crustaceans? Seeking cephalopods? They’ve got you covered there as well: they serve calamari, of course, plus long-legged crabs, boiled and doused in spicy sauce. Prepare to get messy.
A round tiki-style bar takes pride of place up front and there’s another bar further back – like we said, this is place for having fun. Order a so-cheesy-it’s-cool Lava Flow cocktail and you might imagine yourself on the set of Elvis’ Blue Hawaii (well, almost). The beers are another international mix of flavours and styles, including Emersons (NZ) and Little Creatures (Australia) by the bottle, and their own Martha’s Golden on tap. Although the beer itself was brewed in New Zealand, it’s named after Martha’s Vineyard, just south of Cape Cod. Look out for the tap decorated in the style of the movie Jaws, which was filmed there.
The Crab Shack
21 Princes Wharf