There’s a new kid on the casual lunch block and he’s bringing fresh, not-quite-brioche rolls, carnivorous Canadian lobster and lots of great flavours.
The bold, red words stamped to the back wall of Johnny Lobster – ‘Lobster for the People’ – is the best starting point into the minds of Jason Hall and Andrew Summers, who are the driving forces behind this eatery. They set out to prove that lobster does not have to be confined to restaurants with impeccable white tablecloths and a whole list of wine names you’re going to mispronounce; it can, in fact, be served quite nicely in a roll and be a not-too-indulgent addition to your lunch options.
Boasting a graphic-filled, modern interior that takes to heart the ‘pop of colour’ principle in design, Johnny Lobster is all about taking the salt-drenched sunshine of beachside and distilling it into tiled walls, tropical fruits lined along the bar counter, high stools and rough wooden tables, along with obligatory cardboard packaging that really just needs some newspaper to be complete.
It’s a pretty arduous journey to get the Canadian-sourced lobster on the table – it’s caught in Canada, cooked on board the ship for freshness and snap frozen – but Jason says it’s worth it for the sweeter meat, compared to the presumably vegetarian Brazillian lobsters they were using before, natch. The other Sydney-supplied fruit and vegetables that make up the roll are also free from preservatives and MSG.
This deceptively simple assembly process results is a Lobster Roll ($20), packed with buttery, lemon-y flavours and a range of textures – the crunch of celery, bursts of natural sweetness from corn and soft, starchy potato – that complemented each other and highlighted the sweetness of the lobster very well. The fact that Johnny Lobster sourced its bread from just down the road at St Malo bakery is immediately obvious and possibly one of the highlights of their roll; think soft, fluffy bread with a crunchy crackly exterior, with a just hint of brioche-like sweetness but not too heavy. This is a definite recommendation for lobster lovers.
The Soft Shell Crab Roll ($14.80) incorporates well-spiced crab with a relish incorporating flavours reminiscent of South-East Asia, with shreds of rocket, red cabbage and onion. It’s another solid roll with a classic spice-filled seasoning that definitely rocks all its components.
Funnily enough, the Fried Chicken ($15.80) is probably one of Johnny Lobster’s more famous dishes. The free-range chicken is juicy and tender inside, covered in small, fried balls of batter, similar to KFC’s crispy wings, but without the overwhelming taste of MSG. It’s slathered in a slightly spicy, home-made sauce that gives you a mild kick of spice, just enough to keep you on your toes (for the price point though, I could have veto’d the salad in favour of a little more chicken).
Despite the fact I am definitely a shoestring fries person, the Hand Cut Chips ($5 regular) did help me appreciate the appeal of the thrice-cooked thick-cut alternative – the soft, substantial appeal. The chips are covered in a thin, soft skin, so all the focus is on the fluffy, hand-cut potato inside. The Thousand Island-esque aioli was a great touch.
The Ice Cream Sandwich ($6.50) dessert is less of a dessert and more of another main, as it’s literally a brioche burger with a thick vanilla ice-cream patty in the centre. The brioche was an unusual choice for the dessert and was definitely great at soaking up all the melty ice-cream that may otherwise have gone un-scraped in the bowl. That being said, this was a rather plain dessert, only saved somewhat by the amazing butterscotch syrup. Give me a whole bowl of that to drizzle at will and we’ll be in business.
If you’re keen on new, innovative ways to enjoy the flavours of the sea without breaking the bank too regularly, I will leave you with the second Johnny Lobster mantra on the wall, applicable for all culinary occasions:
48 Willoughby Road, Crows Nest
Phone: (02) 9436 4672
Web: Johnny Lobster
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of Johnny Lobster.