I wanted to talk to you about a place I haven’t been, and which is not even in Boston. Why? Because this restaurant has been opened by a dear friend of mine, and it’s dedicated to my beloved New England, in London. Its name? Lobster Kitchen. It looks pretty awesome, and to talk about it, Valeria has answered to a few questions…
Valeria, I met you when we were both students in philosophy, about 10 years ago,
and now you have a New England shack in the middle of London. What happened?
Hihi, you are right! Life can bring you in really unusual places. I am still working as an academic, I have just published my fist book and I am working on other projects, but I have always loved to cook, eat and host (remember the dinner parties in Lille?!?!) so the idea of getting seriously involved in a food business has always been on the back of my mind. The idea of Lobster Kitchen came up quite naturally on a cold London night in 2013. My (first and foremost) friend and now partner Abi was having dinner at our place, she was travelling a lot into East Coast USA for work and she was telling us about some amazing lobster dishes she had there in cute little shaks. That was also the kind of food I loved when I lived in Rhode Island and travelled on the coast in weekends. Well, we couldn’t really find that kind of food in London…so we thought it was time to start working on importing the concept. After that, we got in touch with suppliers from Maine and Canada and visited their processing plants (Abi did this as I was heavily pregnant…and I would have told you if I came!) to better understand the product, start the business planning etc…and here we are now!
How did you come up with this menu?
We wanted to have some classic New England items (i.e. classic lobster rolls, lobster thermidore, lobster mac and cheese) but we also want to be an experimental “lobster kitchen” so we started researching and tasting with the chefs new flavours and combinations. Also Pascal is having fun with thinking about new additions! Every one is involved. The Menu is always changing and there are always new specials according to products availability and seasons. It’s so much fun! We are also organising a board where costumers can write down their “lobster wishes”…so we cant try to transform them into real dishes that they can taste.
What is your favorite item on the menu?
It has to be the God Father Roll! It is our newest addition, it is an Italian American combination: pan(almost “deep”)fried garlic and chilli flakes on a lobster roll. The sauce is an all time favourite pasta sauce that Italians usually improvise when there is nothing left on the fridge (in fact, they would always have garlic, oil and some chilli in their pantry!). The name is inspired to the most famous Italian American, Don Vito Corleone in the God Father. The crunchy garlic on the soft lobster adds texture and together with the chilly exalts the flavour of the lobster meat…we all loved it and went immediately on the menu.
Where did you find all the great decorations?
We had everything shipped from Maine: traps and buoys from a local supplier, the Lobstah Trap condiments caddies (that travelled in Abi’s suitcase!) were made by a local craftsman, Joe Hamilton. We also have an entire wall covered with wood coming from the roof of an old Canadian house. But what really stands out I think is the art work commissioned to the London based artist Tilo Kaiser close to the entrance. It is beautiful, Tilo understood thoroughly the spirit of our little shack. Also, as background for the piece he used original newspapers coming from New England…they are so original that once one of our costumer, while eating his lobster and looking at a picture in one of the pages, recognised the beach he used to go when he was back home! I think this is awesome…
What do you like the most about New England?
I will never forget the colours of the fall, that was breathtaking. The coulors of the trees and the landscapes I used to see travelling on the coast, the wooden houses, the light of the sunset reflected on the water, every angle I looked at was perfect just like in a postcard. And lobster of corse!
What recommandation would you tell to somebody who wishes to open a restaurant?
For me it was key to find a perfect friend! We are having really fun with Abi, it is a pleasure to work with her. Also she has been forever in the hospitality business so I needed all her knowledge and support to start this adventure. It is also important to find a fantastic manager like Sam and a fabulous team in the kitchen and front house. I love to be around them, experiment and attend service with them, this makes easier to go through the toughest times of hard decisions and big bills! Also, in the end, I think that to open a restaurant you just need to follow your…guts and see where they bring you…I am still waiting to see where mine will take me!
111 Great Russell St.
WC1B 3NQ London
Pretty great story, isn’t it?
By the way, what would be your lobster wish?