Victoria Purcell heads for the newly refurbished restaurant Locale in Blackheath – new look, new menu, new bar, new cocktails – and finds that this neighbourhood favourite’s star shows no sign of waning
I’ve developed a taste for lobster. A few days in the Caribbean and all I can talk about are boats, beaches, seafood and cocktails… The first two are off the cards during London’s winter, but for the latter two, just head to Locale in Blackheath.
Locale, a neighbourhood favourite since it opened in 2004, has had an overhaul. Gone are the deep purple walls, replaced by what Farrow & Ball would call Stone Blue, and the addition of cosy booths towards the back of the restaurant provides a cosier dining option.
The bar’s been given a new lease of life too – its new home, under the window at the front, gives it more prominence, and as the light streams through the windows the bottles of spirits gleam like a boozy kind of stained glass. Arrive early for dinner, hop on a stool here and let the talented mixologist whip you up something special. I recommend the warming Smoked Cracked Black Pepper and Basil Margarita and the show-stopping Big Pink (Bombay Saphire, Campari, elderflower and fresh grapefruit juice shaken with cardamom bitters).
Eventually we took our table and got on with the real business of dinner. The new menu features sushi and sashimi (complete with a bonefide sushi chef), which is one of my favourite foods. But there is the lobster, too. Quite the dilemma, since I didn’t fancy a seafood frenzy.
So after much deliberation over a glass of picpoul de pinet, I ordered the fillet of beef tartare followed by half a lobster. Beef tartare is back from the depths of the retro menu, to which it should never have been banished. Raw beef in all its beauty, served with a raw egg yolk, sprinklings of capers, onions and anchovies and a sourdough crostini. Simple and delicious. As was the lobster – the fleshy tail, the delicate meat hidden inside the claw and those fiddly bits in the body that require a minor excavation.
My friend, after recovering from the shock of unintentionally ingesting an anchovy that topped his Caesar salad, handled his beef fillet – succulent and pink from the newly installed Josper grill – with much more grace. A healthy supply of triple-cooked chips and deep-fried zucchini on the side put paid to any notions of dessert.
A good menu is one that makes you want to return. I need to try the sushi, I didn’t have any pasta and I have a lobster habit to feed. I shall return.
Two courses for two around £55 (drinks excluded)
What to know
The new cosy booths at the back are a cosy hideaway
What to order
Homemade pasta dishes are the staple, but there’s lobster, sushi and Tuscan steak too
1 Lawn Terrace, Blackheath Village SE3 9LJ; 020 8852 0700; localerestaurants.com