Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Burger & Lobster, London

Rating: 7/10  Food: American, Cost: £20 (It's a concept thing)
29 Clarges Street, Mayfair London W1J 7EF  burgerandlobster.com

The great Christopher Hitchens once said that the four most over-rated things in life are champagne, lobster, anal sex and picnics. And while some might feel that's a touch harsh (who doesn't love a picnic?), I tend to side with him on the lobster front. And while it's not something I eat a lot of, when I do, I've just never fallen in love with it. I've tried it in various configurations, in different countries and in many a restaurant. And nothing. No raised pulse. No butterflies in anticipation of its arrival. Just the continual thud of disappointment. Why? Friends tell me; "Ah, you imbecile, you simply haven't sampled the finest." But I don't buy that as I'm sure advocates of all four indulgences would say the same.

I don't eat out as much as I'd like so when I do, like most, I try something different or indulge in an old faithful. The cost of lobster in any half-decent London restaurant versus the sheer satisfaction I expect from a meal just doesn't add up. But then it appears I'm not alone. This cost versus taste thing has clearly occurred to some very smart restaurateurs.

Burger and Lobster comes to us from the House of Goodman - the same Russians who have conjured up a fine reputation for serving good meat to the moneyed of Mayfair and the City. Their new venue does what it says on the tin: burgers and lobsters. Er... and lobster-rolls. But then that wouldn't have made for such a snappy name, would it. The concept is simple and it works. There're three items on the main course menu, they each cost £20, there's no starters and for dessert, there's a choice of a couple of mousses (moussi?)

They fly in fresh lobster twice a week from Nova Scotia and house a ton of the crusty bastards in tanks downstairs. The maths are simple; the more they buy in, the cheaper they get it for and they pass this saving on to the customer (yes, very philanthropic for Mayfair.) And they keep the cooking simple too with a choice or grilled or steamed for the lobster.

The night I visited with the Token Posh Friend (everyone needs one) the place was packed. Again, it's another "no reservations" set-up but at least you don't have to phyically queue, you simply put your name down and then nip along to a local hostelry until they call. Be warned though, when we visited they weren't taking any more names after 8pm.

We both went with the steamed lobster. The brutes arrive on a tray, split in half and served with with a slightly disappointing, albeit fresh, bowl of generic salad with a decent vinaigrette and a small tin of chips. First off, I loved the chips. I've read other reviews dismissing them but I thought they had the perfect mixture of crunch, taste and fluffiness. And the lobster wasn't too shabby either. This came with a little pouring jug of lemon and herb clarified butter which was perfect for dunking hunks of moist lobster into. But then hunks is probably a stretch isn't it? It's still a lobster, there's still only so much eating in it for £20, and I still don't see the big deal.

Has it changed my position on lobster? Obviously not. But it's definitely the best value lobster in London, served in a surprisingly casual (for Mayfair) environment with staff who are clearly rushed off their feet but able to remain affable. And for that alone I'd go back. And probably have the burger.

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