Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The Lockhart - London

Fine-dining is all well and good but sometimes you want to go for a meal that you really know about afterwards, where you're so tempted by everything that's on the menu and you're struggling for choice. Well, for once I let the pressure gets to me, gave in and ended up over-ordering and had to be almost rolled away from the restaurant afterwards regretting nothing because i'd eaten such glorious food. After eating at the Lockhart I came away feeling like Henry the Eighth, albeit it having gorged on their take on southern US cuisine rather than just eating giant legs of ham straight from an open fire.

I digress and to be honest that's because I've been struggling writing this for some time now. I certainly have plenty to say about the food and how fantastic it was but trying to get over just how enthusiastic I am about this place without just hammering down a stream of adjectives has proved more difficult than I ever imagined.

The Lockhart is on a quiet street behind Marble Arch (in the opposite direction to Le Gavroche so completely away from tourist hell) and from the outside looks like 500 other restaurants in London, a discrete logo emblazoned on awnings, a couple of token tables sat out front and a plain printed A4 menu hidden away in a holder by the door.

In the end we did take one of the tables out the front as it was a baking hot day but the inside was absolutely gorgeous, it reminded me of a more authentic version of Barnyard (that i'd been to 24 hours earlier) with stunning wood floors and farm house style tables but nothing here felt forced or gimmicky. You could close your eyes and day dream that the bundling through one of the fire exits in the back of the restaurant could open up onto a huge field of corn (rather than the dingy little office that was actually out the back).

I started with a Margarita which was reassuringly proper, with the glass salted on one side and served in a substantial heavy glass tumbler which added a nice classy touch. The booze was generous and the tang perfect.

The food that followed was just fantastic from start to finish.

"Pickled quail eggs"
I've eaten pickled eggs more in the past 6 months than in my entire life previously (it's the effect of the move to the North). These were delightful, tasty little snacks to whet my appetite – rich vinegary white and moist yolk. Could easily have sat and picked at a jar of these throughout dinner.

"Chicken Oysters"
These are a delight hidden away on the back of a chicken near the thigh, they're darker than a lot of the typical meat you'd be recovering from the carcass and supposedly slightly oyster shaped (hence the name). It was a great experience to have a small bowl of them dished up and not have to be fishing about after roasting a chicken in the oven to find them only to be immediately craving more. The meat is slightly firm to the touch but oh so tender and juicy to the bite and they made an absolutely perfect dish for a starter to share. The meat itself was almost overshadowed by the sauce, a delicious rich mustard with a hint of lemony citrus.

Not ashamed to admit this was a totally new one on me, I had done a little research ahead of the visit when I saw it on a menu on the website and had wrongly assumed from photos that it would be similar to a shooters sandwich (essentially a squashed cold sandwich stuffed with meat). It actually consisted of quarter of a giant sandwich which was served warm and deep filled with a variety of cured meats and cheese as well as chopped olive salad. The bun looked like a McDonalds sesame bun but the bread was lovely and dense and had some real weight to it. This was verging on life-changing - it was so to my tastes I feel I've been wasting my valuable eating hours without knowing this existed until now. It came with a side of home made salt and vinegar crisps which were the crispiest crisps you could ever imagine - they looked almost overdone colour wise but were incredibly flavoured with salt and vinegar but without creating a hint of soggy texture. The sort of course where you really know you've been eating and immediately start loosening the top button of your trousers as soon as it arrives in preparation. Fantastic stuff.

"Shrimp and Grits"
Rich cheddar, creamy grits, prominent spring onion, tender mushrooms, little bit of heat, topped off with fat juicy prawns. Just perfect homely comfort food, filling but without even a hint of grease or blandness throughout. A really special bowl of food. 

Sides - "Collard Greens" and "Tomato and Cucumber" salad. Both were solid renditions of what I expected when ordered, not a lot to add.

"Corn bread with honey butter"
This was served up still sizzling in the red hot metal tray it had been cooked in, soaked in a mini oil slick of honey butter. The corn bread was cooked perfectly throughout with no hint of a soggy dough centre and the hint of sweetness in the corn was emphasised by the honey butter but still stayed on the right side of savoury to work perfectly as a side for the mains. This accompanied with the Mufuletta was seriously no joke, bordering on an insurmountable mountain of carbs (yes, I finished everything)

"Lemon ice box"
I was utterly stuffed by this phase due to my over-indulgence so far and was determined not to have a dessert but this was one of those meals where everything that had preceded had been so good I was forced to change my mind when I saw the options and went for the lemon ice box. The burnt crust on the outside of the meringue came away like the outer of a marshmallow roasted on a bonfire as a kid. All served on a base of Graham cracker, lemon curd and with lemon ice cream hidden away inside. This was on a par with the tobacco banana chocolate dish that i'd enjoyed at A Wong for the best dessert i've eaten all year thus far. Coming from a non-dessert person this is very high praise indeed.

From the snippets of conversation I couldn't help but overhear, lots of people in there were clearly regulars, a few even mentioning "see you again tomorrow for lunch" which was exceptionally positive to hear but having enjoyed the food on offer I can completely understand why. This is up there with the best places for comfort food i've eaten at in the UK, in fact I almost feel guilty using that description given the level of cooking on display and such great quality - especially for the reasonable prices. I can't even name a highlight here and find myself day-dreaming about being sat out front in the sun tucking into all this again constantly, it's absolutely at the very top of the list to return to next time I'm in London and I could easily see myself joining their list of regulars if I didn't live at the other end of the country.
  Lockhart on Urbanspoon

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