71 St. Thomas Street London, SE1 3QX www.bobslobster.com
BOB's Lobster is a quite a catch, super fresh seafood in a modern diner setting and with some very inventive dishes that don't all involve the lobster.
As I get older I find myself more and more doing that mindless humming thing, not even aware I am doing it, at least until I catch people looking at me with the ‘who’s the loon?’ expression.
I was humming again going into BOB’s Lobster, but this time I was humming the B-52’s classic ‘Rock Lobster’. It was impossible not to.
Set into one of the arches under London Bridge station, now finally emerging into the light after what seems like decades of building work, it’s got a lovely feel right away. Its high-arched ceiling is relieved by the sculptural silver snaking of extractor pipes, the booths exude clubby, red leather, welcoming warmth, and there is the original 1957 Streetfood VW Campervan that they started with, now parked up inside and serving as a fresh fish serving area.
It’s all very American in a ‘diner’ kind of way, and that’s good. The decor is fresh and clean, it exudes American can-do ness and a sense of willing service.
The whole thing was created by American Rob Dann with Jamie Watts and Stephanie Flanagan, the team behind Bedales of Borough. They wanted a wine bar with great food.
Seafood is of course simple on the surface but tricky to get right deep down; you need superb suppliers, fresh is after all everything, especially as seafood is never cheap.
The food here is designed for sharing, which normally repels me, and it’s mostly to be eaten by hand, which I tend to like even less. Here though it all fits, it all makes sense, seafood is one of the few things that have to be eaten by hand from a large platter.
I’d heard on the fishvine that the “tuna tacos” were well worth a try. They come on a clever bespoke rack filled with raw sashimi-grade tuna and wasabi-laced guacamole, and topped off with dabs of chipotle cream.
The tacos are wonderfully friable against the superb soft tuna, tuna as good as any I’ve had in a Japanese high-end restaurant, and there is a wonderful aroma and taste of sesame running through. I love sesame and I love these tacos.
Bob does oysters two ways, pure and natural, and fried. We try the pure version first, plump and from Colchester, just like darts players used to be, and they are excellent examples.
They come with no more choice of extras than chopped onion in vinegar and a bottle of Tabasco and that is just how it should be.
Once loosened from their shells, they slip down a treat and we follow up with bites of excellent sourdough from Bread Ahead slathered, as Nigel Slater always likes to say, with seaweed butter. A real briny banquet.
Second style oyster is deep fried in panko breadcrumbs. Those peculiar people who say they don’t like oysters, usually because of their appearance and texture, could well be convinced by these.
They come in their shells, after their bath in hot oil, and wrapped in a shiso leaf.
Shiso has a flavour hard to define; its slightly sweet, with a bit of cinnamon and a bit of star anise too. It works very well with the oyster and the batter.
We take a quick detour around a large crab cake, which we share, full of excellent brown meat and crispy dry on the outside and moistened with a creamy basil-infused sauce.
Then a handful of prawns, which in the American way they confusingly call shrimps, fluffily solid and actually cooked ( I've been offered a lot of raw prawns recently in restaurants) and with a fierce bloody mary sauce, and then curtain up on the lobster.
So first up is the Lobster & Crayfish Roll. It’s a brioche bun, toasted and well kitted out with melted butter. Inside is lobster claw, tail and knuckle with some crayfish. Plus, mayo of course. I rarely eat burgers, and I never eat them in brioche buns which are far too sweet for meat, but by golly they work with lobster.
A slippery handful but worth the mess, with that butter and crunch of the toasted bit of the brioche all making a memorable few mouthfuls.
Best thing I’ve eaten with my hands this year, hands down. Bits still remain adhered to my shirt, I shall never wash it.
And to follow, a lobster tail done simply; cooked whole and then the meat hoiked out and perched on top. With butter, you have to have butter. It’s perfect but gone all too quickly. I’m told every empty lobster shell goes toward making the house bisque, I bet that’s one delicious bisque.
We end by sharing a quick bread and butter pudding with vanilla cream. It’s good but there aren’t enough sultanas for me. Then again, I am doing a Proust, trying to remember days past and my mother’s version. She had a heavy hand with the sultanas.
I liked BOB’s a lot. They’ve got it all exactly right food wise and, while it’s not cheap, it’s not outrageous for the very high quality of the seafood and the inventive dishes.
And they also do things like happy hours on oysters, which makes a drink and shuck after work well achievable.
There’s a smart, thoughtful, wine list too, with around 15 wines available by the glass and carafe, as well as bottle, all helping keep your costs down.
Great background music, as well, classic rock mate. They had me when they played Roundabout by Yes, I was almost out of my seat and air bass playing.
All together now, BOBs Lobster! then (high pitched) BOB’s Lobster!!Doo doo, da dooh!