• Crabs and curds – why Arndale South Side is now an essential foodie stop-off

Crabs and curds – why Arndale South Side is now an essential foodie stop-off

2 May 2019 by Neil Sowerby

CRAB balls or poutine? You’re spoilt for choice as two of our finest street food operators finally take up residence in the Arndale’s progressive South Side. 

Blue Caribou Canteen beat  Holy Crab to it by a couple of days and by next month we expect Wholesome Junkies will be offering their plant-based ‘junk food’ in the unit in between.

The self-styled ‘Poutine Boys’ Vincent Bernier and Graham Gartside-Bernier may have failed to linch financial backing on BBC 2’s My Million Pound Menu, but it certainly heightened the profile of the ‘curds, chips and gravy’ dish that’s an obsession in Vincent’s native Quebec. 

Bolton-born Graham met Vincent in London in 1999 when their gap years intertwined. Their mutual love of poutine was sealed during three years living in Quebec but on their return to the UK it took a further two years to get Blue Caribou off the ground. During which time they had all their branding in place. Why?

“We just couldn’t get the right cheese curds – it was very frustrating,” says Graham. “There’s no way we could pass off frozen chips, gravy and mozzarella, say, as the true poutine. Anyone from Canada would instantly notice the difference.”

If you have yet to try this moreish snack, the ‘true poutine’ consists of crispy skin-on fries, Quebec-style cheese curds and a rich veal or mushroom gravy. The Classique costs just £5.50. If you seek an exotic ‘upgrade’ we recommend ‘La Coreenne (£7.50), which adds to the mix sriracha aioli, Japanese mayo, tempura seaweed, kimchi and spring onions.

‘Other stuff’ majors in Montreal-style hot dogs – with poutine gravy or a side of maple butter fries if you so desire – hot chicken dipped sandwiches, maple syrup sodas and other French Canadian treats.

At Holy Crab it’s all about seafood. After three years of itinerant trading – GRUB, supper clubs, residencies at Kosmonaut and Hatch – co-owners Lou Henderson and Hannah Eddleston are obvious delighted with their permanent base. Hence this picture they Tweeted after boiler issues were resolved and they opened on May Day.

Oysters, preferably Colchester, will continue to play a major role in Holy Crab at the new venue, leased until 2021. “We are planning an oyster happy hour every day after lunch,” Lou old us, also confirming their signature crab balls will be a fixture on the menu. These can be a life-changing experience – deep-fried breadcrumbs surrounding sweet, soft crab meat with a hint of chilli and cheese, served up with a brown crab mayo.