The proposition at Burger & Lobster is so good, at such a decent price, the fact that anyone should provide this for hungry Londoners brings to mind public service rather than commercial enterprise, though no public services are of course ever this good. Do they give Russians knighthoods? First Goodman, now this; perhaps we should just get our wages paid straight into his bank account.
B&L has some of MEATliquor’s DNA in the offering: no bookings, great cocktails, amazing prices and food eaten off trays rather than plates, but for those who don’t like MEATliquor’s brash interior design, permanent darkness and deafening music, the inside of B&L is a somewhat more refined affair with leather banquets, natural light and the sound only of people having a good time. In that sense it feels substantially more grown up.
What they both share however is queues, unless that is you get there early. Burger & Lobster opens for lunch at midday, and on one Friday that we were there, by 12:30, the restaurant was full. By 12:45, we heard staff telling newly arriving punters that there was 30-45min wait to be seated. But this excess of demand over supply is not because of canny marketing by the restaurant or because it’s a fashionable venue to eat at (which nevertheless it has become), it is because they offer the best value lobster meal in the country as far as we can tell.
The food at B&L, as we expect you know by now, is the choice between: burger, lobster, or lobster roll, all priced at £20. There are no starters and limited desserts. The menu was designed to flip punters but most find it sufficiently comfortable that they want to hang around.
On our travels, only The Lobster Shack in North Berwick offers lobster and chips cheaper (£16.50), but unlike Burger & Lobster, they don’t put a roof over your head while you’re eating it, so if it rains, you get wet. And of course North Berwick is 385 miles away for anyone who lives in Zone 1. J Sheekey meanwhile is in zone 1 and does put a roof over your head but then they’ll charge you £42 for grilled lobster. So much for the competition.
There’s clearly an element of subsidisation here with a £20 burger helping make a £20 lobster possible (so thank you all those of you who eat burgers there, really, thank you) but in our view, the burger at both MEATliquor and Goodman is better (sorry B&L), and the point of the place is surely lobster, so lobster it is. But then is it lobster roll or whole lobster in the shell?
When the lobster roll arrives, on tasting the first bite, I was hit by a wave of pleasure that I can scarcely remember food ever provoking before in my life. This is after all, something new, lobster rolls like this in the UK are unheard of. So despite the roll being proportioned and appropriate, I thought momentarily (being struck by out and out gluttony) that I should have ordered two rolls for I never wanted this to end. The regret was short lived because even before the end, I was entirely sated and an ambulance rather than a taxi seemed my more probable next transport so that a nearby hospital could give me a necessary butter transfusion.
Whatever you order, it comes with fries, which are excellent even if sometimes excessively salted, and a side salad that is really very good albeit seeming like a token nod to wellbeing if you go to town with the butter boat.
There is, in our book, nothing bad to say about Burger & Lobster, it is brilliant: brilliant food, brilliant drinks, brilliant prices. One lunch time with an hour to kill I popped in alone and had the lobster roll and a pint of beer, had a bill that was less than £25 (before service), and felt that I had eaten like a king.
The queues are the only problem but you can’t blame the restaurant for doing a good job and being popular. The owners are, we understand, looking at expansion, but getting through on their existing site two tonnes of lobster a week, unsurprisingly there are supply issues around securing enough lobster for a second and larger restaurant.
Possibly you haven’t eaten there already, possibly you’ve been put off by the queues, possibly you believe it’s all just hype. But if you haven’t, you owe it to your cardiologist to give it a go: arrive a little before midday, or otherwise an off peak time, go with a friend if possible and share one of everything on the ‘menu’, and see if that’s not the best main course you can get in London for £20. If there’s one better, we really can’t think what it is.
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