Darling readers, hello. I must jump right in on this beautiful summery afternoon and ask you what far flung corners of the world can be found on your must-visit-must-eat list? Plates of spicy chorizo & blushing prawns among the tapas of Barcelona? Authentic cocoa-spiced mole & hand-made yellow corn tacos in Mexico City? Fresh flavoured, clean lined, elegant fish from the Scandinavian coast?
Sensational as they all sound – and really, I am sincerely up for accompanying you to all of the above plus any other international spots you fancy feasting at – for me, east coast USA has long held a place on my own global-dining wish list. A work colleague recently jolly-holidayed in Boston & New England and I nearly died of food envy upon hearing his tales of white sandy bonfires, seafood so fresh it practically swam to your plate & bowls of chowder so warm and creamy you’d happily bob around using saltine crackers as a deliciously nibble-able flotation device…
Well now, thanks to the kind folk at Smack Lobster, we can all our own piece of white-shuttered-beach-house Americana without needing to undertake the purgatory of an 8 hour flight wedged into a screaming baby, overweight passenger, dehydrated food laden plane…
Smack Lobster is the kid sister of Burger & Lobster, a restaurant group where the only decision required of you to make is literally ‘Burger…or lobster?’ The ideology behind Smack – named after the type of boats used to catch lobsters incidentally rather than an invitation to get into a claw-fight with your dinner – is that lobster isn’t something to be reserved only for fat cats with deep pockets, and I can absolutely lay testament to that fact; for a mere 10 of your hard earned pounds, you can gorge yourself on the type of beautiful, fast, fresh food that you’ll remember long after the last smears of mayo have been licked from your fingers.
Smack can be found in 2 helpfully central London locations with their main restaurant on Binney St near Bond St tube and their deli spot on Dean St in the heart of Soho; on this occasion we were headed for a Pixar Picturehouse date after eating, so it was the second that we headed towards after work on the sort of gloriously bright evening that warms both the skin & the soul.
First thing first, this is a small location so leave your cat at home because kids, there’s no room to swing it. That said, after faux-casually stalking a couple finishing off their rolls in the window of this joint, J & I were seated after only a few moments wait and really, if you’re after something quick to be eaten al fresco or on the run, this place will totally see you right. A large open window on the side was a nice touch with a bench outside where lobster-diners were also happily perched.
Like its big brother, Smack has a small menu – lobster rolls or lobster salad. Now I love avocado & cous cous as much as the next gal but there was no way anything other than brioche rolls were being ordered on this visit…I had a Hamptons-esque daydream to bring to life after all. Out of 5 options, J and I opted for the California & the Seven Samurai, leaving the Original, the BLT and the Mexican for another time.
The California (below) combines lobster meat with fresh lettuce, juicy cherry tomatoes, wafer thin cucumber slices and a surprisingly light avocado-lime mayo, all of which lie nestled under a scattering of chives. The whole thing was gorgeously creamy without being overly rich and the luscious avocado mayo paired with generous hunks of fat, smooth lobster meat transported me – I was no longer in the streets of W1, I was sat atop a washed-ashore piece of driftwood, listening to the roar of the Atlantic and devouring coral coloured lobster meat, one gluttonous mouthful at a time while the latest Tommy Hilfiger ad campaign cavorted preppily around me…
If everything about the California carried me, ironically, to the eastern US seaboard, then the Seven Samurai bore me straight to the Far East. Pairing lobster with Japanese mayo, shredded white cabbage, sliced cucumber, pickled ginger, spring onion slivers and togarashi, a Japanese spice made traditionally with chili & pepper, this roll possessed all the beautiful clean flavours that come with Japanese cooking plus a suggestion of heat from the ginger and the spice. The togarashi, as lovely to look at as it was to taste, was new to me but something I’ll be seeking out to throw on future home-made dishes as a change to my time-honoured dusting of everything with smoked paprika.
A word of praise for the brioche which was every bit as glossy, sweet & soft as you’d imagine; a gentle toasting of the outer sides made for a nice contrast in texture to the rich but low in fat & high in protein lobster within it. Melted butter and velvety mayo accompaniments aside, there’s a lot to be said for adding this crustacean to your diet, especially if you’re made of stronger stuff than I am and can forego those sumptuous brioche buns.
Smack work with a specific group of Nova Scotia fishermen for as much of the year as possible, sourcing from Maine only when out of season there. Every lobster they use is wild when caught and kept in the best conditions possible until it’s delivered fresh each day to their restaurants. They also work closely with the Canadian government ensuring that they stay positively within sustainability laws.
If you’ve always thought that lobster was something to be had in white-linen-and-gleaming-silverware restaurants only, if you’ve wondered how you could afford to introduce it to your diet or if you’re after something a bit fresh, a bit different and a lot exciting for your dinner tonight, then good news…Smack’s open till 1opm.
Race you to that window seat….