01 March 2012
We were greeted with a friendly “have you been here before?” (much like the Harvester ads used to show: “have you been to a Harvester before?”). Well no, but how hard can it be: this is a restaurant, you serve food and I am guessing something to wash it down with?
Yes, seems to be the answer, but the question is posed as there are only three things on the menu: whole lobster, burger or lobster roll (made from young lobster, or chick, meat). The lobster comes either boiled or grilled and the burger with or without bacon and cheese. And that is about the limit of your choice when it comes to food, as all dishes come with chips and salad. A sort of up market Relais de Venise.
The crowd on a Saturday afternoon was an eclectic bunch, the place packed with families, an Elvis lookalike, some Essex facelifts (complete with scouse brows and sale bags from most of the shops along Bond Street) and a couple of gym bunnies, comparing pec’s. The place doesn’t take reservations (although our terribly nice but ditzy waitress thought that this might be changing, once they got the reservations system working), so you line up and take your chances.
We sat at the bar for a while, cocktail in hand, waiting our turn. And there is no messing around here; not that you are rushed, but once you are out, the table is prepared in seconds, so that the next group can be seated. Rather than eat at the bar, we decided to take a table, and were given a banquette at the back, with a perfect view of the room, not to mention the kitchen door, so that we could see the bucket loads of lobster being transported from the holding tank in the basement to the warm bath that awaits them.
In the interests of completeness, we opted for a lobster and a burger. Both are transported to the table on enormous platters, laden down with the main article, a big bowl of chips and a pretty pointless side salad. The lobster, grilled with lemon and garlic butter, was fantastic: a big, juicy bug, cut in half, the claws cracked open, with that smoky charred taste highlighting the sweet meat. The burger was perfectly ok too; a fine example of the burger-maker’s art, coming with melted cheese and some really good, crispy bacon, as well as some way too sweet dill pickles. But twenty notes for a burger? No, if it were even possible to justify spending that amount on a beef patty and a bun, it would have to be significantly better than this one to consider having the burger over the bug.
There are some annoyances: service is friendly but slow and the tables are close together and just too small for two enormous platters of food, the drinks glasses and the condiments. The worst, however, is the paper that covers the platters; what is the point? If you cut the meat you end up with a cut through the paper and the danger of ingesting paper along with the food. Either do away with the paper entirely or replace the platters with proper plates. These are but niggles, however, for what is likely to become a regular haunt.
You would hardly think that a restaurant serving lobster in the heart of Mayfair could even be in the running for best cheap and cheerful restaurant of the year but, if you shared a lobster between two (and they are easily big enough to do so) then, together with a couple of glasses of wine, you have a wonderful lunch and no more than a score per person (the value for money score above is based solely on the lobster). Having been somewhat let down by Koya, which is touted as the best cheap eats in the centre of town, I would come here for the lobster any day.
What I don’t understand is why they don’t have lobster bisque on the menu: they must get left with a hundred-weight of lobster carcasses every day. What better why to recycle them than to make bisque; surely they can’t ditch them all? I notice that Goodman, which is under the same ownership, does indeed serve lobster bisque: maybe they ship the carcasses out to them instead. I do hope so, although, if not, then I might next time take a doggy bag of exoskeletons home with me.