The Lockhart: Perverting the Thanksgiving tradition

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Buttermilk fried chicken
Buttermilk fried chickenPhotography by Neil Wissink

Celebrate the great American holiday at the Lockhart, with some of the best fried chicken London has to offer

Southerners in the US came late to the Thanksgiving table. Having started as a ‘Yankee’ holiday, the day of thanks and attendant big meal enjoyed on the last Thursday of November steadily crept its way from the East Coast where British settlers first landed in the 1600s, and into the traditions of other far-flung colonies. This was especially the case after the campaigning efforts of New Hampshire-born writer and editor Sarah Josepha Hale in the early nineteenth century (she also wrote Mary Had a Little Lamb), who wanted to see Thanksgiving declared a national holiday. President Lincoln eventually did just this in 1864, during the Civil War, and many continued to see it as a play in favour of the North: pro-union and anti-confederate.

All of this is to say that a Southern-style Thanksgiving dinner isn’t an obvious thing, but, then, neither is celebrating the holiday in Britain at all, given that this is where the proto-Americans fled from in the first place. Yet with an estimated 113,500 Americans living in London, and British palates attuned to the flavours of US dishes done with aplomb – fried chicken, pizza, hamburgers, they’ve all had a comeback – we think it makes perfect sense to hunker down with some fried turkey legs, country ham and smoked brisket on the big day. And that’s just what Southern restaurant The Lockhart has got ready for Thanksgiving tomorrow, along with traditional southern sides such as cornbread and coleslaw.

Mississippi-born chef Brad McDonald opened The Lockhart in Marylebone last year, and it has quickly become a much-loved spot that’s frequented by ex-pats trawling for buttermilk-fried chicken, as well as discerning Limeys who can tell the good stuff from the hype. On our last visit we loved the homemade pork-crackling bread – essentially gussied up white sliced bread, but without the tinny taste of preservatives. The Smoke and Mirrors cocktail of prosecco, mescal and agave proved a faithful, albeit uncompromising companion, while the Sazerac with rye whiskey, Peychaud’s bitters and absinthe was a good example of a New Orleans classic done right.

Lockhart’s crawfish dip with cream cheese and cracklin’ toast will have North American seasiders nostalgic for home. With the slightly sour cheese serving as a textured thickener, and the crawfish cooked oh so perfectly, the dish’s deep tomato base offers true country-style warmth. We say yes to Lockhart’s shrimp and cheese grits, yes to the coleslaw, which is vinegary in the finest American style, and a big yes to the Jacob’s Ladder short ribs, cooked for hours to be both falling off the bone, and resilient enough so that the meat can contend with the sticky BBQ and coffee molasses-like glaze. Cornbread, though simple in concept, is a difficult thing to do right, but it works here magically with the ribs, sopping up the heavenly bitter smokiness with its slightly citrusy crumble. The lemon icebox pie with its soft meringue and melting marshmallow is a comforting but refreshing finish – although on Thanksgiving, The Lockhart will be serving that US favourite, pecan pie (of course). Take note that they encourage doggy bags – so don’t be shy.

And it would be remiss of us not to mention the fine selection of small-batch bourbons that Lockhart has at its basement bar. Get on board with single-barrel offerings from Kentucky’s Blanton Distillery, and the Bowman Brothers’s blends from Virginia.

What we loved about Lockhart: the short ribs; the American-style coleslaw; the bartender’s bourbon knowledge.

The Lockhart is taking bookings for New Year’s Day brunch, when Southerners eat collard greens and black-eyed peas for luck and prosperity in the coming year.

Words by Ananda Pellerin

Ananda Pellerin is a London-based writer and editor, and Neil Wissink is a visual  artist also based in London. Read more from The Hunger here, and contact The Hunger here.