Sunday, 14 February 2016

Solo dining at Lobster Central

I love that you can be wandering around a part of town that you thought you knew well, but realised that you didn't.  I had this feeling when walking down Stanley Street in Central a couple of weeks ago, where I noticed a new little 'hole-in-the-wall' restaurant that was right up my alley.

I'd developed a real taste for lobster rolls when visiting New York a few years back (see post here) and have been lowly tracking down all of the dining spots that have lobster rolls on their menus.  You can imagine my surprise and delight when I stumbled across a spot that specialised in lobster rolls!

Deciding that I'd check it out for lunch one day, I made a beeline for Lobster Central and discovered that the little hole-in-the-wall spot was a lot bigger than I'd first noticed.  There was room for about twenty or so diners to sit down and enjoy the simple joy of a lobster roll.

The menu at Lobster Central is pretty short and to the point, which is really what the team are trying to achieve, with a view to stripping down the roll to it's 'most naked form'.  What does that mean you might ask?  Well, it means that the lobster rolls at Lobster Central are stripped down and dressed minimally - there is a brioche bread roll, lobster and a light coating of a house made lemon butter with a secret spice mix.  No fancy salad and a generous amount of lobster.

While the humble lobster roll is the key focus of Lobster Central, there are a couple of other options available should you not (shock horror) like lobster rolls.  There's also a crab roll and a shrimp roll available, but really, if you're not into lobster rolls, then you're probably going to avoid a place that's sole purpose for existing is producing the 'quintessential' lobster roll experience.  There's also a couple of sides available, such as lobster bisque, slaw and truffle fries, and for the adventurous diners, there are combo deals that include a mix'n match of different rolls.

I'd timed my visit to Lobster Central perfectly, arriving about ten minutes prior to a rush that saw a line out the door, so I had a comfy seat right at the front that let me do a little people watching as I waited for my meal to arrive.  My choice for the day?  Well, it would be no surprise that I'd gone for the lobster roll, the lobster bisque and some of the truffle fries.  But what did I think?

Let's start off with the good.  For lobster roll purists, there's plenty for you to love about Lobster Central, with plenty of delicious lobster meat stuffed into a light brioche roll.  The light drizzle of lemon butter was perfect with the sweet flesh of the lobster, and the secret seasoning was interesting.  From a sizing perspective, the lobster rolls are reasonably small, so you could easily go for two of them if you were feeling particularly hungry.

The truffle fries were also very good, although thin cut in style, the fries were cooked well and had a golden crunchy outer.  I could smell the truffle salt on the fries but the taste was quite subdued and mild, so I'd have preferred a little punchier hit of truffle.

Now, the bad.  I'd ordered the lobster bisque and it was far from what I'd consider to be an acceptable bisque, and in fact, about the only thing that was right about it was it's deep red colouring.  I found the bisque to be really thin and watered down, with a flavour that was not far off inedible.  It came out so hot that I couldn't really try it until after I'd finished my lobster roll and fries.  When I could finally have a sip, I almost spat it out. 

The other element that was disappointing was the cartilage that was still in the lobster in my roll, and not just one piece of cartilage or shell, but numerous.  It actually detracted from what would have otherwise been the 'perfect' lobster roll - by that I mean most like the great lobster rolls I was devouring all over Manhattan.  Removing the shell and cartilage from the lobster is the basic tenant of serving a lobster roll and has to be right - every.single.time!

Lobster Central is a funky little spot that's decked out semi industrial and with room for about twenty diners at a time.  Most of the seats are bench style, but there are a couple of tables set out for groups of four right at the back, so if you're early enough, you could get along with a couple of mates for lunch.  I loved the music being played while I was people watching and munching on my lunch, but the speaker was right next to me at the front of the dining area, so I'd love to see the speaker installed in the walls - otherwise it would be hard to have a conversation with your dining companion.

I'll definitely get along to Lobster Central as one of my regular lunch time spots, but I will be avoiding the bisque and probably just getting a couple of the lobster rolls.  That is, as long as my next visit is fault free!  

The lobster rolls are not huge
But they are packed full of the good stuff!
I loved this bottle of pure New Zealand volcanic water!
Semi industrial feel with the exposed brick and tube lighting
Bigger than I initially thought, there was room for twenty in the dining area
Worth checking out - Stanley Street

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