I imagine lots of you know what it’s like trying to find that perfect place to get people together for dinner? If it’s not very good you feel like you should take full responsibility for the experience. It’s like when you plague someone to go and watch a film with you and it turns out to be so cringingly bad that you suddenly assume the combined role of writer, director and producer and spend the whole film saying “ I’m sorry, we can go if you like”…
Last Saturday was Kate’s thirty *cough* birthday. There were a gaggle of us in London including the parentals mk II for some festivities the night before. After some deliberating I settled on The Lockhart, on Seymour place in Marble Arch. It calls itself a South West US kitchen in London. Both our families are a force to contend with as a family unit, combined we are at risk of causing an affray. For this reason I needed somewhere where obviously the food was centre stage but where we wouldn’t be too conspicuous in appreciating our own hilarity. The Lockhart looked just right and as soon as we walked in and were shown the cocktail menu I knew we were in for a good time. It’s head chef has spent some time travelling the states after getting to the quarterfinals of Masterchef the professionals – Andrew Justice. At the helm is the chap whose CV reads like the who’s who of where to eat- Bunmi Okolosi
It was London Fashion Week and it takes 400 hours to get anywhere in this town when there is something on. I was already contending with the potential for terrible hangovers (including my own) body-checking the night into touch never mind the endless journey through rainy London town. I was relieved to be received into a lovely space with great drinks.
There is small bar downstairs with a couple of tables to eat too. The bartender engaged me in knowledgeable conversation about booze and convinced me to try the Hibiscus Margarita (sans salt for me I’m afraid). It was good, mother II (Pat) had a margarita with salt which she also loved. Second to Kate’s love of Singapore Slings is her obsession with finding a good amaretto sour, she has passed on this fervour to the little one (Ria) – my sister, who declined her invitation and sorely missed out. All the drinks were excellent, balanced and potent, as a short cocktail should be.
We were escorted upstairs to a rectangular table in the corner, perfect for the group to slowly get louder as the wine glasses got refreshed.
Incidentally, we went for a 2012 Apaltagua gran verano, Riesling and the 2010 Estampa Estate Malbec, colchagua, both from Chile. The red especially was big and smooth and round – worked brilliantly with the majority of the main courses (this is for you Uncle David).
We decided upon a few of the bites as starters. The lobster nachos were insanely good, sweet with the lobster, hot with a piquant pepper salsa, cool with guac – I didn’t think the cheese would work but it did. We could have done with a few more.
The boneless chicken wings were moist and fatty like a good boneless wing should be, the crab hush puppies were lifted by a delicious citrus hit, the okra was crispy but a bit meh. A great start and thankfully the fam were already saying how much they liked the place- phew. Once again my picture taking abilities fall flat, Ria is much better at food photography and I shall introduce you to some of it in the future. Click the link above to have a proper look at the dishes and thanks Bunmi for letting me use the store front shot.
After annoyingly sending the waiter around the table a few times to collect orders, as a few of us sat unable to make coherent decisions about food, we all ended up going with a few of the same dishes – the rib eye, the fillet of beef, the sea bass and Kate’s triumph with the pork belly.
Matchstick fries have excited me ever since I ate shoestring fries at the Zuni café in San Francisco. Lots of things excite me about San Francisco. To be fair fried things will often hold my attention, but crispy, skinny fried things especially do. You may find me ordering a sali chicken from an Indian menu just to get my fix. Mac’n’cheese will also get me going, Kate refuses to make it at home because it holds no nutritional value….
Both the sides held up their part of the bargain, crispy, salty, luxurious, cheesy – yes please. (Apparently Lorraine Pascal makes a good glamorous mac and cheese – I’m waiting for James to make me some, he doesn’t’ hold the same opinion of the American favourite as his sister but then, he also works out everyday and drinks funny looking shakes that evidently aren’t malted…)
By now the restaurant was filled with people having a good time, it was pretty loud in there, anyone with some hearing trouble could feel a bit isolated unless they were sitting next to the star of the table.
I had the rib eye which came with the matchsticks, pepper crusted mushrooms, a chipotle béarnaise and a Sonoma wine reduction. It is the best steak I’ve had for a really long time. Cooked just right so the fat melted but the meat was still pink. The chipotle béarnaise was buttery and smoky.
The sea bass was served on a lobster, chorizo and crayfish bouillabaisse. It had been consumed before I got a chance to try it, but was done so by a discerning customer (Pat) and so evidently was a resounding success.
Kate, the generous soul that she is was so overwhelmed by the fabulousness of her smoked pork belly that everyone got a taste. You could have eaten it with a spoon it was so soft, the celeriac puree was like velvet and the celeriac and apple salad was exactly the right counter balance for the rich, fatty pork. I think she would put it amongst her top 3 pork dishes ever.
My father in law can be the hardest man to please when it comes to food. His plate was cleared before I had a chance to taste anything except the Oxford blue cheese grits. I am a grits virgin no longer. Thirty *cough* too many years in the making.
Despite not needing anything else to eat we marched forward like the Union on the Confederacy towards the goal of dessert. (Thankfully the Union’s aims were much less self –involved than our own).
Espresso martinis all round, I tried to convince someone to have the £100 shot of tequila but no-one was up for it.. we had the doughnuts, the banana “pudding” and the cobbler. All were equally delicious and worth the loosening of the belt buckle/ water on the back of the neck/sugar fugue.
I loved this place, some of my nearest and dearest loved it too. I can’t encourage you enough to go and give it a try. Sylvester the cat obviously had no idea how good that succotash could be.
+44 203 011 5400