Since the beginning of my food journey, I have always had a blatant love of seafood and for one crustacean in particular: the mighty Lobster. I won’t lie, in my wide-eyed younger days, ordering a dish of lobster had its added benefits. It made me feel that little bit more sophisticated and grown up. Let’s face it, the ‘King of the Sea’, as I like to call it, oozes luxury and indulgence, which back then I longed for and worked hard to pay for.
A decade and countless plates of the luscious stuff later, I can now decipher when to order lobster and when to abstain i.e. when its grossly apparent that all I’m likely to get is two tiny morsels on a plate (AKA restaurant profiteering). Put simply, I’ve learnt to value two vital elements from all the divine and disastrous lobster dishes I’ve scoffed and lucky for you, I’m about to share them with you.
This is not just how the meat itself tastes, though if there’s not an ounce of sweetness, something has gone terribly wrong. Just as important is what it has been paired with. For example, as much as it is a classic, I’m not at all a fan of Lobster thermidor when its served with a cheese crust. The combination of salty, creamy, and greasy cheese completely overpowers the beautifully tender, juicy lobster meat. It might have worked for 19th century Parisians but its a big no-no in my book. However, tender medallions in a saffron seafood broth, which I recall eating from somewhere in the back of my mind, adds the right balance. Spice, saltiness and sweetness all dancing the same merry tune in your mouth. Oh and then there’s lobster pie. Not when the sauce is so thick it doesn’t leave the spoon but when its light and herby enough to let the meat and some of its own juice, shine. Angler at the South Place Hotel knows how to do this right.
I’m sure we’ve all had at least one dud lobster dish in our time. Out comes the plate and you instantly think at least one of the the following:
- Fishing through the dish with your fork you wonder “Did they forget to put the lobster in?”
- It is thankfully visible on the plate *pop it in your mouth* “Oh damn, it’s overcooked to the point of no return. My jaw is in for a workout!”
- You can see it and chew it but wait, where’s that sweet juicy flavour. “All I’m getting is truffle!
I am of course talking about the kitchen’s respect, technique and skill. What separates a good dish from a bad one is how much the kitchen values both the ingredient and the customer’s expectations. In my experience, the degree of that value is directly proportionate to the amount of meat on the plate. Then there’s technique and cooking ability. Do they know how to treat the lobster with care. It doesn’t matter if you are having a dish as simple as lobster and chips, lobster omelette, or as part of a ten course menu in a 3* restaurant. A good kitchen, regardless of Michelin status should know how to cook and care for its ingredients. Especially one as expensive as this. Finally, a worthy chef should know how balance flavours and textures, to let the star ingredient standout. If I choose lobster ravioli over another pasta dish, its not the pasta I’m going to focus on, its the filling. So if the flavour is not coming through, it’s failed.
And upon a recent visit to the much talked about Bob Bob Ricard (BBR), its these two elements that helped me judge their mighty lobster burger to be one of the finer lobster dishes I’ve had the pleasure of gobbling up with utter delight and glee. Breaded to a fine crispy golden coating, the crunch of which complements the succulent and juicy meat inside. The meat enticed with its hints of sweetness and flavours of the sea. Together with the soft grilled brioche bun and the creamy, lemon-sharp marie rose sauce, it all just melted in the mouth so perfectly. And thus was gone all too quickly.
If there was one niggling thought, it was that it was so bloody good I wanted more! And at £29.50 a dish (chips not included), I did feel like there could have been a tad more meat added on the side, beyond the tail. However, these are standard Mayfair prices and so not outrageous. If there’s another thing I’ve learnt is that lobster is one of those ingredients that commands a wide price range in London. Yes you can get a half lobster and chips for just £20 at Burger and Lobster and even cheaper (£19.50) at Plateau in Canary Wharf.
The point is, the flavoursome and exquisitely cooked dish that BBR offers is unique to their kitchen. And given the choice between the BBR burger, a generic grilled half lobster or even an inexpensive cold lobster roll from a pick of delis, I’d go back to BBR in flash, sipping on my glass of Sancerre Rose in giddy excitement. If its not abundantly clear, I urge you to do so too!
p.s. The burger was actually ordered on my second visit, after an inaugural visit some months back (see pic below) where they flawlessly impressed me and a friend with cracking starters, dreamy pies (fish and chicken) and a trio of creme brulee’s (of which the earl grey really hit all the right notes). And I’m already planning a third visit where I already know my biggest dilemma will be to tear myself away from the burger and try something new in the name of food exploration.
*Featured image courtesy of the talented Mr Paul Winch-Furness. Visit http://www.paulwf.co.uk.