Russian-owned London steakhouse to dip a toe up north with Burger & Lobster pop-up
Manchester-Russian relations might have taken a nosedive last month following a homophobic article by columnist Alisa Titsko in Russia’s most popular tabloid, Komsomolskaya Pravda - in which she described the sight of Manchester’s gay people openly expressing their sexuality in public as ‘disgusting’ – but there is one Russian man still happy to cram his meat into the mouth of the city.
Mikhail Zelman is the Moscow restaupreneur behind the Burger & Lobster chain, as well Smack Lobster, Rex & Mariano, Beast, Goodman and Zelman Meats. Zelman launched Goodman steakhouse – named after Russian-Jewish jazzman Benny Goodman - in Moscow in 2003. Five years later Zelman did what any self-respecting rookie oligarch should do, and bought a place in Mayfair, followed by another in The City and another in Canary Wharf.
Now three Goodmans deep into the UK and Zelman decides that his moody, heavy-wood steakhouses – slogan: ‘good steaks for good men’ – are in fact too full of men, balding ones in pinstripe suits with bloated bellies, so creates a new steak restaurant for a younger generation (and maybe even women).
It was to be called Zelman Meats and would open in trendier spots like Soho and Finsbury Park and offer cheaper cuts - such as Picanha at £6 per 100g - and have servers in t-shirts beneath warehouse lights serving things with ‘holyfuck’ mayo, because that’s what young folk like (especially sweary condiments which blow your nuts off).
And it was a hit, unlike the oversized Burger & Lobster in Manchester, which has flopped since opening in 2015. There’s been talk for sometime of the chain vacating the ill-fated site in Ship Canal House on Brown Street, perhaps making way for one of the group’s better performing brands.
So it comes as little surprise to hear plans for Zelman to take over part of the restaurant, if just for a while.
“We’ve got a huge space here, so thought why not try a project this summer and get Zelman in,” says Burger and Lobster manager, Hannah Naughton.
Naughton tells us they plan to give over half of the restaurant – roughly 90 covers – to the steakhouse for five weeks from the 28 June to 30 July, to “have a bit of fun and see how Manchester takes to us.”
Loosely translated: this is a scout mission.
“The plan right now is to offer one cut per week plus a special,” says Naughton, “so perhaps Picanha one week, rib-eye the next and maybe Chateaubriand after that – the idea being you’ll have reason to come back,” (something Burger & Lobster has struggled with).
You’d presume then that should the pop-up go off, Zelman would look to adopt the site. Not so, apparently. “It wouldn’t be this site,” says Naughton, “but if it goes well we may look for somewhere else.”
So Zelman may stay, it may go, it all depends on Manchester's hunger for flesh - which according to our Russian pal Alisa Titsko ('there are many fat people in Manchester'), wouldn't appear to be a problem.
Find Zelman Meat’s pop-up from 28 June to 30 July at Burger & Lobster, Brown Street (off King Street), Manchester M2 4WU t: 0161 832 0222.