Restaurant Review: Burger & Lobster, Octagon Chapel in Bath
Nicholas Gibbons reviews the much-hyped Burger & Lobster restaurant in the beautiful South West city of Bath.
Goodman Restaurants, owned by George Bukhov and David Strauss, broke the mould when they launched Burger & Lobster in 2011. The duo’s desire to create something completely different was the driving force behind Burger & Lobster, where a simplistic, ‘mono-product’ approach, as the brand likes to call it, and no-reservations policy smashed many of the culinary boundaries when it was rolled out in the up market London district of Mayfair.
The brand has since established itself globally, with the launch of restaurants in the USA, Sweden, Kuwait and Wales, all with the goal of seeking out diners who are looking for the ultimate in surf and turf. Their latest offering takes us to Bath, which is famous for its stunning architecture and is home to more than 100 eateries. Located in the fashionable Milsom Place, a popular central city dining destination, the company has lovingly restored the wonderful Octagon; a Grade II listed former chapel.
I visited with my partner one Sunday in December and I must admit I was not completely sure what to expect. Walking through the doors of the Octagon (it was a little difficult to find but then my sense of direction is rather poor) certainly felt like I was entering a cathedral rather than a restaurant. The heavy panelled wooden door opens onto a large space which, with an ornate domed ceiling and an octagonal balcony, has more than a touch of St. Paul’s about it. There is a large round bar in the middle of the room, with fairly basic seating and tables all around. With the addition of funky jazz music playing in the background, the ambience felt open, relaxing and informal (imagine an American diner and you won’t be too far away). Goodman has certainly achieved what they had set out to on this front.
There is no food menu. The waiter comes over and tells you that you can have a 10z beef burger, paired with either a whole wild lobster (grilled or steamed) or a lobster brioche roll (using a smaller creature) with mayonnaise. This is served with a salad and French fries, all for £20 – a very reasonable price tag when you take into consideration that a lobster on it’s own would normally set you back at least £30. We were told that the burgers are made from a combination of grass-fed Irish and corn-fed Nebraskan beef and weigh 10oz. The restaurant’s lobster is flown in alive from the Atlantic Ocean to its dedicated tank at Heathrow Airport. The lobsters are then delivered daily to Bath. We both went for the grilled Lobster option on this occasion, in the hope it would add a touch of smokiness and heat. There is a small drinks menu with a selection of wines, beers, soft drinks to choose from. I opted for the Japanese beer while my partner went for a glass of Prosecco.
We didn’t have to wait too long for our food to arrive. The presentation was very simple as expected, which meant the chef was putting all his faith in the quality of the meat to win us over. The grilled lobster was beautifully cooked and tasted delicious dipped in drawn butter. The meat was tender and sweet, and melted in the mouth. I’ve previously found lobster to be quite hit and miss as chefs tend to over cook the animal, resulting in rather chewy and unpleasant meat. I thought it was quite fun and novel having to use a lobster apron and cracker but my partner described it as “a bit of a faff”. If you don’t like the hands on approach then I would suggest going for the lobster roll option.
The burger (which is cooked to your preference) was served with smoked streaky bacon, cheese, gherkins, tomato and crispy lettuce. It was enjoyable but did not completely blow me away. You could tell that it was made from excellent quality beef but my biggest annoyance was the fact the bottom part of the brioche roll was very soggy and it literally broke up on my plate. The other thing to point out is the fact you can’t choose your own sides or burger extras. So you have to either love it or lump it! Leaving the soggy brioche bun aside, it was a very tasty and flavoursome plate of food and very different from the usual Sunday Roast.
Even though the lobster is marketed by the owners as the star of the show, the dessert was actually the best bit and would not have looked out of place on the menu of Dower House, the stunning 3AA Rosette restaurant we had eaten in the night before. It was so good that I begged my partner to leave me some of hers. We both went for the chocolate mouse, which was served with chocolate cornflakes, salted caramel sauce and giant-sized peanuts. It was basically a deconstructed snickers bar and boy did it pack a punch. Salted caramel is my guilty pleasure and this was the best I’ve ever tasted. This dish was rich, salty and quite frankly, sublime. The peanuts added an element of crunch and the dish was a great way to round off the meal. Presentation wise (served in small paper cup) it could be improved but you could not fault the different flavours and textures.
I liked the open kitchen layout as I think this helps to break the barrier and at the same time helps to reinforce the connection between the kitchen and the paying customer. It must be noted that the toilets are not particularly close to the main restaurant area. They are located up two flights of stairs, making it a rather long trek, especially if you are not to agile on your feet.
It goes without saying that this isn’t a good restaurant choice for vegetarians, unless you’d be content with some fries and a bowl of salad!
IN A NUTSHELL
If you like quality burgers and you like succulent and sweet lobster, this newly opened restaurant is right up your street. Was it the best burger I’ve ever eaten, no, was it the best piece of lobster I’ve tried, nearly but not quite. But it was highly enjoyable and I would go back in a heartbeat. Expect it to be a little messy but great fun.
Address: Octagon Chapel, 28 Milsom St, Bath BA1 1BZ / 01225 667844
Nicholas traveled to Bath in December 2015 via Great Western Railway.