The Norwegian king crab is a remarkable creature, not least because it isn’t exactly Norwegian. In the 1960s, the Soviets imported red king crabs from Alaska to provide a new and lucrative catch for fishermen in the Barents Sea, and the experiment was a great success – except that armies of crab started marching west towards Norwegian waters, hoovering up, en route, much of the ocean floor by way of sustenance.
In the interests of biodiversity, then, it makes sense – at least with The Gannet’s rather rudimentary grasp of ecosystems – to eat as many of them as possible. To this end, you might take a flight to Tromsø in northern Norway, way up in the Arctic Circle, and visit Fiskekompaniet (pictured), a modern and rather beautiful restaurant in the harbour.
The king crab was not long in coming: a single, colossal limb on a plate, dressed only with a wedge of lemon and a sprig of dill, its rugged, cherry-red shell protecting sweet, firm flesh. Then ravioli filled with scallop mousse – perfectly made pasta, bathed in a fragrant jus – followed by a lightly salted slab of impeccably fresh, pearl-white cod, served almost à la bourguignonne, with mushrooms, bacon, carrots, onions, a red wine-rich sauce and a dollop of silky mash. All washed down with a superb, mineral-tinged bottle of Meursault 1er Cru les Genevrières 2011 from Rémi Jobard.
I heartily recommend Tromsø: in winter, for reindeer sledding and the Northern Lights; in summer, to sail along the fjords or hike around the spectacular coastline; and, at any time of year, for superb seafood.
The closest you will come to grappling with one of these enormous beasts outside the glacial waters of the Barents Sea, though, is at the appropriately named Beast, just the other side of Oxford Street from the hedgefunders’ haunt of Hanover Square. A subterranean refectory for the well-heeled, Beast boasts long communal tables, a stellar wine cellar and a no-choice menu of antipasti, king crab and Angus beef, though there’s a board of specials too.
There is something reassuringly nursery-like in simply having food brought to you while strapped into a bib – and what Beast does, it does very well. In addition to having the decapod’s mighty claws with a couple of sauces, I ordered king crab and foie-gras gyoza from the specials, a sort of divinely decadent dim sum.
The crab was as fine and firm as its Tromsø cousin; the beef a splendid hunk of rib-eye, cooked perfectly medium rare and richly marbled with fat. It is an orgy of protein, a surf ’n’ turf extravaganza of macho munching: luckily, The Gannet has an appetite matched only, I suspect, by those all-consuming, 10-legged creatures of the deep – and I loved it.