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Burger and Lobster has enjoyed overwhelming success since its debut in Mayfair last year. There are now three establishments of which the largest and most recent addition is on Dean Street, Soho [update January 2016: there are now 9 London restaurants plus launches in Manchester, Cardiff, New York, Stockholm and Dubai!].
I was fortunate enough to dine there with two of the restaurant’s creators: the charismatic George Bukhov-Weinstein, and Ilya Demichev. The pair are in fact two-thirds of a trio of school friends who, before Burger and Lobster, originally established the chain Goodman Steakhouses.
George and Ilya arrive on the scene bearing a gift. Not for me it turns out, but a decorative piece to go behind the bar of the restaurant. “We just bought this Fortune Cat from China,” they gesture proudly. Later they go on to mention that the decor has no particular theme, but is simply intended to feel comfortable and warm.
In a tour of the place, George stresses the importance of the open kitchen, since it allows for the chefs and diners to share in the experience. I peep in and spy the chefs adding touches of clarified butter and lemon to fresh whole lobsters. Across the room too is a large tank filled with live catch of varying sizes. Accommodation for the few lobsters in the restaurant tank is relatively luxurious; it’s connected to a vast and cold lobster storage system below ground where hundreds more are kept. Getting through tonnes of the crustaceans by the month, Burger and Lobster requires industrial sized reserves to cater for the constant influx of diners.
With the tour complete and having placed an order for everything on the menu, talk turns to how it all began. Who thought to serve Burger and Lobster under one roof? It turns out that neither George, Ilya, nor their friend Misha, claim the brainwave individually. Certainly none anticipated the unprecedented amount of success it would bring either. Originally there were two concepts… Plans to create a new burger establishment using the finest quality meat were underway (no surprise given their high-end steakhouses) whilst, meanwhile, another idea was developing: a seafood restaurant. Out drinking one night, it was suggested, in jest, that they merge the two and the idea grew from there.
The restaurateurs spent time sourcing quality ingredients for the menu and travelling around New York and Boston before eventually finding a Canadian source for the lobsters. And for the burgers: a carefully considered amalgamation of Irish and Nebraskan beef.
With the increasingly pervasive penchant for a shorter menu, there are only three choices at Burger & Lobster: burger, lobster and the lobster roll, all served with chips and a side salad. I try the burger first. Sure enough the quality of the meat is self-evident and, as Ilya points out, it’s fairly low in fat. They ask me which is my favourite London burger and, out of those that I’ve tried to date, this one does win; George high-fives for the right answer.
To follow is the grilled lobster displayed majestically on a large platter, and subsequently the lobster roll. Despite its impressive presentation, the whole lobster is quite underwhelming in comparison to the lobster roll: a warm brioche filled with a combination of lobster meat and Japanese-style mayonnaise, topped with a claw. The mayonnaise has a fresh quality that enhances the rich taste of the lobster; without a doubt the roll would be my first choice again.
Miraculously, sampling so much food doesn’t leave me feeling that I’ve overeaten. George puts it down to the purity of the ingredients – they’re all very light. The establishment is quite different to their steakhouses where I’m told businessmen go to eat the heaviest steaks and over-indulge in copious amounts of red wine. This is certainly far more easy-going.
Given the success of the Burger & Lobster enterprise in London, I wonder whether they wish to open internationally: “we are considering moving to America or the Middle East but we wouldn’t be able to run it ourselves as we do now.” The restaurant chain is currently a very personal venture, from the ornamental feline behind the bar to the personalised sketches on the mugs drawn by a friend of theirs from St. Petersburg.
Finally, I ask them for three words to sum up Burger & Lobster. George humorously answers, “Burger. And. Lobster. Nah, I’m just kidding” followed by “Three words is difficult but I would say our motto is ‘do one thing and do it well.” Ilya pipes in… “Or do two things and do them well!”
More at www.burgerandlobster.com
words Sophie Dee-Shapland