To the first-timer, Burger & Lobster might seem like an unusual conceit for a restaurant. With a menu consisting almost entirely of – you guessed it – burgers and lobsters, it goes against the growing trend for vast, phonebook-thick menus. To limit the offerings to two simple choices suggests one of two things: sheer folly or a single-minded faith in the concept. Which is it?
As you’d expect from the old Ship Canal offices on Manchester’s affluent King Street, it’s a beautiful breath-taking space. Clean, elegant and with hints of the original Victorian Gothic-style architecture, the first thing you see upon entering is a huge wall full of lobster tanks (apparently the biggest in the North-West). Peppered with cosy booths and walled-off secret areas, it also features an impressively large bar area. It’s a huge building, with hundreds of covers, totally packed-out on Fridays and Saturdays. Even on a quiet Sunday evening there’s a distinct buzz to the place, with groups of trendy twenty-somethings and tables full of young date-night couples. The soundtrack helps. A skilfully-mixed playlist of R&B and classic hip hop, it suits the mood and clientele perfectly, creating a rousing but relaxed atmosphere.
But how about the food? First off, unless you like olives forget about starters. It’s not that kind of place. Burger & Lobster fits into the gap between American diner and upmarket sit-down meal, offering up just a handful of dishes, along with a couple of ever-changing specials. That’s not to say it’s boring, as the intriguingly-named Seven Samurai demonstrates. An East Asian twist on the standard lobster roll, this is a boxy toasted sandwich heaving with fresh lobster, Chinese cabbage and Burger & Lobster’s very own secret weapon: a creamy sauce made up of seven eye-popping ingredients, including orange peel, ginger and an array of Japanese peppers. It makes for an intoxicating set of fiery flavours you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. Far from a light option, this is next level indulgence, taking the standard lobster roll to all-new heights.
The most popular choice is the King St Combo, a stacked platter of lobster (grilled, steamed, or half and half), with a towering Mayfair burger on the side. This is a meal so messy it comes with a bib to protect your clothes from flying debris and dripping juices. Not for the squeamish. Again, the quality is excellent. The lobster is fresh, fleshy and plump, and comes with a buttery garlic dipping sauce that could hold its own anywhere. The burger, cooked medium, matches up well. The meat is top-quality Nebraskan beef, robust but tender and crumbly when bitten, full of mouthwatering juices. Even the salad is a delight, made up of fresh leaves with a sweet vinegar dressing, sprinkled with the ideal amount of tangy Parmesan cheese. It’s all too common for restaurants to treat salad as a pesky afterthought, so it’s heartening to see it given the care and attention it deserves.
The quality is excellent. The lobster is fresh, fleshy and plump, and comes with a buttery garlic dipping sauce that could hold its own anywhere.
The drinks warrant a special mention and go some way to explain Burger & Lobster’s popularity with hip, young Mancunians. The Drunk Lemonade, a cocktail only available in the Manchester branch, comes highly recommended by our cheerful, likeable waitress. She’s not wrong. It goes down effortlessly – zesty and deceptively potent. The Bloody Mary is another success, including the unusual but not unwelcome addition of sherry. The oddly-named 8 Steps To The West is a bourbon-based cocktail, combining pear, elderflower and rosemary, and rubber-stamps the venue’s skill when it comes to cocktails. With such a large section of the venue dedicated to the well-stocked bar, you’d expect decent drinks but these would take pride of place at the city’s best cocktail bars.
There are reports that it’ll be moving venue in the new year, but it’ll be a shame if it does. King Street badly needs a venue like this: easy American-style dining, geared towards stylish young diners who don’t want to compromise on quality. If you’re looking for stuffy fine dining with a sprawling menu, Burger & Lobster probably isn’t for you, but if you want excellent food (minus the tyranny of choice), along with even better drinks then this is one of Manchester’s best.