Thursday, 4 December 2014

Smack Lobster, Mayfair


Yes, it's true, there's yet another new lobster restaurant in town. I've never been a believer in "too much of a good thing", so I don't really care how many there are as long as they're half decent but of course that's the problem - most of them aren't. If your business plan is simply to make money off a trend forged more bravely and more successfully by others, then experience shows your end product will be as bland, cynical and depressing as your motiviations for doing it. And despite its enviable number of trailblazers and risk takers, London has never been short of its bandwagon-chasers either.


But Smack lobster comes with a pedigree more promising than most. Surely one of the great London dining success stories of the last few years is the brilliant Burger & Lobster, which alongside employing some of the most skilled barpeople in town (gotta love those martinis) paired huge live Canadian lobster (grilled, boiled or in a roll) with crunchy fries, green salad and served the lot for a flat fee of £20. Apprently they also do burgers too.


Smack Deli is the Burger & Lobster team's go at fast food. You order from a short menu, wait around with a little buzzer in your pocket for your order to be ready, then either eat it in the functional seating area or take it boxed up back to the office. It's a great idea - egalitarian, attractive and accessible, bringing lovely fresh seafood to the Pret and Eat lunchtime crowd, and doing so with speed and style.


More good news - the lobster rolls at Smack are, whilst necessarily not as good as those from parent restaurant Burger & Lobster, fresh, tasty and insanely good value - £7.5 for (as far as I could tell) a whole lobster's worth inside a warm, crunchy brioche bun. The ordering system works well - I waited barely 30 seconds between picking up my buzzer and picking up my food, and though this is easy to do when you're not cooking the animals to order (the seafood itself is cold, but not of course frozen) no waiting around means no queues. I'd have liked some hot sauce on offer in the dining room, perhaps some more exciting accompaniments (courgette fries were the only option - what's wrong with potato?) but at these prices you can hardly complain. This is fresh lobster on a tiny budget, the kind of which I'd previously only seen in North America. On the face of it there's not much not to like, and on the strength of their product and process alone, Smack deserves to roar across town bashing the awful mayo-laden Pret and Eat branches into oblivion and bringing lobby rolls to the masses.


Except what's this, one of the styles of sandwich - the Japanese-inspired one, of course - is called the Happy Ending. And a sign pointing to overflow seating downstairs boasts of "wine, beer & naked women". I know, minor things really in the grand scheme of things, and perhaps I shouldn't be so bleeding-heart about it all and just let them get on with it, but... well, why is it when a restaurant is trying so self-consciously to be "edgy" that misogyny is always the first port of call? From mediocre burger joints looking for an easy route into the local papers, to trendy noodle bars plastering their toilet walls with pornography, "edgy" almost always means the same thing.


I mean, you don't see restaurants advising their interior designers to be 'edgy' and 'controversial' in other ways do you? I'm not seeing any East-African-pirate-themed hot dog stalls popping up in Camden ("All our meat is reared on hijacked container ships! Only one Khat Salad per customer!") or Civil-Rights-themed rib shacks in Soho ("Downstairs for beer wine and more slavery - sorry, spaces!"). And despite one hapless Mayfair restaurant happily boasting about hosting a Nigel Farage lunch a few weeks back (the restaurant industry being famously rarely in need of immigrant labour), I haven't yet noticed anywhere going the full-Third-Reich on the menu ("Two Goering Burgers and fries please." "Himmler Spritz?" "No, tap water's fine thanks."). Attention-seeking restaurants make casual references to prostitution because - for whatever reason - its gets them noticed (and yes, written about by do-gooders like me) more often than it gets them boycotted. Which says fairly worrying things about our attitudes in general.


Anyway, that's probably enough on the matter for now. The real shame of course is that while lesser restaurants have used "controversy" to raise their profile, there's absolutely no need for Smack to have done the same because their product is good enough to stand on its own. So hopefully, eventually, they'll rewrite the menu, take that stupid sign down and make an honest living selling fresh lobster rolls to happy customers. Let's leave the gimmicks to the other idiots, OK guys?

6/10

Photos taken with a Canon 700D with 50mm lens, kindly loaned from Canon.

Smack Lobster on Urbanspoon

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Its a shame that you found it necessary to talk so much about other restaurants, their toilets, news stories and links to your friends websites. Couple this with a meaningless and uninformative diatribe on your personal views on what your definition of "edgy" is means that this doesn't really classify as a restaurant review at all. I know nothing more than they serve lobster rolls and I could see that from the first picture - its written on their sign. Disappointing.

Other Somewhere said...

I don't even understand that sign, like, it's not even really linked to anything actually there?? Bizarre.

lunchcity said...

I literally just came back from here and then saw your review - I too felt the sexual references were stupidly out of place, in what was a fairly classy looking sandwich bar otherwise.

Lee Burns said...

Idea for an edgy restaurant: "Mein Caff".

Anonymous said...

I thought the comments on misogyny were valid and well placed.

You forgot to mention that, while misogynistic, the references to Happy Endings are intensely racist to South-East Asians. It's one thing to make money off the appropriation of other cultures' cuisine and ideas, another thing entirely to kick them in the teeth while you do so. Shame on Burger and Lobster.

SJ said...

Bravo!

Alicia Foodycat said...

Racism *and* sexism. What a shame! Because it's a bloody nice sounding lobster roll. Which I was able to glean from your bit about it being a bloody nice lobster roll: not sure what else you were supposed to say...

Anonymous said...

SE Asian here. I and those I know aren't too bothered about "cultural appropriation"and silly little jokes about happy endings.

It's you white social justice wallies that get all het up about this type of thing. We just get on with life.

Ying said...

Well, SE Asian here and I think naming an Asian-inspired roll "Happy Ending" is legitimately offensive, especially when the other two get to have neutral names like "Mexican" and "California". What was wrong with just "Japanese"?

Anonymous said...

Pretty obvious what the signs mean, we have all viewed it on the net. There's to much of this around, its not funny/clever or relevant to the food. AF your so right, Japanese would of been the correct title.
Lucky me, I have Start Bay lobster, not all the time that would be to much. Its nice treat when it happens. It's better than Canadian, that's for sure.
This place is one I will not be visiting.

KRISTA said...

Chris, as always, you are the best.

How are people raised? Why is it okay to promote naked ladies downstairs? Happy endings? I don't understand. They should bring their mothers there. I wonder.

Nicky Richmond said...

I raised this issue of the naked ladies sign with them on Twitter – their response was, frankly, ludicrous. It's just simply crass , sexist and offensive. Makes me not want to go in there, which is a shame, as I like the product. I do not think there is a whole lobster in there, it seems to me certainly less than in Burger & Lobster

Cherie City said...

Agreed, it's crass and totally unnecessary for a lobster roll joint.

It annoys me when restaurants attach gender to their menu, like dude burgers and skinny women's cocktails. Let's just all eat together and get on with it.

Robyn said...

Good on you for raising this unnecessarily sexist and racist "edgy" humour. It actually scares me how not only is this considered perfectly acceptable by the restaurant but that regular punters are accusing you of being too easily offended.

Anonymous SE Asian person: it worries me that you aren't offended by that because it shows how deeply ingrained these attitudes are that even you can brush it off as "no big deal". As a woman, I find references to the "naked women" downstairs to be pretty offensive and - more to the point - unnecessary and desperate, and I know that my lovely and self-aware boyfriend would be equally as taken aback.

Think of it this way: how likely is it that a restaurant would have a sign saying "Beer, wine and naked men"? No? Does it sound ridiculous? Why? what is it about naked women that is so normal, and naked men that's so funny, or irrelevant?

And in terms of the offensively-named lobster roll; what is that implying? Why is "happy ending" automatically assumed to be Asian? Because the two are synonymous? But why? And if they insist on calling it that, why is the Mexican one simply called Mexican, and the Californian called Californian? Why is only the roll with Japanese mayo given a sly dig of a name? Would they call a roll with jerk sauce and rice and beans "12 Years a Slave"?

Great review, Chris, keep up the good work.

Walshy said...

Well said Chris. Doesn't even make sense when it's the B&L guys who don't need to be crass to get publicity! Makes me sad - but happier that other people think this is crass too, and in particular, a male blogger.