Cheap lobster. In Mayfair?!
I’ve spilled a lot of ink on this blog about lobster and one of the most enjoyable, but cheapest lobster meals I’ve had was the humble lobster roll at Luke’s Lobster in New York. As far as I know the only restaurants in London to serve the lobster roll are (comment below if I’m wrong) the Seven Dials and Guildhall branches of Hawksmoor and a new place simply called Burger and Lobster. Naturally, the only way to tell which one of them has the best version of this New England classic is to try them both.
Burger & Lobster
Burger and Lobster is located on a quiet side street just off Piccadilly near Green Park, just around the corner from Fakhreldine. I popped along on its opening day and was surprised to find the rectangular dining room sparsely populated. Although somewhat lacking in atmosphere as a result, it did at least allow me to survey the simple, steakhouse-like decor of red leather seating, bare light bulbs and wooden paneling and floorboards (which isn’t surprising given that the Goodman steakhouse is behind Burger and Lobster). There’s room for a couple dozen covers along with a few stools at the bar which has an extensive selection of cocktails and wine, along with Meantime, Sierra Nevada and Sam Adams beer.
Mayfair isn’t known for its inexpensive eats, but Burger and Lobster aims to serve up affordable lobster meals in the form of whole grilled or steamed lobster or lobster rolls with chips and salad for just £20. For carnivores adverse to seafood, there’s also the option of a burger – plain or served with bacon and/or cheese. It’s such a short menu, it’s not even written down – my friendly and knowledgeable waitress had it all in her head.
There aren’t any starters so I dived straight into the lobster roll and was instantly pleased with the fresh, warm and firm flesh squeezed into a buttery brioche roll that was perfectly crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Although a side of melted butter (plain or garlic) is provided, I found the sweet, slightly creamy mayonnaise already dabbed onto the lobster the only accompaniment necessary. It’s a touch on the small side, but overall it’s simple and delicious.
The accompanying chips were quite thinly cut and were really fries in my eyes. They were a bit too oily for my liking and some tasted like reconstituted mash rather than actual chipped slices of potato. The salad was refreshing though, with sweetness provided by cherry tomatoes, crunchiness provided by bell pepper slices and some tartness courtesy of some sliced gherkins and drops of balsamic vinegar.
My dessert of coffee and chocolate mousse appeared at my table within minutes of ordering. This, along with its forlorn paper cup presentation, suggests it’s prepared offsite and bought in and I strongly suspect this is the case after tasting it. After an initial hit of coffee flavour, it subsides to be followed by a wholly unremarkable taste of milky chocolate. At least it’s suitably light and fluffy. The lime mousse is more successful. It’s suitably light and zesty, which is a refreshing change after the relative richness of the lobster and fries, and the slight crunchiness added by a dusting of sugar (or is it breadcrumbs?) is a nice contrast to the fluffiness of the mousse.
If you ask nicely you can see the tanks of live lobsters in the basement through a viewing window, as long you’re happy to be perched on a narrow winding metal staircase. According to my knowledgeable waitress and guide, the second tank is there in case the first one fails so the lobsters can be moved over. The lobsters are kept bound in chilled water to prevent cannibalism and to keep them comatose. They are apparently electrocuted to order using a special machine which is allegedly more humane than the traditional method of boiling alive.
Although this review focusses on lobster rolls, I couldn’t resist going back a few days later to try out the burger. The patty is surprisingly smooth despite its coarse, chunkily cut appearance. The patty, cooked medium, is tender and juicy with a slightly sweet taste to it. The crisp, well-toasted bun holds it all together without falling apart. While it’s a fine burger, it’s not as large, succulent or flavoursome as Hawksmoor’s slightly pricier burgers. It’s also a touch overpriced when compared to the quality burgers from Byron, but only a touch.
Hawksmoor Seven Dials
My high regard for Hawksmoor’s burgers and steaks is well-documented on this blog, but it wasn’t until Lobster and Burger opened that I was inspired to try out their lobster roll. While the warm lobster meat was fresh and a touch salty, it was too soft for my liking, lacking the firmness of the version at Burger and Lobster. The interior of the brioche roll was soft and fluffy, but the exterior wasn’t quite crisp enough. One delectable touch is the hazelnut and garlic butter which adds a sweet, nutty and creamy, but not overpowering touch to the lobster.
A good accompaniment to the lobster roll is a side order of triple cooked chips. I’ve found that Hawksmoor has been a little inconsistent in the quality of its triple cooked chips, and this serving was no exception. Although perfectly crisp and crunchy on the outside, most of the chips here lacked the soft fluffiness I’ve encountered on previous occasions. Still, I’d rather have these chips than the slightly too oily ones at Burger and Lobster.
Thankfully the cornflake milkshake is as good as ever, successfully evoking the crisp, sweet taste of a bowl of cornflakes in a refreshingly cool milky drink.
The lobster roll at Burger and Lobster is definitely superior to the one at Hawksmoor (and it’s better than the one at Luke’s Lobster now that we mention it) – plus it’s a touch cheaper too. Hawksmoor comes out on top in the quality of its burgers, side dishes and drinks, although Burger and Lobster’s burger is a very respectable runner-up. The Euro Hedgie doesn’t think lobster rolls in general are very good value, but then he clearly doesn’t value the inimitable combination of fresh, firm lobster meat and crisp, fluffy brioche roll. It’s magic, trust me.
Name: Burger and Lobster
Address: 29 Clarges Street, London, W1J 7EF
Phone: not listed
Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday noon-last orders at 22.30.
Reservations: not taken.
Total cost for one person including soft drinks and service charge: £30 approx.
Name: Hawksmoor (Seven Dials, Covent Garden branch)
Address: 11 Langley Street, London, WC2H 9JG
Phone: 020 7856 2154
Opening Hours: Lunch Monday – Saturday noon-15:30 and Sunday noon – 16:30
Dinner Monday – Thursday 17:30-22:30 and Friday – Saturday 17.00-23.00
Reservations: highly recommended.
Total cost for one person including soft drinks and service charge: £40 approx.
Rating: ★★★★☆ (lobster roll-specific rating)