How to eat lobster, a guide to ordering in a restaurant

We spoke to several of Scotland's top chefs and asked them to help us create a beginner's guide on how to eat lobster

Published 26th Aug 2015
Updated 12 th Sep 2023

Few dishes capture the imagination more than lobster; considered to be 'the king of seafood' its succulent meat is highly desirable and enjoyed the world over.

The ultimate self-indulgence, the lobster represents a true treat that we get to enjoy (unless you happen to be rich) only on rare occasions.

Neil Forbes head chef at Edinburgh's Cafe St Honoré adores eating lobster, he said: "It's very much a special treat. I will only ever buy lobsters from a sustainable and local source with traceability. And of course I only ever buy live lobsters.

Picture: Flickr

Picture: Flickr

"I enjoy a lobster cooked simply in a very heavily seasoned court bouillon, then allowed to cool and served with a rich homemade mayonnaise, crusty bread, a big salad and a bottle of crisp white wine. I’d love to have a treat and go to Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles to try his smoked lobster."

Graeme Pallister, head chef at 63 Tay Street, believes where you are dining plays a big role in how you will eat lobster, he said: "Lobster is still the ‘king of the shellfish’ and commands a hefty price, so expect to pay anything around £13-£25 for a half lobster starter.

"The most famous and reassuring dish for the customer is still the lobster thermidor, the meat skillfully cooked then replaced into the clean shell. The lightly spiced cheese sauce balances beautifully with the sweet meat. For me it's the finest way and I still enjoy it to this day. It's a classic that will hopefully never go out of style."

One of the world's  culinary treasures, it can be intimidating to order - and eat - if you have never done so before.


So we asked Jamie Nicolson (pictured), Head Chef at seafood specialists Loch Fyne Oysters, to create a beginner's guide to eating lobster for us, looking at the best way to get the most out of your fine dining experience:

1. Choosing your lobster

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Depending on the establishment, some restaurants will have a 'lobster tank' where diners can select their crustacean of choice. If you're hungry, be sure to look for big claws, which means more meat.

It's not obligatory to pick your lobster however, so don't be afraid to ask restaurant staff to make the selection for you. Here at Loch Fyne Oysters our lobster is priced at £24 for 1/2 lobster and £38 for a whole lobster. Some restaurants price their lobster by weight. If the latter is the case, be sure to ask for an estimate before your bill arrives to avoid any surprises!

2. Preparing to dine

Seafood takes the top prize when it comes to unique cutlery. In the case of lobster, you'll be equipped with a claw cracker and a lobster pick. If your lobster's claws don't arrive pre-cracked, the former will be your instrument of choice. Similar to a nut cracker, simply wrap the utensil around the claw and close firmly. The lobster pick is typically a long, pronged tool used to break up the meat into bite-sized pieces.

Picture: Flickr

Picture: Flickr

3. Your lobster's arrival

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By the time your lobster arrives at the table, it's likely you will be 'bibbed' and ready to go. Hot towels or a bowl of tepid lemon water for cleansing your hands are also par for the course.

So where to start? The claws and tail are considered the most delicious part of the lobster. Be sure to watch out for the green gland towards the head end. This is part of the lobster's digestive system and is normally avoided. Most restaurant's remove this gland but if in doubt be sure to ask your server.

4. Tastes & textures

Fresh Scottish lobster is known for its meaty, supple texture and sweet flavour. Here at Loch Fyne Oysters, we oven roast then lightly grill our lobster with clarified garlic butter. The fresher the better, which is why we source all of our lobster from fishermen at Tarbert Harbour, based in Argyll; a stone's throw from our restaurant.

5. Wine pairing

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White wine is your friend when it comes to pairing a glass of vino with Scottish lobster. Our own wine - Loch Fyne Gros Plant du Pays Nantais - is a 2006 vintage with a floral and fruity wine and a crisp, dry finish. Perfect for pairing with oysters as well as lobster, this wine is our 'go to' for diners in our restaurant.

How to cook lobster at home:

As a bonus we also asked Craig Wood, head chef at The Wee Restaurant in North Queensferry, for his advice on how to cook a lobster at home, he told us: "I love lobsters during the summer months when they become better value and a bit more affordable to feature on our menu. We buy lobsters from our fish merchant David Lowrie in Anstruther, and they’re always fresh, alive and kicking!

How to cook:

"Lobster is great barbecued or grilled and prepared so that there’s as little fuss and wrestling with claws as possible by our customers. We remove all the meat from the shells, split the lobsters and then re-assemble the meat in each of the half shells.

"First you have to kill the lobster cleanly, then blanch it in a large pot of rapid boiling, salted water for 5 minutes, before refreshing in cold water for 2 minutes to stop the cooking.

"Split the lobsters down the middle, the entire length of their bodies and carefully remove and discard the intestines. Crack the claws and remove all the meat from them and then place this into the head section of the shell. Finally drizzle each half shell with melted butter and chopped garlic and grill for 3-4 minutes or bbq quickly for a couple of minutes and serve."

Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.
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