Back in 2011 London slowly started mirroring a very New York trend for single-dish restaurants; so much so the Graun even wrote an article about it. By 2013 it seems that despite our love of supermarkets and the mantra of "Choice, choice, choice!"; when it comes to eating out we prefer to take the less taxing route. Virtually every Soho joint is a 'singlet': steak, noodles, falafel, burgers, meatballs, even mash potato! Clearly fans of Adam Smith's work, I can appreciate that the potential to create something truly special, when you only have one dish to focus on, is that much greater. Burger & Lobster caught on early, opening their Mayfair joint in 2011 and they took the limited menu idea one step further by offering everything at the same price. No starters just a lobster roll, a burger and a whole lobster each for £20. Needless to say they became rather popular. Since then they have opened three other locations around London in Soho (Dean St), the City (St Pauls) and Farringdon. Because of the other trend of not taking reservations and my general lack of patience for queuing when I'm hungry, I'd never actually been before. To rectify this I met up with Clerkenwell_Boy and Burger Addict at the Farringdon branch. Will, who runs the whole network, kindly showed us around the kitchens and the tanks and answered all our annoying blogger questions. Thanks again Will, t'was very kind.
|I think we're gonna need a bigger boat|
For those that like the details - all of B&L's lobsters are from the East coast of Canada. They regularly come under flak for not using British produce but insist there are two very good reasons for this. The first is that they sell in excess of 8 tons of lobster a week and British supply just isn't there or reliable enough. Secondly they say that the quality of British lobsters simply isn't as good as that of their Canuck cousins and they refuse to compromise on quality. Also despite volatile wholesale costs - lobster fans will be relieved to know that they also will never compromise on size or price either - a 1.5lb lobster costs £20 now and forever. Like any good steakhouse that has special steaks on the board, B&L also have larger catches available, several two pounders rising all the way to six and even a NINE pound monster (pictured above). They'll cost you though, that nine pounder comes in at a whopping £137.
The B&L burger is always a talking point - "How much for a burger??!" is made using six different cuts of beef. Brisket, sirloin top, chuck amongst others, but most interesting is the inclusion of the much maligned onglet. I doubt I've seen it used in a burger before and it brings an intense offaly flavour. In terms of the extras there aren't many, its 100% beef and they don't salt the patty but do include some secret fishy seasonings to boost umami. The blend is minced daily, sized to 10ozs, hand pressed on the planche and then finished in the grill oven. Keep things simple.
The evening started pretty fantastically as Will was very kind and comp'd us some lobster rolls and I can't tell you how happy I am that he did. The smell of melted butter hits you first like a delicious creamy hammer. The toasted brioche has a crisp outer shell and has been bathed in melted butter. The lobster is perfectly cooked; the claw is effortlessly delicate while the tail retains a nice chew to it. The mayonnaise coating has a delicate saltiness and is not the same as the Japanese mayo used at Goodmans. It's genuinely one of the best bites in London and something everyone should think about treating themselves to at least once. It may be common in Soho to pay £20 a pop for a treat, but this won't leave a bad taste in your mouth. You can also share this one with your partner, then again, you may not want to.
Burgers are cooked to the medium side of medium rare and they don't 'do rare', which I think is a real shame. The bun is a sturdy bastard but with a fluffy personality and more than capably held back the cheesy onslaught. The patty was a little dry around the edges and I'd personally have preferred a little extra seasoning even after accounting for the salty cheese and bacon. Talking of the cheese, it comes with two slices: a mature cheddar and a traditional Kerrymaid American slice, one on top of the other. The flavours were great; the nuttiness from the cheddar offset by the creamy sour American. The bacon too was thankfully a crisp American rasher. Be gone back bacon, you Pretender to the Crown. On the bottom they also had their take on McDonalds Big Mac sauce. It was a great addition which seems to be becoming more familiar (Bleecker do a burger sauce and Lucky Chip does a Big Mac sauce too). I for one welcome it!
The only downsides for me were the slight over-cooking (its more of a policy issue than poor cooking), if you like rare burgers then you aren't going to have much joy here, and also the overly thick slice of tomato. Tomatoes that are thick never fail to remind me of Burger King. While the tomato itself is a soft Hawkins-type which doesn't compromise the structure by being too tough or sliding around; the tomato simply takes up too much real estate in each mouthful. Also I think for £20 some braised onions would have been better than just slices of raw red onion. So, is it 5 pounds better than a Goodman burger? Is it twice as good as an Ari Gold (including bacon and fries)? I'm not so sure and it's a tough comparison because although I think the burger is good, it pales in comparison to the lobster roll.
The whole lobster comes purely steamed or finished on the grill. We chose the latter and it had a wonderful lightly charred flavour. It comes already split with the claws cracked for easy access. Again perfectly cooked (see what I mean about specialisation?), the tail had the same slight chew to it that the roll had and was beautifully meaty and sweet. Drenched through a gravy boat of melted garlic butter, it was heaven. As is usual, the tail was over-shadowed by the silky creamy tenderness of the claw meat. If the tail was heaven, then the jelly-like claw tip was pure nirvana. For £20 it's unquestionably great value and one of the best deals in London. I'd wager that Burger and Lobster is a pretty perfect place for a date.
|Grilled Whole Lobster|
Desserts are kind of second thoughts at B&L, apart from the wildly popular option at the Soho branch. I won't spoil it - just go and try it. We got both options of the white chocolate and salted caramel ice cream sandwich and the passion fruit mousse. The mousse was a little simple for my liking tasting very similar to a supermarket product. the sandwich was however great.
How much: £20 for lobster roll, burger or whole lobster. Each comes with fries and a tasty side salad.
Where: 40 St John's Street, Smithfield London EC1M 4AY. They take reservations for tables of 6 to 10 people. Tel: +44 20 7490 9230. Nearest tube: Farringdon.
Food: Burger 7/10, Lobster 9/10, Lobster roll 10/10