Jack Peat explores how a string of new restaurants are appealing to London’s gastro-chic crowd.

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Lobster and champagne, the preserve of the rich and famous, have spent their lives inextricably tied to al a carte grandeur under the chandelier lights of London’s West End. But of late, a new gastro-chic crowd has emerged who have a unique take on high-class staples, accompanied by a string of trendsetting restaurants willing to shake up convention.

Bubbledogs of Charlotte Street openly advertises itself as ‘a champagne bar that does not serve caviar’, only the finest hot dogs and carefully selected fizz to wash it down. A menu of ten ‘gastro dogs’ includes the BLT dog, wrapped in bacon and served with truffle mayo and caramelized lettuce; the Jose dog with guacamole, sour cream, salsa and jalapenos, and a regularly changing guest chef’s special.

The food is accompanied by hand-picked sparkling wines on a list that shouts originality. You won’t see high-priced Dom Perignon or Moët & Chandon here, even Veuve Clicquot which once appealed to the urban chic is absent from the list – brands don’t sell like they once did. Instead guests are treated to La Chapelle, described as a “wonderful example of what you can get from relatively small and unknown Champagne houses”, or the revered, but equally independent, Bereche et Fils.

Reservations cannot be made at London’s new gastro experience, nor can they be placed at Burger & Lobster, where I tried my chances last night to no avail. The company now boasts four city locations, with their newest addition on Bread Street near St Paul’s cathedral proving particularly popular with the locals. My girlfriend and I were advised to just turn up and wait an hour in the bar until a table became available, “it would be worth the wait”, we were told. But last night even a stint in the bar was too much to ask for, as the large room appeared packed to the rafters with trendy social groups knocking off from their dot com day jobs.

I did, however, manage to get a feel of the place during my brief ten minutes waiting to be told whether we had ‘some chance’ of a table or ‘no chance’. Despite what I’d seen of the menu the restaurant was strikingly informal. It had a gastro pub feel, serving burger, lobster or lobster roll with tinned chips and a side salad. Portions were plentiful rather than pretentious, and the red shells of the eloquent seafood were splattered across wooden platters from table to table.

Much like Bubbledogs, Burger and Lobster appeals to London’s new crowd of young professionals seeking accessible gourmet dining. The bar serves cocktails with an elegantly mid-west America vibe, Jack Daniels and Jim Beam are replaced with lesser, unknown brands – because convention isn’t cool in London’s trendsetting chic club.

By Jack Peat

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