An awful lot has been written about The Lockhart in recent weeks and we couldn’t help but notice that it’s been almost universally positive.
I’d understand you being sceptical about yet another restaurant serving up southern US food. They really are becoming ten-a-penny. Thankfully though, The Lockhart is different. It’s more exciting. It’s just better.
They’ve been open since last year but it was the recent arrival of Mississippi born chef Brad McDonald that’s been the catalyst for the turnaround in their fortunes. We thought we’d seen it all when it comes to ‘American food’ but this really proved us wrong. This is a place that was able to tempt us into ordering a salad.
We’re usually resistant to upsells but somehow our waiter managed to charm us into ordering some chicken oysters and catfish goujons to snack on when we arrived. Impressive skills. Bacon bread came free of charge. ‘Everything tastes better with bacon’, I said. The waiter wholeheartedly agreed.
We were sold on the cornbread before we even walked through the front door. Coated with a sticky, syrupy glaze and bubbling away in its tray as it arrived, we knew we were onto a winner. It’s baked to order and is most definitely worth the wait.
Dirty rice with brown crab was delicious. It looked a little like Chinese fried rice but had a surprising kick to it. The key though was the real depth of flavour from the brown meat.
Buttermilk wedge salad with bacon and chopped egg ticked all the boxes for us. Tasty with the bacon and egg, yet light and refreshing. I’ll never deride salad again (not for a while anyway).
Shrimp and grits were a revelation. Cheesy, rich ground cornmeal (basically soft polenta) topped with fat juicy prawns, mushrooms, bacon and spring onion. This is comfort food to the extreme, with layer upon layer of flavour. It’s a must order dish.
We’d heard about red eye gravy through watching Guy Fieri shows on Food Network but had never had the chance to try it. I wondered how a sauce containing black coffee as a main ingredient could possibly taste good. Like everything else here, though, it really did.
It accompanied the venison saddle and roasted apple main course. The venison itself can be summed up with a trusty old food blogger cliché, ‘melt in the mouth tender’. Sorry but there is no other way to describe it. At least I’m not using the word ‘nom’ as a verb. Anyway, this was simply one of the best venison dishes we’ve eaten. Dubious as we were before trying it, the coffee in the gravy paired really well with the gamey meat and sweet apple.
There were two dessert options so we went for one of each. Their take on lemon meringue pie was another winner. Under a layer of Italian meringue was a pleasantly surprising, tangy lemon curd ice cream and sweet biscuit crumb.
Beignets (or calas) with fennel sugar tasted a little bland after we’d eaten the lemon icebox pie as they weren’t nearly as sweet. However, the accompanying chocolate sauce was dark and rich and when properly covered, the beignets were great.
We were so stuffed by the end of the meal that we had to take our leftover cornbread away (it would have been a travesty to let it go to waste). Unfortunately, we didn’t quite manage to order the whole menu but I’d say it was a pretty valiant attempt.
NB We returned in July and had a completely different experience. The cornbread was dense and under-baked, it hadn’t risen properly. It had that raw cake mix/bicarb taste to it. We didn’t finish it or take the rest away and that says a lot. I ordered the stuffed quail dish. I was dismayed to find one side of the breast raw. When I flagged it with the waitress, she poo-pooed me and said that it is temperature probed as it is cooked and that the meat is marinaded before hand and so was definitely fine (?!). In the end, I left the raw part on my plate and a different waiter collected the plate, he at least apologised and concurred it was raw. On the plus side, shrimp and grits was still as good as the first time.
Address: 22-24 Seymour Pl, London W1H 7NL
Tel: 020 3011 5400