Welcome to our Dining Beyond Zone 1 series of restaurant reviews, dedicated to seeking out quality local places to dine beyond the frenzy of Central London.
Set just a smidgen outside Zone 1 in Kennington, the Lobster Pot has been serving up crustacea, fish and a generous side order of eccentricity for more than 20 years. It is owned and run by chef Herve Regent, and it is he who has dreamed up a bizarre boat-themed décor, as well as a French-rooted menu of super-fresh seafood.
When we say boat-themed, we mean it. The downstairs of the restaurant is made-up like a ship’s dining room, complete with portholes looking out into a fish tank ‘sea’, while the upstairs resembles a boat’s deck and comes complete with recorded seagull noise playing on loop and a wall painted to look like a port in the distance. Somehow, it’s not quite as irritating or tacky as it sounds, staying just within the realms of good natured-fun. It pushes its luck with staff dressed in sailor-style uniforms, though.
A reasonably routine à la carte menu of fishy French dishes is available, but we’d strongly suggest opting for the restaurant’s flagship eight course surprise tasting menu. Built around what Herve has found that’s good at Billingsgate that morning, dishes come out unannounced after a quick check of any dietary requirements: three fish dishes (one of which is lobster), one palate cleanser, a meat or fish main, a cheese course and two desserts.
Aside from the fun factor, this way of eating represents bloody good value so long as you’re willing to splash out £54.50 a head and are up for a marathon meal rather than a quick bite. It also means you can be sure you’re getting the freshest of the fresh.
Our voyage begins with a daintily sized but decadently rich lobster bisque before moving on to a fillet of halibut in a herb sauce. Its tender and moist flesh is offset by a lightly crisped crumb exterior displaying some seriously skilled cooking that is barely hinted at in the plate’s old-school, slightly over-sauced presentation.
Next up is the restaurant’s namesake lobster, and it doesn’t disappoint. After being dressed by our
captain waitress in jaunty Lobster Pot bibs, dishes of half lobsters arrive at the table, less humorously overdressed with only a little butter and a touch of creamy mushroom sauce. In fairness, even that isn’t needed. Having many a time in the past declared lobsters wildly overrated and shouted about the superiority of more strongly flavoured crab meat, it’s a good job we hadn’t been offered a specially designed Lobster Pot hat as it would have to have been eaten. Sorry, lobster: all is forgiven. Whether it’s the combination of the minimal cooking (which has left parts of the flesh still gooey) and the sheer freshness of it, or some other factor, what we’re served blows most other lobsters we’ve tried in London right out of the water.
A delicate sorbet would be too dull a palate cleanser to follow, so our waitress pours a slosh of vodka over it as it arrives at the table, before we move on to the final fish course. Bundles of succulent white fish are topped with a crumbly crust and surrounded by a moat of slightly spiced sauce to create what could be described as a deconstructed fish pie but is far less pretentious. It can’t live up to the lobster course and it’s a teeny bit similar to the second dish we ate, but the tip-top flavour of the fish makes it a winner all the same.
We sail on. Baked Camembert with truffle oil is a creative take on a cheese course, while a crêpe filled with soft cheese and served with vibrant fruit coulis is a bright flavoured and very French dessert. A final refresher course of berries in a light syrup is this no-holds-barred restaurant’s equivalent of one for the road. And we really needed it.
A short wine list is entirely French, while glasses of Champagne and Kir Royale are virtually all else you’ll find on the drinks menu. Frankly, what else would you drink when aboard a French ship that has happened to veer off course and become marooned on a main road between Kennington and Elephant & Castle?
The Lobster Pot is at 3 Kennington Lane, SE11 4RG.
Interior photos courtesy of the restaurant, food photos author's own.
Disclaimer: We review anonymously and pay for all our meals/drinks.