The Lockhart's entry on Google suggests that it serves 'south western' cuisine. I'm not so sure. This is proper Deep South stuff, the home cooked comfort food of the lands below the Mason Dixon line – all American food, without being just another BBQ joint. This is the stuff you read about in books but never try, the gastronomy of the South you usually only get to sample if you head there yourself.
We started with some bar snacks – in particular, a bowl of crispy pig skin with pickled watermelon rind.
It was the rind that I was most excited by, if I'm brutally honest. I heard about it somewhere else and was astonished to read it – surely, surely, this can’t really be a thing, right? Well, it turns out it is – and bloody brilliant it is too.
I insisted on washing down the snacks with a Mezcal sour, which was decent.
Later on we got some mint juleps that were equally good, if perhaps bordering in the sweet. One of the friends I was dining with is a professional wine merchant and was after a bottle of the red stuff. A treat from Washington arrived that I rather liked, if my other two companions (more attuned to old world drops, perhaps) we less eager.
For starters I had the gumbo.
Now gumbo really is one of those dishes you hear about without ever really knowing what it is. Basically, it's a sort of soup / stew full of seafood and thickened with a burned roux and okra. Splash a bit of Tabasco in there and there you have a fine comfort dish for an autumn's night.
Friend 1, Matthew started with one of the daily specials, a smoked pheasant salad.
Friend 2, Greg, had the devilled crab. Nice enough, but I gather a bit over devilled, which sadly had the effect of losing a lot of the delicate crab flavour.
Onto the mains. Matthew opted for that most classic Southern dish, shrimp and grits.
"Brave", says I when it was ordered. "That's twice you've told me eating grits is brave," says Matthew. "Is there something I should know?" Why is eating grits brave? Simple: most of the time they're fucking disgusting. Now, I am sure I'm going to get into a lot of trouble for saying that – and rightly so, I suspect – but a lot of the time to a, shall we say unsophisticated, English palate, they are less than pleasant. Not on this occaision, however. On this occasion they were fantastic. My only criticism is that there did seem to be rather a lot of them.
Greg went for the southern fried chicken, which he claims is his favourite dish (the savage). This came with a coleslaw that was apparently fantastic – and I can imagine it would be, I can hardly think of anything better to go with fried chicken. It also came with a bowl of spaghetti squash that I was told was totally unnecessary, and unexciting.
I, however, in my humble opinion won at food ordering. Because I had the slow cooked, smokey Jacob's ladder beef ribs.
OK, so I said this wasn't a BBQ joint and here I have a picture of an enormous BBQ smoked joint.
Well, I actually said that it wasn't just another BBQ joint – it's still got some BBQ joint, OK? And why wouldn’t it? BBQ, done the slow, smoky way, is an essential component of the US South eating experience. And, what's more, this was done brilliantly. Like, actually, brilliantly. These ribs were cured with a coffee and BBQ rub, before being smoked for hours and hours and accompanied with a BBQ reduction. The meat was so soft, so juicy, so flavoursome... I run out of words. First rate.
It came with a rather sad looking cucumber and tomato salad that was unfortunately a little lazily done but essential given the fatty richness of the meat.
We also kept our mains company with a couple of sides, including a bowl of collard greens – spring greens cooked with vinegar and bacon.
But the highlight was the corn bread, which comes to your table straight out of the oven, in its piping hot little cast iron dish, bubbling away like crazy. I have never had proper cornbread like this before. This was just jaw-droppingly good.
Sadly, by the time we'd got through that lot we were absolutely stuffed so there was no room for pud. Oh well, next time.
- GrubsterBoy -