The Lockhart is not actually a new restaurant, but changed significantly in late 2013 wihen a new head chef was brought on board. Brad McDonald was born in Mississippi, though he has spent most of his culinary career in New York. He previously opened a restaurant called Governor in the wonderfully named area of Dumbo in Brooklyn, and at Gran Electrica, a casual Mexican restaurant also situated in Brooklyn. He recently cooked Mexican food at a restaurant called Casa Negra in Shoreditch.
There was a short wine list with a couple of dozen offerings, ranging in price from £19 to £225, with a median price of £46. Wines are sourced mostly from the Americas. Examples wines were Estampa Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 at £29 for a wine that you can find in the high street for £8, Elk Cove Pinot Gris 2011 at £46 for a wine that retails at £14, and the lovely Kistler Pinot Noir 2011 at £110 for a wine that will set you back about £90 in a shop, should you be able to find it. The dining room is on the ground floor and has a casual, airy feel, with wooden floor, no tablecloths and an open kitchen at the far end.
A salad (£7) comprised a wedge of iceberg salad with buttermilk dressing with chopped egg and bacon. This was pleasant enough, the lettuce crisp and the egg and bacon a classic flavour combination, the dressing balanced (13/20). Catfish goujons (£4.50) were fried in good oil, and while catfish is not the most thrilling flavour it is certainly the kind of thing that you find in the southern US states (13/20). Shrimp and grits (£14) had some pleasantly cooked shrimps of unexceptional flavour, and very good, creamy grits (which can easily live up to their name). However there was too much cheese flavour altogether, which unbalanced the dish (12/20).
Smoked pheasant gumbo (£11) was more sophisticated, although a denser texture than the gumbo you find in New Orleans. There was a nice touch of sourness from the vinegar which offset the pheasant and spring onions well. The pheasant itself had limited flavour; this was three weeks after the end of the season, so I presume it was frozen (13/20). On the side, purple sprouting broccoli (£4) was stringy and undercooked; it was in a very sour dressing made from vinegar of chilli and garlic, which may sound promising but badly lacked a little sugar to balance it, the overall effect being much too sour (9/20).
Fried chicken (£12) was cleanly fried and cooked through properly with a cornmeal crust, though the chicken itself did not have particularly striking flavour (13/20). Cornbread in honey butter (£5) arrives in a tray hot from the oven, and for me was the best dish of the meal. Cornbread can be a decidedly disappointing experience, even in the Deep South, but here it was light and comforting, the honey butter just the thing to add a little luxury to the corn flavour (15/20).
Calas is a variation of a doughnut, made from rice flour and served here with a chocolate ganache dipping sauce. It was pleasant enough, though I have to say that I prefer a classic doughnut (12/20). I enjoyed a “lemon icebox ” rather more, essentially a deconstructed lemon meringue pie with a layer of gram cracker crumble, lemon curd, lemon ice cream and lemon meringue. The meringue was good but the dish was very sweet, and there was not quite enough lemon to cut through the sugar (13/20).
Service was friendly. The bill, with just water to drink, came to £44 a head. At dinner, with a modest wine, the bill would come to perhaps £60 a head. Overall I found Lockhart an enjoyable experience, with a couple of very good dishes, though not everything was to the same standard. You can eat better in New Orleans and Savannah, but it is good to see southern US food done well in London, which has previously lacked anything that can pull off what can be a very appealing cuisine.