Burger & Lobster

On February 1st 1996, an episode of Friends aired on NBC entitled The One with the Prom Video. Please find synopsis (courtesy of Wikipedia) below:

After getting his big break with Days of Our Lives, Joey pays Chandler back with $812 and an extremely tacky engraved gold bracelet. Also, an unemployed Monica is hard up for money. A home video from Monica and Rachel’s prom night reveals that Monica was previously overweight, and that Rachel had a large nose. Rachel seemed to have been stood up by her prom date, so Ross puts on his father’s tuxedo to take her to prom himself, but Rachel’s date shows up and they leave before she learns of Ross’s plans. The video then shows a speechless and devastated Ross standing at the top of the stairs. The candor of Ross’s heartbreak compels Rachel to kiss Ross.

A well-rounded overview, yes, but it fails to mention that this is also the episode in which Phoebe has some of her most famous lines. You know the ones? They’ve been quoted time and time again. No? These ones:

Phoebe: Hang in there, it’s gonna happen.
Ross: What? Okay, now how do you know that?
Phoebe: Because she’s your lobster.
Chandler: Oh, she’s goin’ somewhere.
Phoebe: Come on, you guys. It’s a known fact that lobsters fall in love and mate for life. You know what? You can actually see old lobster couples walkin’ around their tank, you know, holding claws like…

How is this relevant you ask? How is this related to a restaurant review? It’s three-fold. Firstly, like Phoebe advises, I have hung in there when it comes to dining at Burger & Lobster. Not once, not twice, but three times have I been turned away from the non-book restaurant due to over-booking on the night (ironic, I know), but I kept returning, knowing that at some point there would be a break in the crowd. This has felt like a ‘life-time’ (point two), and finally, well Phoebe is talking about Lobsters, and that – as the restaurants name suggests – is what we’d be eating. Tah da! Tenuous, I think not.

At 9.45pm on Tuesday, two companions and I voyaged from Victoria into the heart of Soho. Even at this hour we faced a 40-minute wait, but already fuelled by a bottle of Balls Brothers’s wine this passed by without complaint. Indeed, spent at the restaurant’s bar drinking a thick green Thai cocktail, and two beers for the boys, it positively flew by.

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Before I knew it, we were led around a series of bustling tables to our own. This was situated just by the serving area of the kitchen, which though was great for perving on the food, was not so great for maintaining a pleasant body temperature. At points the heat from the have-to-squint-it’s-so-bright kitchen lamp verged on uncomfortable. And there’s really only so much food perving one can do on three dishes:

1) Burger – served in a bun, add bacon and/or cheese.

2) Lobster – Half a lobster served with butter and choose either steamed or finished off on the charcoal grill.

3) Lobster Roll – Lobster meat served in a soft brioche roll with a Japanese mayonnaise.

Each are sold at £20, which though makes it easy for splitting a bill, does seem a bit skewed in terms of value. I mean we all know that Lobster is expensive; for me it was always the item on the menu that my frugal father urged me to steer clear of while growing up. The costly crustacean was to be avoided at all, well…costs. I’d never come across one of these decadent sea-dwellers for under 40 smackers, so at 20, it was an absolute steal. On the other side, in the blue corner (lobster must be red), was the burger and polar opposite; from a bargain and a steal came an extortionate meal – £20 for a burger, are you being for real?

Needless to say, none of us went for the burger. My companions tucked into the lobster, and I opted for the lobster roll. A friendly waitress speedily delivered our dishes (benefits of being so close to the kitchen – they didn’t have far to travel) and handed over three bibs. Almost always a spiller, this was decidedly useful, not to mention the perfect accessory to a series of token photos.

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As the boys battled with nut-cracker-eque devices and sturdy claws, I happily used a fork to remove chunks of lobster from inside my roll.

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Fleshy yet tender, and delightfully swaddled in a thick layer of wasabi-laced mayonnaise, I realised that it was probably a good job for my father’s bank balance that he’d banned this crustacean from my childhood. Wow it’s good. Sadly, however, its plate fellows weren’t up to scratch. The brioche was under-toasted, the chips not fried quite long enough and the salad a bit too balsamic vinegared.

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In terms of photos, atmosphere and arthropods, Burger & Lobster excelled and is worth hanging in for, but the meal of a ‘life-time?’ I think not.

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NB: In researching this piece, I sadly discovered that the concept of lobsters mating for life is a myth. According to scientist G Anderton: “Lobsters have a very tender mating ritual, in which the female is very vulnerable after shedding her exoskeleton, but after the deed is done she leaves and they never see each other again, and in fact, the male (usually being the alpha and dominant male in the area) will go on to mate with almost every other female in the area.”

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