I had high hopes for the Chilli Crab Festival on Brick Lane at the weekend. Some nice weather was looming, there was beer. And spicy crab. Ace.
Running for three years now the Tiger Beer’s Singapore Chilli Crab Festival seemed like an excellent way to spend a Sunday. The press release promised a festival that would, “transform London’s East End into a Singaporean oasis full to the brim with exotic tastes, smells and sounds of the Far East.” There was to be a range of Singaporean food cooked by a celeb chef, live cooking demonstrations, dragon dancing, martial arts displays, music, a Singaporean garden and henna tattoos.
So, a crowd of us decided to make a day of it, looking forward to enjoying some freebies, nice food, chilled out entertainment and cold, cheap beer – it was after all a festival organised by Tiger so we assumed they’d be keen to get everyone drinking as much of the Singaporean nectar as possible.
Sadly not. Beers cost £3.40 each. I think that’s more expensive than the pub. They were served by waitresses who appeared to think ‘can I have a beer please’ was festival code for huff, glare and look bored. Not that I blame them, it wasn’t the most inspiring place to work. The ‘oasis’ was in fact a concreted area off Brick Lane that had had a fake lawn installed, some benches and some Tiger beer bunting. It looked pathetic.
I think there was music, but I couldn’t hear it and we didn’t see anyone dancing, let alone a dragon. I’m still not sure where the Singaporean garden was either.
Swallowing our disappointment and our expensive beer, we headed for the food, where more overpriced and underwhelming weirdness was to be found. To get your chilli crab involved a complicated process of lining up festival-style with iron fencing and security guards. Winding, slow moving queues led to a small stall where you bought a food ticket, for which you paid £6.50. You were then herded to another stall to get a limp piece of French bread. And finally to a stall where the ‘chilli crab special’ was handed to you from a pile of two hundred others, in a plastic take away box. I don’t even know if it was cooked on site.
Then we had to find somewhere to sit on the wet ground with the other hundred miserable looking people and attempt to eat boiling hot chilli crab with our fingers. Then we left; having spent £20 and half an hour being pissed off and bored. And the only free thing I got was a fluffy crab toy, which my cat has already pulled to bits.
To give them their due the chilli crab was awesome, but it wasn’t worth nearly seven quid.