Ask any East Coaster what makes a lobster roll and they’ll enthusiastically argue about the precise combination of butter, chives, mayo, bread and just-picked meat that makes for carb-and-crustacean perfection.
We Brits, on the other hand, have studiously ignored the hot dog’s preppy relation - until when pop-up seafood shack Rock Lobsta (rocklobsta.co.uk) opened in London, grabbing our attention and shifting 500kg of lobster in a weekend.
RL’s founder, Adam Van den Bussche, talks us through the decadent and delicious basics.
I have eaten lobster everywhere from Brighton to Buenos Aires — all is good, but, a bit like wine, lobster is best enjoyed where it originated (once out of water they don't travel well). British lobster is available all year but the price goes up as the weather gets worse.
Buy them alive, and check they still have a lot of life and zip in them — after about three or four days out of the water lobsters begin to “fall asleep”. The best place to buy is a fish market. On Saturdays, Billingsgate (billingsgate-market.org.uk) is very much set up for both retail and private punters — you need to be there by 7am. It has three or so lobster specialists there; I use either Selsea Lobsters or R&G. You will pay on average £20 per kilogramme, so avoid lobsters with eggs as you pay for the weight of those too.
You need soft, soft, soft white doughy rolls — the closest readily available thing is cheap supermarket hot dog bun or baps. The best are called bridge rolls: the dough is half brioche and half white bread. It is rich with butter and egg yolk, thus slightly yellow and slightly sweet. Order them via a decent bakery.
I always make my own mayonnaise – it’s very quick and easy and any spare keeps for a few days. Google has about 9,000,000 pages on this.
How to do it
Drop the lobster into salted boiling water and cook for 7–12mins, depending on weight. Refresh in running cold water. Pull off the tail, cut it in half and remove the “black” vein. Then, remove the tail meat in two large pieces and place in a bowl. Pull off the claws, and gently crack with a rolling pin / hammer / heavy shoe / brick – then attempt to pull out the claw meat in as few pieces as possible: one piece being a very good result. There is more meat in the knuckles of the claw (which you can squeeze out in sections) and it is worth scraping a teaspoon around the head cavity and keeping any white meat (avoid the green bile!). Within the claw meat there is some hard cartilage that needs to be gently prized out.
Next, split the rolls and toast them. Spread a bit of garlic butter on the toasted surface, pile on the lobster (I usually give 1/2 per person), and then add mayonnaise to your taste.
Where to get it
Until Rock Lobsta makes its next appearance, sate your crustacean cravings at The Hawksmoor Seven Dials: its luxurious version is made with a whole Dorset Blue lobster crammed into its demi-brioche bun and hollandaise sauce on the side. (thehawksmoor.co.uk) In America and Canada, select branches of McDonald’s serve the tempting sounding McLobster Roll.