It is a mark strongly in favour of The Lockhart that its menu has changed almost completely between early 2014 and now and yet looks equally beautiful across the board. Everything now, as then, is a perfectly-balanced mid-point between sophisticated modern London dining and hearty, warming southern USA staples.
Whereas then your mains options were shrimp and grits, smoked pork neck, stuffed quail, and venison saddle, plus a £70 smoked ribeye; when I went last Friday you were faced with trout farci, southern fried chicken, smoked turkey, short rib, red deer, and rabbit, as well as the shrimp and grits. Is there anything on that menu you wouldn’t like to order?
The starters were the same: all change in content and yet not in expected deliciousness. Who couldn’t want to eat pickled okra? Who couldn’t want to try coffee-cured lonza (pork fillet)? A good menu is really pleasing. I only get choice paralysis when I’m worried both might not be that good—if they both look unmissable I order both or come back.
Snacks at The Lockhart price somewhere between £1 and £4. I’ve never had pickled prawns before, but imagine a food with the firm texture of cold prawns and the sour flavour of gherkins and you’ve basically eaten them too.
The pickled okra was also delicious, but not really in an interesting way—the pickled okra they once did at Spuntino did more to bring out the heady herby flavour of the okra, only complementing, rather than smothering, it with the vinegar. The lonza was very impressive: it didn’t taste of coffee but it did have the subtle almost liquidy texture of good ham. It tasted of salty and savoury goodness.
I wish I had a picture of the cornbread, which was a steal at five pounds: it was about two inches thick, almost as wide and long as my laptop keyboard, fresh out of the oven, slathered in hot liquid butter, and free of gimmicks like including whole pieces of sweetcorn. The edges had thin crustings where the dough had imbibed honey and gone a bit firmer. It was a dream and we wolfed it down.
Wedge salad is such a winning, American food. I didn’t actually try this dish, my dad ordered it. But he loved it, and it looked so good, so I felt I had to include a picture.
I was less impressed with the smoked fish / oat / meyer lemon dish. I like smoked fish dishes to be an overpowering gust of salt, whereas this mainly tasted of fresh citrus. It was a bit like the old joke ‘do you want any sausages with your ketchup?’—I think the meyer lemon (apparently a cross between a mandarin and a normal lemon, explaining its sweetness) had too much influence on the dish.
I shared half of rabbit & dumplings, which was essentially a casserole—I didn’t know that dumplings were an American dish but I guess Americ is just an amalgam of all different people from across Europe and the world so why not. The rabbit was tender and lean; the dumplings were soft, and chewily bound together.
I also had half of the smoked red deer and boy was it cooked properly: black on the outside but only going about a millimetre deep; no grey and light pink gradient towards the deep dark medium rare centre.
The mains I just had bites of were excellent too. The southern fried chicken was dry and crispy yet juicy inside & came with an interesting soup of collard greens and a clear broth. The smoked short rib was as dark and ultra-tender as you could hope for.
Dessert also walked the tightrope between Southern US comfort food and restaurant food in England today. The pumpkin pie was great, but no better than the pie I ate at thanksgiving. I didn’t try the chocolate chess pie or lemon icebox pie but they were received very well. The bourbon Canelé—the doughnuts in the bottom right—didn’t taste so much like bourbon as like deep-fried dough and sugar, but not for the worse, that’s pretty much what you’re looking for. After a big meal I couldn’t manage more than half of one.
The Lockhart is a lovely restaurant. Its interiors feel a bit empty and spare, like a trial run to the beautiful room that its sister Shotgun has in Soho. Its music is an amusing mix of 2004-2008 indie rock and pop rock hits (Arctic Monkeys, Razorlight, The Kinks, and the Kaiser Chiefs all got a look-in while I was there). But it serves really lovely food, the kind of food that makes you feel happy and warm—and full.
Score: 〶 – one medal (for an explanation of our scoring system, see here).