The seafood specialists have landed a new spot in the city centre
“The news we have been dying to share! We have a new home”, Holy Crab tweeted excitedly earlier this week. After slowly building up a loyal fan base at festivals and pop ups, co-owners Hannah Eddleston and Lou Henderson will be dropping anchor at a new casual dining stall in Manchester’s Arndale in March, where they’ll be serving their signature seafood bites.
Previous semi-permanent locations for Holy Crab have included appearances at Runaway Brewery’s supper clubs, a basement takeover at Kosmonaut bar and a twelve week summer residency at Hatch on Oxford Road.
I’m not really sure what the problem is with fish restaurants in Manchester. It’s bizarre.
They have taken on a lease for their new Arndale unit until 2021 (and beyond, if things go as well as expected) and customers can expect to find their delicious crab balls on the new menu as well as fresh Colchester oysters and fish-filled brioche buns.
We spoke to Lou to find out more...
How did the new stall come about?
LH: "We’ve been looking into having our own place for our while, but our budget is limited, so we thought we’d carry on with our events and pop ups, but the Arndale popped into our head late last year. So I phoned them up and bizarrely they said that three new stalls were about to become available and the application deadline was approaching. So we sent over a presentation, had an interview and we got down to the last three from about fifteen other entries. That all happened within two weeks.
Why do you think you got the go-ahead?
LH: "They said what we’re doing is so different to all the other applicants, they love our social media presence and they’d heard of us. Also the fact that we recycle and showed we can be sustainable really appealed to them. But mainly the fact that we specialise in seafood and nobody else does."
Do you think the next move might be your own restaurant?
LH: "That was our initial plan, but then we started looking at the realities and we’ll need some huge investment, which we’re not willing to get into at the moment."
Why have fish restaurants traditionally struggled in Manchester?
LH: "Perhaps they’ve been a little, I don’t know….snazzy? I think what we do is more low key, friendly and for everyone. The amount of people that we have managed to gently persuade to try oysters for the first time has been really rewarding.
"I’m from Edinburgh originally and up there every other restaurant is a seafood place. It’s the same in London. I’ve been here for thirteen years and have worked in loads of restaurants, so I know hospitality really well but I can’t believe that seafood doesn’t work here. Some people say that ‘Manchester is nowhere near the sea’, despite us all living on a relatively small island.”
Is it because fresh fish has such as fast turnover, and diners have to put more trust in seafood restaurants?
LH: "Yes, orders have to come in every other day and it’s got to be fresh. We get our oysters couriered direct from Colchester, because they are wonderful. We have had the beauty of ordering what we need, especially for our events, because we know what we are going to sell. So it will be a slightly different challenge in the new place. But it worked well over at Hatch in the summer where we were pretty much on the ball with our orders.
"I suppose the beauty of being on a stall rather than a restaurant is that we can just put something else on the menu and people don’t really mind if you’ve run out of their favourite dish."
So you have more room to think on your feet in terms of your dishes?
Lh: "Exactly. Hannah is the chef and for her that creativity is an amazing opportunity. We can just ring Dave from Out of the Blue in Chorlton in the morning to see what’s come in that day and then we go and pick it up and make something. Dave’s shop is absolutely rammed so there is the demand there for fish and seafood. I’m not really sure what the problem is with fish restaurants in Manchester. It’s bizarre.
"But that’s why we wanted to keep it really friendly and affordable and hopefully we can help get rid of some of the prejudices against fish."
Tell us what’ll be on your new menu?
LH: "We’re going to keep a few of our snacks, like crab balls, then we’ll also have brioche buns, which we’ll fill with different types of seafood and some solid options like chipotle crayfish and things like beer battered smoked haddock. We’ll have a few specials for the first six months to trial a few dishes before we get a solid menu put in to place - we’ll be able to put our daily specials up on social media to let everyone know what’s on that day."
And if Holy Crab had an ethos...
LH: "We want to be fun and friendly, affordable and sustainable. We keep talking to our suppliers to find out what’s in abundance and what's less common and which sustainable fish we can use as an alternative."