The Localist Review

by Nick Harman - Monday October 16, 2017 12:10 pm

8-42 St John St, Clerkenwell, London EC1M 4DL thelocalist.london

‘Are you...local?’ Well The Localist is certainly local to those of you in Farringdon and Nick reckons why go any further?

I remember when St John’s Restaurant was a squat. My firm at the time had bravely taken a lease on a new building opposite, brave because the area was run down and unloved. We could see into the squat’s rooms and the comings and goings of the various dodgy people that lived there. No one was eating Fergus’s bone marrow then, that was for sure, more like gnawing on the bones of someone’s discarded KFC.

Since then of course the area has gone up massively, all the old shops and small butchers have disappeared and now it’s really rather chic with lots of cool companies established.

The Localist isn’t the only restaurant around that’s for sure, but its location a short walk from the station makes it handy for unpretentious after work meals as well as a few drinks.

Recently revamped it’s larger than expected. The walls are bare brick, the lights those orange filament things that are now compulsory everywhere. I wish I was the importer. A big bar leads to various rooms plus an area under glass, these can all be sectioned off so that individual groups can have private parties. In the centre, slightly out of sight, is the main cooking station.

Here the new chef is turning out what I guess is still called Modern European. A bit from here, a bit from there and some dishes that aren’t really from anywhere but which lock onto latest trends and fashions. Nothing wrong with that, this kind of dining needs to suit all tastes but without ever dumbing down.

Nothing on the menu repels me, it all sounds fine. We get a selection of starter type things to share, although I am not into the sharing concept. I am an only child, selfish and grasping.

Three flour seafood fritto and mojito aioli was smartly done, I’m not sure what the three flours were all about but the result was effective crispness, with the fish tender and the aioli something new compared to the often over-garlicked, and seldom home-made, stuff you can get served elsewhere.

Tricky to share and a shame to ruin its pretty presentation, Tuna Tartare, avocado and amaranth was the sort of thing you’d get at a fine dining place, and nothing wrong with that. The two textures of fish and ‘cado were similar but distinctive making for a sensual, smooth, mouthful. What’s Amaranth? You may ask, well it’s related to quinoa but grows closer to home and is just as full of lovely Omega -3 as quinoa. A nice ‘local’ touch, I thought.

BBQ chicken wings were fine - messy of course - not really my thing as I like to use cutlery in restaurants. I preferred the Pork belly crackling and yuzu aioli, crunchy without the teeth-shattering element and the pork well braised down to be, word of the year, unctuous. The astringent yuzu set itself well against the fat and oils.

Rather a novelty item to my mind, the mussels, pesto and cherry tomatoes flatbread actually worked, with the bread hungrily absorbing all the flavours and becoming soft and juicy and just a bit dribbly,

This selection was generous and pretty filling, but we pushed on as I had an eye on the dish of prawn in a charcoal bun, with pea shoots, salsa rosa, tomato and lettuce, which for some reason we were advised to eat with using a black rubber glove (supplied). This made you look like Peter Sellers in Dr Strangelove and was a strange idea. It keeps the hands clean I suppose.

The trend for charcoal in things, ‘murdering out’ food, seems to not want to fade away. Charcoal is good for you apparently, but it’s what’s called ‘activated charcoal’ so please don’t go chewing on your BBQ briquettes. Salsa Rosa is in fact my old friend ‘prawn cocktail sauce’, in fancy clothes. I love it and overall this was a ‘burger’ I could get behind.

Fishier still was roast soy-sesame salmon, caramelised fennel and green cabbage, a very good dish and I say that as someone who roasts soy and sesame salmon at home at least once a week. This was easily as good as mine, but a bigger portion and a better quality fish, too.

And perhaps as a nod to St John Restaurant down the road there is Bone marrow, confit garlic and caramelised onions. Now this I can’t comment on as I snoozed and loozed; it was all gone by the time I turned to get a bit. I’m told it was very good though by people now with serious garlic breath issues.

I got my revenge by snagging more than my fair share of the Hereford sirloin steak rocket, parmesan and aged balsamic with Localist spicy sauce. Great bit of steak very well cooked, by which I mean barely cooked at all, but properly seared.

It was a lot of food and yet not debilitating. I managed an expresso martini to end, after having some creative cocktails to start back in the bar, and fuelled by the caffeine managed to get out of the chair and off to the station.

The Localist pulls off a tricky brief, to appeal to the people that don’t follow food blogs or food fashion but who do know good food from bad and desire consistency and a place they can rely on for drinks, dinner, catch ups and conversation.

Photos lifted from Localist website. Too busy eating to take our own

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