8 October 2014

Mussel Men

My ever-blossoming love affair with lobster continues. I don't know really know where it's come from; my first memory of a live lobster was a family holiday to Antigua where I'd sat with my back to the tank and was completely freaked out by it's long antenna reaching out of the glass to settle on my head. A few days later, at OJ's Beach Shack down the coast I got my own back and had one grilled to perfection.

Since then, I hadn't really eaten lobster - it's not the most cost-effective way of getting your fish fix, after all - until Burger & Lobster opened and wild horses can't keep me away. It's embarrassing how often I find myself in there, lobster cracker and fork in hand, but this week I cheated on them and tried somewhere new for a change. Kingsland Road's Mussel Men.

Another restaurant, another great pun. Starting life as a seafood pop up, it's found a forever home in Dalston, tucked down from the Kingsland station and a stone's throw away from chains such as The Diner and my nemesis, Nando's. The all-in approach to decor (fishing nets, obligatory driftwood and a huge painted seascape) is actually a nice touch without being over the top and whether it's a coincidence that the really friendly front of house staff were all in Breton stripes, I'm not sure, but cute nonetheless.

Mussel Men's menu is short and sweet and ever-changing. You'll find the obligatory mussels (mariniere and a weekly special offering) of course, as well as fillets and steaks from the grill, scallops and oysters. But we'd come for the Lobster Tuesday special - half a lobster, chunky chips and a beer for £20. Not quite as good as Burger & Lobster's offering but they have size on their side, and Mussel Men's normal half costs £18 so there's a lot to be said.

Served on a (hot) slate, the lobster is steamed then topped with a hollandaise sauce that's lightly grilled. Smaller than I was expecting (huge fiend) but expertly cooked, the meat was tender and juicy and hugely moreish. I was completely cack-handed with the claw cracker and fork but the meat I did manage to salvage (and suck from the legs) I mopped up with the rest of the hollandaise and mayo on the side. Chips were huge and floury and the beer? We had a pint of the Samwells IPA - more lagery than ale and very fruity. For an extra £1, you can choose wine but there's something satisfying about devouring a lobster with a hardy pint of something hoppy.

By the time we left, the restaurant was full - a nice sign for a Tuesday night - with corks popping, mussels steaming and oysters being slurped by the dozen. Mussel Men is a great welcome addition to an area that's still coming to terms with its newfound popularity. Do their lobsters beat my firm favourite? Afraid not but I'll definitely be back.
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