On Thursday night, we caught up with JC and decided to try out House of Crabs. We’d read and heard about it for a while, and decided it was TIME.
In that fuzzy area between Surry Hills and Redfern, is the Norfolk Hotel. It’s a pretty big bar/pub, so you’ll no doubt have passed by it if you’ve walked around that area. But kind of hidden above the Hotel is:
House of Crabs
- Web: http://houseofcrabs.com.au/
- Address: Level 1, 305 Cleveland Street, Surry Hills/Redfern
- Open: Mon-Thu, Sat (6pm to late), Fri (12-3pm, 6pm-late), Sun (12-9pm)
- Bookings: yes, you should, online via Dimmi and earn points
- Average price: $40 pp
Is it difficult to find? Yes, a bit.
The trick is to go inside the main bar area of the Norfolk Hotel (HOC doesn’t have a separate entrance), and on the left there is a set of stairs with this big glowing CRABS sign. D2D took a pretty cool photo of it.
Once at HOC, the decor is a complete transformation into a world between island tropical to Little Mermaid – kind of kitsch but very cool. We’re greeted and seated straight away at a corner booth which has cushy vinyl. Very relaxing and lots of room to put our bags down.
YES, you should book. Really, it’s puzzling how people don’t think to book, then they complain about having to wait 2 hours for a table. This place is pretty busy on a Thursday night! And the online booking system is via Dimmi, which is great because you earn points towards a free meal!
Dining times are limited to 2 hours, which is quite reasonable even with all the mess and shell cracking work that you have to do.
The staff here are super friendly! Our host gives us HOC newbies a run down of the menu (which you can peruse online).
Essentially, there’s 5 types of seafood (500g serving size) for boil, which you choose the sauce (cajun, mexican, oriental, lemon/pepper). These are served in a big bag.
This is the fun part. They really encourage you to share and tip the bags out onto the table, making it a really messy and fun experience! There’s no plates and cutlery is looked down upon. They do offer gloves, but really, doesn’t that just stop you from licking your fingers?
Yep, that’s right – no table manners here please!
Aside from the boils, they have a number of seafood-type snacks, two salads, some sides, some “bigs” (which are plated mains – but really, why not just go to a normal restaurant then…) and only 1 dessert choice.
We decide our orders and then get dressed with a big bib. There’s a box of free popcorn (peppered and with paprika I think) as nibbles while we wait.
But the snacks arrive pretty quickly:
For $12, this is a really big bowl of thin cut fries! There’s a topping of melted cheese, bacon and corn, which is quite nice. But you can’t really taste any lobster flavour. Oh well, a good carb item to add to the seafood to come.
This was pretty tasty, though again, you can’t really distinguish the crab or chorizo out of the ball. Still really yummy though! It’s served in 6 balls, which divides up easily for the three of us.
Then! Our boil bags arrive!
So the food comes in these big bags filled with seafood and sauce. They recommend tipping it all out onto the table, but we were a bit worried about the sauce dripping off the table and also mixing with each other. So we opted for just shaking the bags a big to reach inside.
I’ve never had snow crab before. It has very long and chunky legs. I usually don’t like to eat crab legs, because they tend to have little meat for effort to open ratio. However, the snow crabs are big enough that there’s a bit of meat inside! They aren’t claw heavy (not too much meat in the claws), but that actually makes it easier to share. Rather than two people having the most meat (two claws), it’s more evenly distributed and the legs are more plentiful (so easier to share).
This is the clam bag with garlic butter sauce. The garlic butter sauce was their special and tastes quite good – I mean, it’s garlic plus butter! The clams, however, were probably our least favourite as there was too much shell (including a few empty shells or un-openable shells).
We don’t have a photo of the prawns, but they were a good size! Like each one is bigger than my finger, and the lemon/pepper sauce was actually my favourite! If you find the first prawn you grab doesn’t have that much sauce, perhaps give the bag another shake. There’s tons of sauce at the bottom.
Near the end, they give you some complimentary bread to soak up the sauce. I always like places with free extras!
At the end of our meal, we are super satisfied and the table is super messy with shells and sauce to attest to our big meal! I should also note that they equip you well to eat all your seafood – there’s shell crackers, and prongs, which help to get the meat out of those crab legs.
My bib is also quite dirty with food after, having used it as a napkin to wipe my hands. There was also a moment when I snapped a crab leg and some miscellaneous crab material flew out…
If you want to wash your hands, the bathroom is unisex and a bit small. But they also give you hand towels (plus a neat trick).
All in all, the meal comes to $117 for 3 people – equating to about $40 pp. House of Crabs is definitely a fun place to eat – abandon your table manners and grab a claw! Best for small-medium groups, where you can get an assortment to try.