There is currently a lobster-mania gripping the capital at the moment. London is becoming inundated with lobster restaurants. What was once a luxury, reserved for the fanciest of places (with a price tag to match), is now becoming widely available, as lobster restaurants pop up all over the city.
London's courtship with lobster began with the opening of restaurants like Burger and Lobster, which graced the capital in 2011. The premise of this restaurant is that there are only two items on the menu - lobster and burgers. This surf 'n' turf has a set price, and its fair to say it reignited demand for lobster in the capital. And this demand is currently spreading beyond the capital, with restaurants now in Cardiff and Manchester, and coming soon to Bath and Liverpool.
While Burger and Lobster brought lobster into the mainstream, there is now a new wave of lobster shacks popping up across the capital, which offer a different way of enjoying this crustacean. And that comes in the format of lobster rolls: butter-soaked lobster meat stuffed into a brioche bun and served with fries. It's the ultimate posh fast food. Lobster Kitchen is one of these new lobster fast-food shacks. It opened at the tail end of 2014, but Lobster Kitchen is not alone: it's competing with two other lobster-roll formats within a square mile (Fraq's Lobster Shack and Smack Deli).
Lobster Kitchen itself is an unassuming, small place. Tucked between VQ and a YMCA just behind Tottenham Court Road, you would be forgiven for not even noticing it's there. In fact, my testing buddy and I, arriving separately, both managed to walk past it several times before spying the tiny sign indicating its existence. Inside, it looks like a pop up. With bar stools and benches, lobster cages and buoys dangling from the ceilings, and an open kitchen, you get the New-England vibe it's trying to channel. And it's clearly a fast food joint: with solo cups, plastic trays for your food, and the quite uncomfortable stools, I felt we had overstayed our welcome after 90 minutes, despite the fact the restaurant was virtually empty (particularly for a Friday night).
The menu is simple: different varieties of lobster, predominantly served in brioche rolls of varying sizes. Though there are a few other options to choose from, such as lobster Thermidor tails, split lobster and even BBQ ribs. I deliberated for a while on the guac roll, but couldn't quite decide how I felt about lobster covered in guacamole. Instead, I settled on a double garlicky role: two small brioche buns packed full of lobster meat. There was certainly plenty of meat in the rolls and just the right amount of garlic butter oozing out of the sandwich.
My testing buddy chose a king Asian roll: one larger bun filled with lobster meat covered in sweet chilli, fish sauce, chillies, mint and coriander. Once again, there was plenty of meat in the sandwich, though the Asian flavours were very subtle, and almost undetectable. It definitely could have used a boost of flavour.
The sides were as expected: the sweet potato fries were cooked just fine and the lobster mac 'n' cheese was calorific-ly wonderful, and surprisingly the chefs didn't skimp on the lobster meat. We washed this down with a glass each of house white wine, with the bill coming to £38.
Our verdict: the food was certainly tasty and hit the spot. But I'm not sure it's quite worth the money. Lobster Kitchen is half way between a pop up and a restaurant. It looks and feels like a pop up, and is not quite refined enough to be a restaurant. Yet it charges restaurant prices. Lobster and Kitchen has certainly brought this costly delicacy into the price range of those who don't have a trust fund, but I'm not quite sure its great value for money. And, as a Northerner, one thing I truly dislike is when food isn't good value for money.
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