In some aspects, there is an advantage to visiting a high profile restaurant several months after their opening, because by then usually a couple of important things would have happened. Firstly, the ridiculous hype and excitement and overall hysteria of another international restaurant coming to Dubai would have subsided, and everyone would have calmed down and stopped acting like a group of teenage girls who got free tickets to a Justin Beiber concert.
Secondly, after a few months, any compromises or short cuts the restaurant will have to make, would have been made already. –You know what I mean – that promise of daily, hand-crafted egg pasta quietly becomes a dried alternative out of a packet or those artisanal white truffle shavings suddenly gets replaced by truffle flavoured canola oil and parmesan shavings.
Burger and Lobster serves two things – burgers and lobsters. I am a big fan of restaurants focusing on one or two items on their menu – it’s a bit like being a kicking specialist in the NFL. However, if you are only going to focus on kicking, then you better be able to kick like a mule and do it better than anyone else in your team. It would be mighty embarrassing if your only job is to kick the ball, and the water boy is better at it than you are. Same goes for B&L – their burgers and lobsters should be up there with the best of them because if they aren’t – well then there isn’t really anything else available.
So, the Serb and I decided it was time to see how well B&L were doing after their opening honeymoon and when the Serb found out we were going to a place that specialized only in burgers she immediately turned into a schoolgirl who had just received free tickets to a Justin Beiber concert. Figuratively, not literally.
The restaurant is in DIFC, but one of the overflow buildings – the Burj Haman building. I would think you would be able to walk comfortably to it – if you lived in the apartments upstairs. Otherwise, it is definitely a drive and valet situation.
The restaurant is on the first floor and after a short walk past the lobster tanks where your dinner stares at you with mournful eyes, you enter a large room with dramatic lighting and a bunch of seating options including booths that seem a little too much like lobster cages. In fact, the whole room reminded me a little like a warehouse of a lobster sorting facility for some reason – but in a really good way – and without the smell. Expect exposed red bricks, American diner style booths, warm, moody lighting and accents of industrial steel.
B&L are licensed, thanks to the magic of DIFC zoning regulations, so there is a cocktail and beverage menu on the table, but of course no food menu. One would hope the servers would remember what’s available. We ordered our drinks and being traditionalists, asked the server to give us a few minutes to think about our food choices. We are all for change, but it takes time.
It’s lucky I’m a seasoned pro at this restaurant gig, as I was able to explain the concept to the Serb because it seemed no-one employed at B&L wanted to – which is a big indication to me. Is this perhaps an unwanted compromise setting in (in my mind, dramatic music is now playing.) I also asked our server where the beef and lobster came from and got a rather monosyllabic response of ‘Australia’ and ‘Canada.’ I didn’t expect the head chef to come out and offer a personalized introduction to the lobster I was about to eat, but a little more enthusiasm from the server would have improved the experience.
Only having two choices on the menu means you can’t punish uninspired responses by choosing something else, so we ordered a burger, and a lobster roll and our server asked us if we wanted anything else. I don’t know if this was a trick question as I’m not sure what else we could have ordered at that stage. Perhaps it was some remnant of up-selling training from her previous job that subconsciously took effect.
While waiting for the cooks to work their magic, we happily listened to their eclectic soundtrack of soul-feeding, boogie tunes, such as the Flow Dynamics and Tom Browne and watched as a few large tables of friends sat down and tied their B&L bibs round their necks. Shortly the food arrived.
First the burger. The portion was big, and there was a generous patty of around 300 grams of Australian beef. The presentation was great – served in a metal tray with a paper liner – very instagramable. The fries were regular frozen fries, but cooked to a good colour in clean frying oil and the side salad was a crisp, fresh selection of mesclun greens with a parmesan dressing that gave it a nice creaminess.
However, B&L don’t season their beef at all and so, to compensate for this lack of flavoring, they load up their house-made bun with a mayo based lettuce slaw. What this does though is create a burger that has as much structural integrity as a cardboard box in a thunder storm, and it very quickly turns into a soggy mess. This is one of a few times that I have had to use a knife and fork on a burger. By the time I got to the last few blobs, I would have been better using a spoon. I can see why bibs are offered now, and it’s not for the lobster. I think my official, technical feedback for the burger is ‘Meh.’ Yes, the capital M is needed.
The lobster roll fared much better; you’ll be pleased to know. The bread was a lightly toasted, fresh brioche loaf, half stuffed with a healthy portion of lobster meat. Typically, the lobster should come in a light coating of mayo and lemon juice with a touch of seasoning – the key is to let the flavour of the meat do the talking. B&L got it bang on; the lobster was juicy, sweet, tender and well seasoned. The bread held up well, even after pouring their delicious, artery thickening lemon garlic butter over the meat. The classic lobster roll is perfect in its simplicity, and B&L have a pretty good version, I’m happy to say.
After hosing down the table and cleaning our hands, mouths and in my case the majority of my face, we skipped dessert and asked for the bill. All the food on the menu is 127 dhs each, and add a couple of drinks to your burger, and you are paying upwards of 50US$ or 35 quid for your meal.
See, here’s the thing when it comes to value for money. Consumers have a pretty complicated algorithm that they use when calculating if something is worth their money. They are not only taking into consideration that it was a big burger or the franchise development fee was expensive – they are thinking about so much more and restaurants need to be aware of that. Customers intrinsically have a value of their precious leisure time already calculated in their minds, and they also remember that it took a gargantuan effort to peel themselves off the couch and away from House of Cards on Netflix. For the Serb, if she still had an episode of House of Cards left to watch, she wouldn’t leave that couch even if Gordon Ramsay himself wanted to personally cook her lunch. Frank Underwood beats Gordon Ramsay hands down.
Overall B&L can be proud of their lobster program, and I can see the restaurant being a great place for a large group of well-funded friends meeting for a casual, uncomplicated bite to eat with a few drinks.
I’ll be back, but only for their lobster. I’m sure I saw one give me a wink on the way out.