Bath restaurant review: Burger & Lobster
30 October 2015
"Crisply charred on the outside, cooked to soft meaty perfection inside, the burger didn’t disappoint"
If you like burgers and you like lobster, this newly opened restaurant is right up your street, says AMANDA ROBINSON, who pays a visit in her best (plastic) bib for some top tucker
Walking through the doors of The Octagon in Bath, where Burger & Lobster is housed, feels a bit like walking into a cathedral – the heavy panelled wooden door opens onto a large space which, with few sharp edges, an ornate domed ceiling and an octagonal balcony, has more than a touch of St. Paul’s about it. And quite right too, as this 18th-century listed building was originally built as a church, with locals like Jane Austen gracing the pews with their presence. More recently home to The Royal Photographic Society (and, more recently yet, shut up, then a pop-up event space), The Octagon’s present reincarnation appears to slot comfortably into the smorgasbord of foodie offerings that is Milson Place, Bath’s eclectic restaurant hub.
Opened this autumn, the Bath branch is one of just 15: that’s nine in London (the latest at The Old Bailey opens this month), and six dotted around the world from Cardiff to Kuwait, by way of New York. It’s an inspired idea, based around a straightforward menu of beef burgers and, er, lobster at a set price. Simple desserts are extra, as are the beers, cocktails, mocktails and wine by the glass or bottle. The coldwater lobsters come from the other side of the chilly North Atlantic, and are flown over alive, to be kept in huge tanks at Heathrow, then smaller ones right by the restaurant entrance, ready to meet their destiny. The beef? Well, in these days of local sourcing and zero food miles, it rather surprisingly comes from Nebraska, home – we’re told – of a superior form of beef cow.
When it comes to the menu, it’s quite clearly a game of two halves – at the flat £20 you’ll be charged virtually whatever you eat, you’ll clearly do much better if you go for lobster, as this is about the cheapest you’ll ever see the premium crustacean; the burger, in contrast, seems a far less value-for-money option. A no-brainer for me – but then I am a seafood fan through and through, and will always take up the offer if it’s on the menu. The burger will have to wait, though we’ll come back to that half of our order later.
As explained patiently by our engaging waitress, the lobster can be boiled, grilled or served in a brioche roll with mayonnaise – and while the steamed lobster is usually sweeter and more delicate, the smoked option always has that tempting flavour of barbecue char, and that’s what I wanted. Served with a smile on a huge platter, the substantial protein quota came with a small side salad of mixed leaves and sliced peppers, a heap of crisp hot skinny chips, a scoop of coleslaw and a mini jug of melted garlic butter. Kitted out with lobster crackers, pick and bib, I was primed and ready to go.
Now, I’m not much of a bib wearer these days, it has to be said, but boy, was it useful this particular lunchtime. Let’s face it: if you don’t need a bib when you’re eating lobster from the shell, you’ve probably got your bibbed-up butler sitting beside you extracting the sweet meat for you. I love all that hands-on stuff, and there’s really nothing quite like the thrill of teasing out the tiniest slivers of lobster from its spiny casing. I tried the butter sauces but, to be honest, I preferred it without; that delicate meaty sweetness is rich enough.
“I didn’t expect to be dressed like a midwife,” whispered my accomplice, although he confessed to be secretly pleased the restaurant supplies white plastic aprons for diners worried about wearing their best bib and tucker. “The last time I had lobster for lunch, it was at a beach shack in Dorset and it was a disaster. I pressed the crackers down with such force that the juices of the lobster spurted all over the bare back of the woman on the next table. I’m sure she thought she’d been had by a passing seagull!”
And so to the burger – crisply charred on the outside, cooked to soft meaty perfection inside, it didn’t disappoint. Stacked high in Burger & Lobster’s signature brioche bun (baked fresh in the kitchens every day), it was a meat feast of jaw-stretching proportions, unless you like to deconstruct yours... I’d created enough mayhem on my platter with the broken remains of the lobster, so why not? If you’re wearing a bib, do as the babies do and get messy. It was a top burger, by the way – and, if you want, order extra cheese and bacon to ramp up the savoury.
It’s actually refreshing to have such a limited choice menu, but I did wonder if it might put people off returning time and again. Once you’ve eaten there, you kind of know the score. Time will tell, of course, but while their expansion continues at the current brisk pace, these guys are definitely on a winning mission to share the Burger & Lobster love.