If there is one thing Brisbane doesn’t need right now, it’s more shitty American themed venues. St James Crabhouse and Kitchen is NOT one of these places. St James is one of the freshest new seafood restaurants to hit Brisbane bringing with it a whole lot of North American charm, bibs and awesome food.
You may have guessed already, but St James’ forte is crab. From Alaskan snow crab to Aussie blue swimmer crab to something called Jonah Claws, they do lots of crab and they do it well. There is nothing very glamorous about tucking into a crab and the crew at St James are well aware of this. The crabs are cooked and served in plastic bags to trap in all the flavour and the staff are bib-tying ninjas – experts at assisting you in donning your crab-tackling armour (the gloves and bib are definitely a necessity. Do NOT forgo them. You will regret it).
For starters, we shared some crab cheese chilli poppers, Captain Cheng’s pork belly croutons and some buffalo chicken wings. It was really hard to pick a favourite and everyone at my table had a different fave. Personally I think the pork belly croutons are a must; they are unique, coated in a delightful Chinese five spice mix and the ideal combination of meaty, fatty and crispy.
For mains, we had BBQ pork ribs, Alaskan snow crab with Baltimore sauce and South Australian mussels in marinara broth as well as a side of fries and some coleslaw. EVERYTHING WAS AWESOME. The ribs were sticky, sweet and slid off the bone. There was nothing fancy or ‘overdone’ about them. They were ribs done really well.
The mussels were bloody amazing and were proof that the produce at St James is high-quality. These were some of the biggest, juiciest mussels of my life. The serving size was also very generous and the marinara sauce was fresh, fragrant and flavoursome. Again, this dish was full of classic flavours done really well.
As for the pièce de résistance – the Alaskan snow crab – the servings are by the half kilo, which was plenty of crab for one person (or two people if you’re sharing a few things). The crab is served up in a bag, alongside another empty bag to dump your shells. Your weapons are a crab cracker, a crab fork and a garlic bread baguette. If you’re trying to seem sexy and alluring to a special friend on a first date, DON’T come here for your date. Because you won’t look sexy with a bib on and a crab claw slipping out of your sauce covered hands while you nervously giggle up some garlic breath… unless you’re into that kind of thing. In which case this may be a great way to test if your tinder date is also a massive glutton. TBH thats what I would do. ANYWAY, the crab was awesome. Super fresh (do Alaskan snow crabs come from Alaska? I don’t know but they didn’t taste like they had made a long haul journey to the other side of the world), nice and sweet and if you know how to crack it juuuuust right, you can get huge chunks of meat out. I now consider myself a crab-mangling pro and have discovered that I enjoy the same level of satisfaction pulling a clean tube of meat out of a crab claw as I do when I squeeze a huge zit. Different strokes for different folks okay?!
Because we weren’t already stuffed full of enough food to feed all of Alaska, we also ordered dessert. The key lime pie was the perfect way to finish off a rich seafood feast. It was light, sweet and tart and not at all reminiscent of the jello-green key lime pie from Natural Born Killers. 10/10 would eat again.
St James Crabhouse and Kitchen may celebrate some North American crab loving customs but this place is no copy-cat American diner. There’s no unnecessary gimmicks or absurd plating, no gratuitous wall art or freakshakes. Yes they serve their crabs in a bag and they insist you don a bib and glove combo but these are all necessary and practical steps to ensure you can take down every last bit of your spidery yet succulent sea monster.
St James only opened about 3 weeks ago and they are a small venue under the Story Bridge in Kangaroo Point. They aren’t taking bookings right now and you just have to rock up and hope for the best (its worth the wait). The earlier you get there, the more likely you will get seated quickly. Meals come out promptly so small tables can be turned over fast. The staff at St James are one of their best assets and we were met with some of the best service I’ve experienced in Brisbane. They are attentive, friendly, chatty and super accommodating. They’ll do their best to make sure you get a table as soon as possible and that you will enjoy every part of your experience at St James.
If you can’t already tell, I really enjoyed my time here and I’ll be returning as soon as I can *downloads Tinder and swipes right until someone agrees to take me to dinner*.