I think it was the bib that did it. I’ve come to terms with my complicity as a food blogger in the rise of popular restaurants. I’m happy to book a month in advance, push through a queue of other desperate Londoners and sidestep past tables of clicking SLRs to add my low level hum to the communal buzz. I don’t mind building on a place’s 57 positive Urbanspoon reviews and providing grassroots UGC marketing for free.
I’m not even adverse to Burger & Lobster’s business model. Their aggressive expansion plans (three branches in year one, sky’s the limit for Q1 of 2013) and low-choice menus aren’t unique to them. It’s not the only restaurant in town that will only let you book if there’s six or more of you and a guaranteed spend in the hundreds; there’s plenty of other places that will politely kick you out of your seat after two hours and more than enough attention-seeking concepts in the capital. (Nearby Bubbledogs for starters: the current king of the publicity stunt menu, the David Blaine of the food world, and a place I won’t visit on principal, unless perhaps they start a line in Scrumpytacos).
But something about wearing a plastic lobster bib, in a frenzied photo shoot of a restaurant at the Instagram motherlode, made me feel a bit of a mug. Of course the babywear makes sense – anyone who can afford lobster for supper will want to protect their shirt and it’s a common fun gimmick at any family crab joint – but it also felt like a kind of uniform, marking us all out as willing zeitgeist addicts with our wallets open and our promotional tweets there for the taking.
This didn’t seem to bother anyone else of course, not least Brian Turner, bibbed up at the adjacent trough. (On our table of six, half knew who he was. The three that spent their student years at the University of Ainsley Harriott were well aware of the daytime guru of the Quickie Bag.) And there’s still several reasons B&L is second only to Meat Liquor in the hype league, not least the food – which as I’m sure you know or have worked out is burger, or lobster, or lobster roll, with chips and salad, for twenty quid.
None of us went for the burger (there’s enough great specimens round here for much less money) but numerous crustaceans were Crustastunned for our pleasure and brought forth split open.
The recently-zapped Canadians were served with lemon or garlic butter and were as celestial as lobster always is, while the lobster roll, a sweet brioche slice stuffed with icy cold meat chunks and laced with wasabi mayo came rich and welcoming. Whoever works wasabi on the line was texting it in that night, but it didn’t matter – you could eat a stack of them. Chips were chips and salad was about as welcome and necessary as Abu Hamza. It was all served on trays and whisked out and back again in line with their swift bums-on-seats rotation, as were the desserts, little intermission pots of chocolate and lime concoctions that did a merry dance round our table.
As I washed it all down with a final cocktail I caught Brian Turner’s eye. He was having a whale of a time on a table of ten tweeting away and pumping cash into the coffers. I’d love to say I caught a blink of acknowledgement as our eyes met, but there was none to be seen.
Clientele: Cheery gluttons, half cut media types and half-famous celebrity chefs at our end, but a few abhorrent Gekkos en route to the little boys’ room. The usual Soho blend then.
Price per head: £360 / 6 – you do the maths.
Rocket & Squash on the scalable business model