But the explosion of the gastropub sector over the last few years has led to a variety of dishes that were previously consigned to the realm of fine dining becoming available on more and more pub menus.
Customers are becoming increasingly willing to get messy, cracking open the claws to feast on the flesh within and a host of operators are using wider interest in lobster and other “posher” shellfish to drive food profits.
At self-styled “shellfish and craft beer” gastropub the Urchin, in Hove, Sussex, diners can tuck into a whole lobster with hollandaise sauce and garlic butter for £29.
“It’s a bit like a steak in that it’s a high end item,” says co-owner Nick Jerrim. “In fact, it’s even more expensive than a steak.
“We try and keep our whole menu quite affordable – shellfish has been associated with fine dining but being in a seaside town we thought it was definitely possible to do a shellfish pub.
The Urchin’s Lobsters are locally sourced from Brighton and Newhaven fish suppliers and sell particularly well on occasions such as Father’s Day, when Jerrim says more customers are inclined to spoil themselves and splash out.
“It is a bit of a commitment being just shy of £30 for one dish,” he says. “But, considering that, they do sell pretty well.
For Jerrim, the quality of the produce is the main selling point with such a premium product. “You’ve got to do it right,” he says.
“Ours is a fairly classic kind of style. With many of our dishes we add spices and mix it up but with lobster you don’t want loads of sauce, you want to taste the meat.”
At London Mess chef Jim Thomlinson’s pop-up concept Prawnography, off the Old Street Roundabout, London, the menu is adorned with a range of shellfish servings designed to up the WOW factor.
Some of the dishes on offer include whole spider crab for two (£22), extra-large black tiger prawns (£12) and crab meat fries with ‘Prawnstar’ Thousand Island dressing.
Thomlinson picks produce for the day every morning from nearby Billingsgate market.
“It allows me to see what’s good, what’s fresh and what has a decent price and create the menu around that,” he says.
To mark the end of Stephen Spielberg’s sci-fi TV series Falling Skies, Thomlinson held a Falling Skies Alien Feast at Prawnography, with guests tucking into a wide range of seafood prepped and cooked to look like extra-terrestrial specimens.