THE vogue for culinary simplicity has been around for a while. The shorter the menu, the better – after all, asks the modern diner, how can caviar, steak, chicken, risotto and a thousand other dishes from one kitchen and one staff be fresh, made with the best of the day’s ingredients?
Well, the guys behind Goodman, the Russian-owned smash hit chain of steak restaurants (a new one has just opened in Canary Wharf, adding to the wildly popular Mayfair and City outposts), have taken this idea a step further with Burger & Lobster. It’s hardly a graceful name, describing the entirety of the menu in distinctly utilitarian terms. But boy has it hit a nerve: on Saturday lunch, the wait for a table (no bookings – another nod to a London vogue) was an hour.
There are three options: burger, lobster or lobster roll. The lobster comes steamed in the shell but you can have it finished on the grill if you want. Lobster and roll are both served with clarified butter or a delicious lemon and herb butter.
This is the weird bit, where simplicity is stretched almost out of reason. Everything costs the same: £20, which means you’re getting the cheapest good whole lobster in town alongside what I believe to be the most expensive burger.
So how does it taste? The lobster looked like lobster, and chewed like lobster – which is to say, in a way similar to pliant rubber. But it didn’t quite taste of the sea. Delivered fresh by the tank-load from Nova Scotia, my New England-reared taste buds were searching for more salt, more reference to marine origins. When eating lobster in wintry Clarges Street, rather than on the Massachusetts marshes in high summer, you need your lobster to taste all the more of the sea.
With the lobster roll, which was a very generously stuffed, heaven-sent buttery brioche, my (also American) companion and me looked at each other and said: “It’s good. It’s good. But it doesn’t taste that much like lobster.”
Just why remains a mystery, but at £20, you’re getting good value – especially as it all comes with chips and a rather sexy pot of salad.
The question of the burger’s price tag is resolved, to some degree, by its quality and weight: all grass-fed Irish and corn-fed Nebraskan beef, sans filler, each weighs 10oz. It’s a lovely burger, and should be, given its price.
Cocktails and champagne by the glass are £9. The simplicity, ironically, is gimmicky, but it’s a welcome gimmick, and this is a worthwhile den of life on an otherwise curiously dead street.
29 Clarges Street, W1J 7EF. Three stars. www.burgerandlobster.com