5A Berners Street, Fitzrovia
London W1T 3LF
London does not want for concept-restaurants or pop-ups, so it was with some hard-earned scepticism that I first scuttled across the threshold of Crabanatomy. This pop up, rather literally named with nearly all dishes featuring crab, is the passion project of Dr Nawamin Pinpathomrat; Masterchef finalist of yesteryear. The good doctor’s reputedly set out to fuse his medical science knowledge with his acknowledged cooking mastery. Having not experienced any medical emergencies during my meal I can’t speak for his skills as a physician; but I did leave convinced that he knows more about cracking crustaceans than any man alive.
Crabanatomy has slipped into Suda Thai Café’s old digs on Berners Street and has a comfortable spread of tables, with a pleasingly large cocktail bar lounging besides the entrance. We shot straight from the door to the barstools with all the dignity and self-possession of metal fillings zipping to a magnet. The rather expansive list of cocktails are each specially blended for Crabanatomy with inspiration taken from Thai staples. I went for a Tom Yam: Ginger, lemongrass, chilli, coriander, lemon juice and kaffir lime infused vodka served over ice. Based on Tom Yam soup, fiery is the word: the combination practically had me panting. The chili, coriander and ginger give it such a kick that lets the alcohol slide down practically unnoticed. Maybe a cocktail for those with a taste for spice, it was still compulsive drinking. My friend meanwhile had allowed the extremely personable mixologists to guide him to the Thai Colada. A reimagined Pina Colada mixed with chili; coconut milk, coconut water, pandan sugar syrup, lychee puree and Sangsom. The resultant cocktail is exquisite and his beatific smile only faded when I asked to share some. At £10 a cocktail, the pricing is extremely reasonable for Fitzrovia, with only the sharing cocktail Phuan Kan (a potent punch featuring strawberries, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, lime juice, Kwai Feh, pineapple juice, passion fruit juice, Mekhong, Cachaca, sugar syrup and vanilla syrup) raising the price to £20 for any pair of aspiring alcoholics up to the challenge.
As a result of our adventures with mixology, there was perhaps a hint of the sideways crab shuffle in our trip to the table. Crabanatomy’s concept leans in something of a tapas-esque direction with our waiter recommending three or four plates each, though there is a sharing platter which combines four courses for £24. We started with the mouth-watering mouthful of Miang Crab (£2.50pp), crab meat mixed with Thai herbs, lashed sweet fish sauce all wrapped up a betel leaf. This might only last you a bite or two, but the delicate mixture of flavours only leaves you wanted more and works as the perfect amuse bouche. The menu is as reasonably priced as the cocktails, with only two options which break the £10 barrier; with a high water mark at £12. We went with the full four each and it became clear very early on that the jewel in the crown was indisputably the Truffle Crab (£6), a decadently rich crab broth seasoned with coconut milk, galangal and lashing of white truffle oil. The whole combination is served inside a bowl fashioned from a crab’s exoskeleton which adds a certain ‘barbarian king’ ascetic to the proceedings. The broth is rich, deeply warming with a decadent finish, it’s a revelation. Other highlights were the Crab Darling (£9) prawn mixed together with achingly tender white crab meat and the Yellow Crab Curry (£12) crab meat served with turmeric, Thai basil and rice noodle. Powerfully flavourful with a certain subtleness, the curry is perhaps slightly overfilling and should be taken slowly. Indeed, the table can get a little busy with so many plates in motion and my guest and I filled up quicker than we were anticipating, so be prepared. All told there was not a bad option on the menu that we discovered with a brilliant range of tastes for a chef working with a single base ingredient.
Even over our stomachs protestations, we steamed into desert, with the Black Panna Cotta (£5) catching our eye; a combination of coconut ash, toasted coconut and sesame seeds. The name does not deceive with the resultant black offering causing a momentary pause. In this case at least, appearances are deceptive. The delicate taste of the coconut is leant a muscularity by the ash with the overall taste so moreish that our only complaint was that we hadn’t ordered two. Crabanatomy is a fantastic addition to a culinary scene that isn’t exactly underserved. Amazing value, a unique concept which pays off in spades. The trade-off is of course that pop-up there is a very short window to visit, with the doors closing on October 12th. Our advice? Catch it whilst it’s fresh!