When BBQ brand Big Easy, Covent Garden opened in a former Victorian power station in 2014, Jay Rayner gave the place a rave review. The ribs and the pulled pork were particular hits. The baked beans were proclaimed to be a triumph. But how does the place compare nine years later?
One thing that is still true is that the hike to the gents’ toilets is on par with a Wetherspoons visit, if not more so: you’re directed through the downstairs seating area and along a maze of dimly-lit corridors before you reach your destination. For us ladies, it’s a far more palatable journey, although the loos could have done with a good clean when we visited.
We were in town with an overexcited five-year-old on his first visit to London, hence the need for a child-friendly pitstop for lunch. The sheer size of the Big Easy restaurant and its location on Maiden Lane, just out of the main hubbub of Covent Garden itself, meant that there were plenty of free tables without the need to pre-book.
As you’d expect, Big Easy is packed full of Americana (we loved the wall entirely composed of US numberplates), and has a casual, relaxed vibe with its leather seating and wood panelling. Blackboards both upstairs and down (where you’ll see the open kitchen) advertise the type of food that’s on offer, while the bar is so well-stocked that it even features a wheeled ladder to access every part of it more easily.
Weekday lunchtimes are the time to score yourself a bargain. The deluxe lunch special features half a lobster with garlic butter, chips, salad and a glass of Prosecco for £15, while choosing the one-course express menu nets you a choice of mains along with a premium drink for just £10.
When I realised that the “premium drink” selection included alcoholic slushies, my mind was made up. They’d run out of pina coladas, sadly, but the strawberry daiquiri was fruity, boozy and a great consistency – if a little on the small side, but I expected that for the price of the meal. The same went for my dining partner’s beer, the size of which wasn’t specified on the menu but turned out to be half a pint.
The mains were a little hit-and-miss. No major complaints about the Pitmaster Bar.B.Q sandwich with its glazed toasted bun, its juicy sliced brisket and sausage (the flavour of which was a bit overpowering) and its generous dollops of sweet, thick BBQ sauce. The fries were pretty good too but the coleslaw had a weird tang to it that didn’t taste quite right.
Parts of the Home-Smoked Bar.B.Q Taste-O-Rama that I’d chosen were beautiful. The barbecued beans, with their sweet, smoky flavour, were a revelation. The pork rib was thick and meaty and the fat perfectly soft. The Texas link was firm and nicely spiced with a hint of sweetness.
The pulled pork, though, was overly soggy. The chicken, conversely, was a little overdone. The cornbread was sweet and dense as it should be, but incredibly dry.
Since posting a video of our experience on TikTok, I’ve been told by a few people that the Mayfair restaurant is much better – that the food at Big Easy, Covent Garden used to be great but has gone downhill in recent years. While there’s no denying that £10 for a main meal and a drink is great value – especially in that part of London – I don’t think we’ll be in any rush to head back.