Burger & Lobster Dean Street
Burger and lobster ‘s simple formula of American Surf n’ Turf restaurants does wonders in the realm of sceptic London luxe-fast food joints.
Apparently, one of the owners of Goodman steak restaurants – in Maddox Street, Old Jewry and South Quay, Canary Wharf – wanted their next project to be a burger bar. One of his cohorts suggested a lobster restaurant modelled on those in the US, where the big bugs are not considered such a big deal. The outcome is Burger & Lobster, which launched in mid-December in what was The Field pub in the heart of Mayfair.
If environmentally despicable, it is nevertheless a captivating formula. When a catering business limits itself to basically two items it should make them both charismatic – I mean Faggot & Fishcake just wouldn’t have had the same pull – and do them very well.
There is no printed burger & lobster menu. A blackboard by the entrance announces “Burger or lobster or lobster roll. All with chips & salad. £20”. Staff trained to exhibit well-judged chirpiness – you might call it the American approach – having first taken drinks orders from a list strong on cocktails and spirits, explain the concept in a bit more detail.
Imported Canadian live lobsters are held by the tonne in tanks in the basement. A whole lobster weighing about a kilo can be served steamed or grilled accompanied by drawn butter flavoured with lemon or with lemon and garlic. There is also a lobster roll using a smaller creature. The burgers – all meat, no filler – are fashioned from a combination of grass-fed Irish and corn-fed Nebraskan beef and weigh 10oz. Everything comes with chips, salad and condiments. Dessert is either chocolate mousse or lime mousse at £4.
There are those of us, me anyway, who, listening to this explanation, think the restaurant should be called Swings & Roundabouts. Surely what is gained on the burgers – even at branches of Goodman they cost “only” £13 – is lost on the lobsters. I made sure that one of my companions suddenly remembered that what she really wanted for lunch was a burger. I chose a steamed lobster and my sister asked for hers grilled.
There is no way to make a burger and lobster booking. We were lucky to score a banquette – the best are at the back of the room. Some of the seating is at high tables with high chairs, the point and appeal of which I have never understood. There is also service at the long bar and, what with red leather upholstery, wood panelling, bare tables, filament light bulbs and the hum of contented chatter – no music, which is a huge bonus – it sort of felt like an episode of Cheers, or anyway an episode of Cheers with a cast of hedgies. Based on a survey of two lunches, it would seem that this food particularly appeals to men – men who are unfazed by tying on a plastic bib. I feel at a disadvantage in a bib.
Soulshakers is the bar consultant and the cocktails (£9) live up to its good reputation. The Americano is made with Sipsmith sloe gin, a nice touch. Wines start at £5/£20 for a glass/bottle. Burger & lobster menu prices are fairly reasonable by London standards in these regards.
Burgers and lobsters are served on paper on an oval metal serving dish and both meet the description “bountiful”. It is not just the lobster being a game of two halves that is unusual and exciting, the meat is also sweet-tasting and tender, more so if you go for steamed – although you then miss the smokiness of the char. Lobster roll made from butter-soaked toasted brioche and wasabi mayo was too rich to finish – but impossible not to. Incidentally, the lobsters leave this life via a Crustastun machine which is widely held to be the most humane way of despatching them.
A taste of the burger made me believe what I had read somewhere, that Goodman uses nam pla (fish sauce) in the seasoning. It had that deep umami savouriness that we can all use lots of at this time of year. It is served plain or with cheese and bacon for the same price and, at 10oz, is, I guess, bigger than a Goodman burger.
Chips were crisp but with a wan interior life. As well as mixed leaves, bits of red and yellow pepper, sliced gherkin, circles of red onion and a thin sweet dressing were part of the small bowl of salad, much to its detriment.
Chocolate and lime mousses served in wax paper cups are both anodyne – although the odd scrap of coffee bean mines the milky chocolate foam – and once tried need not be revisited. This leaves you potentially with food costs of £20 – unless you go mad and order a burger and a lobster – plus whatever you drink, plus the well-earned service charge. It is premium fast food and an undeniably clever construct, the sort of treat you could give yourself instead of going to the sales.
Even though there is no way to make a burger and lobster reservation, the phone is answered. It is worth checking that the restaurant reopened today as planned after a problem with a water leak. I couldn’t get confirmation that the reason was one of the lobsters snapping through a hose.
Burger & Lobster address: 36-38 Dean Street, London, W1D 4PS
Burger and Lobster Opening hours: daily from 12pm-10:30pm
Unfortunately there is no Burger and Lobster takeaway service at this time.