January was not a hugely successful month for dining for me. Not that I was on some dry January mission, January, of all months, needs decadence and I will never do that. I ate out a lot and had some good meals, but rarely anything exceptional. Then I went to The Lockhart and had my faith restored.
The Lockhart opened last year but not well. So they got a new chef, changed the menu, closed and worked on it before opening again in January. I was meeting two food loving friends for dinner, and booked at the last minute after one friend objected to the original reservation elsewhere. Expectations were high. Very.
We sat by the kitchen, a bright vivid space, and watched the chefs gently choreograph our meal. Brad McDonald leads the kitchen, a well respected American chef who now cooks southern food in London. And lucky us. We ordered pretty much everything between us (the menu is not overwhelming and is perfect for this).
The girls started with cocktails, a peculiar sounding Smoke & Mirrors, prosecco with mezcal and agave. The mezcal seemed to drag the lighter prosecco up by the bootstraps with the agave balancing it out, producing a much richer earthier and delicious drink. The wine list is predominantly American and I started there with a terrific merlot from Washington (The Velvet Devil). I had asked for something rich but fruity, and they had just tried this one that day. It was rich, with some fruit, and some lovely tobacco notes.
Chicken oysters with yellow mustard bbq and catfish goujons with creole remoulade were the first to arrive, along with a terrific light buttermilk biscuit which we smothered in butter and honey. The oysters rich and tender were dipped in a decadent smooth piquant sauce. The catfish goujons were crisp and succulent and the creole remoulade another perfectly spiky offset. A brilliant start.
Tokyo turnips and country ham was a thrilling dish of sweet luscious turnip with in house cured ham, crunchy turnip tops and fermented sour shredded turnip. Mallard gumbo, was rich and deep, but still light. The mallard had terrific flavour, the rice had body and great bite, and the dish was finished with occasional small bites of mallard jerky. So far, so terrific. On to the mains.
Shrimp and grits is a must. When in the US I always buy corn grits (proper ones, not quick cook) and this is a dish that I love to make at home, but I had not yet had a great one in London. This, a symphony of grits milk and cheddar cheese was punctuated by pops of seasoned shrimp, mushrooms and bacon bits. Excellent and joy to eat.
I had watched the stuffed and glazed quail cook slowly and gently until bronze in the kitchen. On the plate, I poked and cut it to reveal the dirty rice stuffing beneath the skin and flesh. Really good, although it didn’t have the layers of flavour that some of the other dishes had.
Smoked middle white pork neck and beans was joyful. Delicate pops of tender smoked pork sat on top of a slow cooked egg in a broth of al dente beans. One more main (we were getting very full but the food was inspirational), venison saddle with roasted apple and red eye gravy, tender slices of pink venison, sweet bright apple and a fabulous gravy. Red eye gravy (made with either coke or coffee and served often at breakfast with biscuits to wake you up) is one of my favourite things, and here it was refined and excellent. Bacon bread was served beside the mains. Light with discrete bacon bits, it was perfect for some broth and gravy mopping of all of the dishes.
Desserts, a deconstructed lemon meringue pie, a terrific refined mess of lemon curd, biscuit crumbs, lemon sorbet and meringue (with a marshmallow texture and just crisped with the kiss of a kitchen blow torch) was fantastic. Small doughnuts with chocolate sauce were delicious, and just that step too far.
We couldn’t finish, but we left so very happy. The Lockhart is a terrific restaurant serving excellent joyful food that is full of comfort but also refined and beautifully presented. The next day I waved the menu joyfully in the face of two American friends. We must go! Soon! And so we will, and you should too.
Cost: We spent £60 each (and ordered all dishes between 3) but with more reserved ordering you could spend less. Although I don’t recommend that you do.
The Lockhart, 22-24 Seymour Pl, London W1H 7NL, 020 3011 5400