Lobster Kitchen – Great Russell Street
Posted on November 9, 2014
I’m now a fully-fledged member of the Claw Club. The first rule of which became apparent on entry to its headquarters, Lobster Kitchen, on Great Russell Street: ‘You do not talk about Claw Club’. And its members are doing a great job because at two-thirty one Thursday lunchtime, it was empty.
Having eaten there though, I can see this why this rule has been so easily adhered to. It isn’t great. It’s just all right, and who recommends an all right restaurant. I’d never have gone if I wasn’t going to receive half price lobster in return for my email address and I probably wouldn’t go back again even with the further promise of 50% off until the end of November. From the outside it’s completely unremarkable, hidden at the base of the concrete monstrosity that is the St Giles Hotel just off Tottenham Court Road. It should be easy to find, but after two walks around the block and a short hike up to The British Museum and back I had all but given up before spying its door tucked between the newer VQ and a sad looking gym.
Lobster Kitchen isn’t in the basement, but it feels like it. Its dark and windowless, save the disabled assisted door that makes it more like a hospital than hospitality. An interior clad with dark wood tiles doesn’t evoke a warm and lively New-England seafood shack. It’s more you’re like sitting outside one, in the rain, with only the old buoys and broken lobster pots for company – the only one not invited to the party inside. In reality I was the only one who had turned up to a party that others didn’t fancy.
The chef, busy cracking the ruddy-clawed beasts and leaving their shells piled precariously before a vat of bisque, assured me they were still open, but before I could order I was back outside in the grey November afternoon running around for a cashpoint. They don’t accept bookings; they don’t take cards. They do however admit Americans. Two had arrived by the time I got back perhaps hoping for a savour of home.
Deciphering the chalkboard menus above the kitchen hatch was worthy of a free meal in itself. They were virtually illegible as if written by a toddler on tiptoes at full stretch wielding chalk with an amputated claw. So the chef reeled off a few options. I went safe, Lobster roll with garlic butter and large lobster mac and cheese.
The food was average. Lobster, chopped into small pieces, lost some of its bite but nonetheless was tasty and sweet. The brioche finger role was a bit dry and there could have been more garlic butter – what there was of it was good. The box of lobster mac was mustardy, too thick and cloying and lacking the cheesy savouriness you demand from such a dish. It had a tasty breadcrumb topping that I wanted more of and the odd chunk of lobster was a welcome discovery. But in the end I couldn’t be bothered to finish it. Once the lobster had been picked out it was disappointing, like opening the Celebrations box and finding all the left over Bounties.
Afterwards, Rufus Wainwright (Hallelujah) began to play. I felt like standing on my stool, putting my head in the rigging hanging from the ceiling and kicking the stool from beneath me. The Claw Club was not everything I had hoped it would be.
I expected to be sat among a contingent of finger-on-the-pulse foodies but found myself playing the lonely glutton eating twice as much as normal in spite of its mediocrity. I’m aware I’ve missed the opening rush to Lobster Kitchen (and there was one) but the first few weeks can often be misleading. I feel it will be a battle to keep it buzzing. When the special offer disappears what will keep people coming? How long will it be before someone yells stop, goes limp, taps out… and the fight is over.