Geddit? CLAMity. Funny and true
I don't know who they are, but they say do one thing every day that scares you. So yesterday I went to Mahiki. But this was no ordinary Prince Harry-style night out. This was the soft launch of Rock Lobsta (sic), which on their website claims to be where an "east London punk-style lobster bar" (like that's a thing) meets a "world-famous 'Polynesian paradise' Mayfair late night bar" (like that's a full sentence).
Now, if that sounds like SEO cramming, that's because it is. If it sounds like pathetic PR speak too, that's because it is. If it also sounds like one of the most unsuitable restaurant ventures in recent history, that's because it is. The idea of a punk setting foot in Rock Lobsta (sic), let alone Mahiki, is laughable. It's about as punk as Mervyn King.
Rock Lobsta (sic) is on the top floor of Mahiki, which is still two floors below Mayfair. Their small attempts to make the faux-Polynesian vibe edgy fall well short. It's mostly posters in frames and their terrible logo that riffs on the now over-riffed "Never mind the bollocks" logo. The rest of the "punk-style lobster bar" is made up of wicker chairs, bamboo tables, mood lighting and, inexplicably, waitresses in playsuits.
Arriving five minutes early for our booking, we were asked to come back in 15 minutes, which we duly did. We were then sat at the wrong table by our waiter and offered shots by way of apology. Because I doubted he had an aperitif or palate cleanser in mind we politely declined, instead ordering a beer (my friend) and a negroni (made with rum, we're in Polynesia remember!) for myself.
We were both sceptical about the concept and the food, but had agreed that the drinks at least should be pretty good. We reasoned that HRH Prince Harry probably doesn't drink any old shit. Turns out he does. My negroni was so bitter it was like drinking soap, and my friend's bottle-conditioned Beavertown 8-Ball had been turned upside down in the glass, emptying all the yeast right into the beer. Some people like it that way. But very few.
So, having fallen at the first (and lowest) hurdle, we were pleasantly surprised by the starters. Our deep-fried soft shell crab was a little limp, but loaded with lime and chilli flavours and tasted pretty fresh. The deep-fried beer cheese was also moreish, especially with the Ribman's Holy Fuck sauce (sorry mum, it's the brand name). The corndogs, however, were a real delight and the highlight of the whole meal. Crispy fried in a thin batter, soft and sweet inside, and served with a lovely Thousand Island dressing. I would sit in a quiet corner and eat my bodyweight in them if they didn't cost £3.75 each.
For the mains we missed the more interesting sounding raw sea bass, put to one side on the menu like the chef didn't really want anyone to buy it, and got half a lobster and a lobster roll – along with chips and "greens". My friend enjoyed his lobster, but given that it was smaller than his forearm you'd need a whole one (at the cost of £32). The same went for my lobster roll – nice dressing, lovely sweet lobster, nice crunchy pickles, but I demolished it in barely 5 bites, and the terrible, lifeless roll it came in would make a french baker foam at the mouth. Having downed the roll I looked to the sides for sustenance, but the chips would have failed a taste test against McDonald's and the greens were delicious only because they were swimming oil and salt, as if dressed in the deep-fat fryer the crabs came from.
So with a forgettable meal, all I was left to contemplate was the bill, and I couldn't shake the feeling that paying £18.50 for a SANDWICH is actually criminal. To be brutal, the lobster could have been easily replaced with crab at the cost of a little texture, but also the cost of about £6 – not most of a £20 note.
If I had paid full price (about £120 for three courses and two drinks) I would have been absolutely livid. I'd have been squirting Holy Fuck sauce in people's eyes and breaking Polynesian coconuts on managers' heads. Or I'd have written a strongly worded letter and then never sent it. Probably that actually. Luckily, we paid half price last night, and walked away a little disappointed (and still a bit hungry).
At the prices you're forced to pay for lobster in this country, it has to be an event. If it can't be on the beach, it should come with Champagne, white table cloths and a snotty waiter, so you can celebrate your "stocks going up" or something. Sadly at Mahiki, you're in a sweat dungeon, and a meal is more likely to be the result of drunken munchies or forceful marketing.
But the marketing is going to be tough. It's street food opposite the Ritz. It's Dude food in a bankers' bar. I don't know anyone who is going to eat here. I know OF people who will eat there, because there were plenty of suited, square-jawed men there last night, and nothing I say will change their minds – except their first meal there. If you think Mahiki is cool, you'll probably think getting to eat lobster there is cool too, so you'll risk it. To you I say order big on the starters, choose your cocktails wisely, and tip well, because the waiting staff deserve it.
Eating lobster in Mahiki sounds like the kind of thing royalty might do. But for me, eating in a club is never an event – see my review of Aquum in Clapham for proof – and nothing about Rock Lobsta (sic) stirs any excitement in me at all. Except the prices.
Prince Harry, you're welcome to it. And this: