Just occasionally a restaurant eschews a fancy name, and says what it serves… Burger & Lobster, part of the Goodman steak chain, does exactly that. Its menu has proved so popular that the restaurant is now moving nearly two tons of lobster a week – and as the lobsters are roughly a 1kg each, that’s nearly two thousand lobsters every seven days. In order to ensure a consistent supply, Burger & Lobster are taking delivery twice a week from Nova Scotia into their three tiered holding tank in the basement, holding around 900kg of lobster at any one time*. It’s the biggest lobster tank in the UK, and they think perhaps Europe…
Charlotte and I decided we had to see this phenomenon for ourselves, so we headed on over to Mayfair in warm clothes, ready for the inevitable wait – Burger Lobster doesn’t take reservations, so service is strictly on a first come first served basis. It took us about twenty minutes to grab a table, but the waitress did offer us either a low one, or one on the high chairs. I twisted Charlotte’s arm and headed for the low table. We had arrived at 1.15 pm, bang in the middle of service, so it’s no surprise it was heaving. The clientele is an utterly eclectic mix of local hedge fund types, tourists, groovy bohemians etc, and we even had a couple of elderly ladies who lunch who were clearly regulars.
There are only three choices on the menu, and I’m sure you’ve already worked most of those out. You can have a beef burger in a brioche bun; a whole lobster either steamed, or steamed and finished on a chargrill; or a lobster roll, which is a brioche roll, large piece of lobster and mayonnaise. Everything costs £20 regardless of your choice, and comes with salad and chips. While we made our choices we had a Mint Tom Collins, which though incredibly potent, actually came in a much smaller measure than it looks. This isn’t a complaint, merely an observation – if you’re used to drinking water with your meal, your going to go through these drinks in record time.
We were slightly anxious about having a whole lobster as there seemed to be a lot of claw cracking implements flying around the room. The waitress assured us the kitchen sent out the claws already cracked and joked that this was as much about diners feeling they needed the right equipment as anything else. Suitably calmed, we both ordered the grilled lobster with garlic butter sauce. Our instruments duly arrived, along with some Hellman’s mayonnaise, Heinz tomato ketchup, a couple of bibs displaying the house logo and some hand-wipes.
I’m not usually a bib wearing type, but Charlotte has much better trans-Atlantic sensibilities than me and promptly donned hers – she was right – I’m glad we did! Our lobsters arrived hot off the grill, with a little silvered pot of chips, the butter and the salad. The plate is a serving tray lined with paper, and is slightly unwieldy – but then it is two halves of lobster and a couple of claws. Then the waitress rushed back up, was one of us missing a claw? It appeared I was, though I would never have known under the weight of lobster. Said claw was duly returned to the rest of his body.
I always go for the salad first, absolute habit of a lifetime. It had a little rose of dressed red onion rings, chopped red and yellow pepper, a few different varieties of tomato, and micro red chard leaves – all well dressed – and a far cry from the salads usually served alongside burgers. The leaves hadn’t been dressed too far in advance either and were still crisp.
Moving on the the lobster, the tail piece came out of its carapace in one giant meaty forkful. The lobster was tender, the chargrill just adding the right amount of smokey depth to the meat without giving it that characteristic rubberiness you find so often with lobster. The meat was sweet, still very succulent and perfectly cooked. This is an impressive feat judging by the never-ending flow of lobsters that streamed past our table. The claws were cracked as promised, and once we’d broken them up (thank goodness we wore our bibs), the claw-meat came straight out of the pincer with a plop. The butter dressing was nice, but a bit superfluous for me – the meat tasted delicious as it was.However those chips were far from superfluous! I try to make a point of not eating chips in restaurants as they’re usually so disappointing, and therefore a complete waste of calories! These were delicious. I’m not entirely sure what they were cooked in, but they appeared to be French fries rather than potato chips, so I’d suggest that the golden colour was achieved as much by caramelisation. And they were properly salted. As you can see – they didn’t stand a chance.
We were offered a dessert of either chocolate or lime mousse – I couldn’t eat dessert when I’d eaten a whole lobster, all the salad AND all the chips. We were left with a mound of carcasses on the table and a happy smile on our faces. By the time Charlotte and I made it out onto the street again it was 2.30, and the room had gone from cacophony to a harmonious hum. If you want to guarantee getting a table, I’d recommend you pop in around then. Next time I shall emulate the ladies who lunch, and have a lobster roll. Then I won’t feel so guilty about munching my way through those golden chips…
* I would like to commend the kitchen for their use of a Crustastun – one of the only ethically approved method of dispatching lobsters in commercial kitchens.
Burger & Lobster
29 Clarges Street
London, W1J 7EF