db Eats: Bob’s Lobster
db’s greedy gourmand, Lucy Shaw, heads to Bob’s Lobster in London Bridge for tuna tacos, shrimp and grits, a heavenly lobster roll and an apricot-laced Viognier.
The concept: Like many new openings in London, Bob’s Lobster started out as a pop-up. Operating from a gleaming red and white 1950s VW camper van called Ruby, for the last five years owners Rob Dann and Jamie Watts have put Ruby to work at everything from food festivals and London markets to fashion shows.
Keen for something more permanent, this June the duo found a fixed home for Ruby in a high-ceilinged, 60-cover space under the arches next to London Bridge station. While Ruby takes pride of place in the left-hand corner of the restaurant, she has been allowed to retire and is there for show – the real action takes place in a kitchen out back.
The décor: Evocative of 1950s American diners, Owen Architects have done a good job in making the cavernous, industrial space feel cosy and welcoming, from the retro red leather booths and stage lights running the length of the bar, to the honeycomb patterned, monochrome tiled floor. Adding to the Americana theme is a bluesy soundtrack that transports you to the deep south.
The food: As the name suggests, Bobby’s Lobby celebrates crustaceans and other treasures from the sea. Having worked under Mark Hix at Le Caprice and inspired by the UK’s bounty of fruits de mer, owner Rob Dann was keen to create a venue reminiscent of Florida seafood shacks where flappingly fresh quality produce is served in a relaxed, convivial setting.
The menu is separated into snacks, raw and cured dishes, salads and sarnies, specials, fried food and veg. It’s worth ordering a few things from each section for the table to share, though you may struggle to share you lobster and crayfish roll because they’re so damn good, but more on that later…
The retro crab stack is a good place to begin. A colourful tower with a sweet papaya and ginger salsa base layered with pickled white crab meat, avocado, and silky sashimi tuna, it proved incredibly moreish and irresistible.
Fans of fiery spice should order the innocent sounding shrimp cocktail, which comes with a pot of horseradish-laced Bloody Mary sauce that will ease even the strongest of hangovers and blow away the cobwebs.
Meat lovers meanwhile, shouldn’t miss the tea-infused fried chicken thighs with anchovy salsa verde – two towering, wonderfully crunchy hunks of moist fried chicken resting in a piquant pool of green lifted by citrus notes from the tea-infused batter.
Signature dishes: Among the star dishes of the evening were the tuna tacos served in crispy wonton shells loaded with sesame-scented cubes of hyper fresh tuna sashimi, and daubs of wasabi guacamole and chipotle cream in a delicious explosion of punchy flavours and crunchy textures.
Soul food fans should give the shrimp and grits, featuring fat pan-fried tiger prawns deglazed in Bourbon, a whirl. Served with bacon and Cheddar-flecked polenta rather than traditional grits, the overriding flavour of the decadent dish is that of an intensely savoury and rich lobster bisque.
Even more indulgent is the lobster mac ‘n’ cheese, which is worth saving room for. Oozing out of the dish like a glistening gold volcano, amid the molten eruption of three cheeses are chunks of sweet lobster claw and curls of creamy macaroni that mingle in a sweet cheesy symphony, proving that fromage and fish can make for a successful marriage.
No trip to Bob’s Lobster would be complete without ordering its signature dish – the lobster and crayfish roll; a creation so sacred to its owners the recipe took three months to perfect. Best enjoyed in a few greedy bites, the union of buttery brioche, sweet lobster claw and rapeseed mayo was so heavenly, I may have moaned in delight. More than once.
The drinks: The backlit bar is a bit of a showstopper. The owners know a thing of two about wine – they also run wine bar Bedales in Borough Market, which, in a previous life, was the Greek restaurant that played host to the famous fight scene between Hugh Grant and Colin Firth in Bridget Jones’s Diary.
Surprisingly for a casual site, Bob’s Lobster boasts 90 wines by the glass and considerably more by the bottle. It’s worth kicking off the evening with a cocktail though. My ice-cold, lime-laced Margarita helped turn the stresses of a manic day into a hazy memory.
As for the wines, given the abundance of seafood on offer, and the liberal use of cheese and butter in the dishes, lifted oak-licked whites that offer both freshness and texture are a good shout. Our 2017 Lismore The Age of Grace Viognier had alluring notes of honeysuckle, orange blossom and apricot, and an appealing oily texture.
Who to know: Seek out loquacious owner Rob Dann, who will regale you with stories of learning his craft in New York, and investing in Martin Morales’s Peruvian restaurant Ceviche before the cuisine became cool.
Last word: There’s a lot to love about Bob’s Lobster if you’re a seafood fan. Serving up comfort food classics oozing with butter and cheese, alongside super fresh Asian-inspired offerings like the tuna tacos, the beauty of Bob’s is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It does what is does really well, and has fun while it’s at it.
Bob’s Lobster, Unit 71 St. Thomas St, London SE1 3QX; Tel: +44 (0)20 7407 7099