As 2016 gets into its stride, flamboyant kitchen revolutionaries are feted for their third wave burgers, dirty French cuisine, and haute dogs – served with Champagne, natch. We hear that hybrid is the new fusion and that chicken is making a comeback. While trendspotters report about the coming ‘gastronomic youthquake’ and chefs brand their burger brioches so that their logo appears in Instagram pictures, to be honest we can barely keep up.
But all of these gimmicks count for nothing if the food is no good. And that’s where the team at Lockslane packs a punch. Quietly going about their business in Bembridge, a world away from the ham-and-cheese restaurants, new-school breweries and even Thompson’s open kitchen, Lockslane does what it does without any trendy promotion, contrived distressing or hand-painted rusticism.
When this little bistro opened its doors in 2012 we were gushing in our praise. We used hyperboles like ‘a triumph’, describing dishes as ‘artful’ and ‘corking’ and somehow invoking the Krankies (trust us, it was relevant). And, while elsewhere, last year’s kimchee may be on the wane, Lockslane has ploughed its own steady furrow in the business of creating magnificent food.
It’s a testament to the place that, even in the depths of January when people are probably still kidding themselves that they are on a new year diet, tables are hard to come by. Somehow we managed to get a last-minute booking and, with a couple of mates, we headed across the embankment to Bembridge to a very warm welcome.
We may have enthused recently about Pizza Hut and even Merrie Garden as a reliable standby. But, as regular M&C interactor Simon Hoare persistently mentions, what do we know about the food provenance of these places? To be honest, we don’t know anything about it – and we don’t bother to find out. Nothing could be further from the truth at Lockslane where chef Catherine proudly uses hyperlocal ingredients: the sea bass from Captain Stan could probably flop its way up from the fishing boat to the restaurant before expiring, ready for its magnificent sauce.
As always, the menu was a delight; each course half a dozen or so dishes temptingly described. The party mulled over the choices and, once the order was given, picked over complimentary bread and water while waiting for their starters.
Cat’s a sucker for a fig and was delighted with her bruschetta of caramelised fig with parma ham and crumbled Roquefort. The softest of figs had been glazed with brittle sugar, brulee-style. This sweetness was a perfect foil for the tangy blue cheese and paper-thin ham.
Bruschetta of caramelised fig £6.50
Black pudding £6.75
Chicken risotto £16.75
Lamb with cannelloni £16.95
Rice pudding tart £6.25
Caramel and chocolate fondant tart £6.75
For her main course Cat chose chicken breast braised in white wine, served on risotto. Sometimes risotto can be a turgid monotonous affair; forkful after forkful of heavy-duty rice punctuated with a mushroom or pea. At Lockslane the memories of these travesties were blown away by the butternut squash and Parmesan risotto. Rich and delicious with an un-cloying texture, the risotto was fantastic. The bird was perfectly-cooked and rested on its ricey nest with a couple of cloves of confit garlic to intensify the fabulous flavour.
It’s hard to explain just how much better a few rounds of rich, tasty Isle of Wight lamb can be when poached in duck fat. With a whiff of garlic too, the simple meat was elevated into something really special. And obviously, Matt can now appreciate, the thing to go with poached lamb is cannelloni. Especially when, as here, it’s stuffed with red onion, sweet pepper and aubergine and smothered in a rich rosemary and parmesan sauce. Typically of Lockslane, the dish seemed simple, almost rustic in presentation; but this straightforwardness belies a complex and enlightening assemblage of flavour and texture. Truly excellent stuff.
Not every chef is good all-rounder. One who owns the meaty dishes may be ham-fisted when it comes to pudding. Not so at Lockslane; desserts are created with the same care and attention to flavours and appearance as the rest of the meal. Cat’s sea salted caramel and chocolate fondant tart was a case in point. Frankly it was incredible. The salted caramel gently oozed from under the velvety smooth chocolate. Spectacularly intense. And Matt was enchanted by the heart-shaped strawberries in his rice pudding tart.
Lockslane is a tour de force; it’s testament to the hard work and skill of the duo behind this intimate little bistro. The food is spot on; all twelve dishes that we and our friends ate were met with enthusiastic outpourings – yes, we told you at the beginning that this was a restaurant that required hyperbole.
With attentive front-of-house (the waitress pretty much second-guessed Matt’s choices throughout) and an undeniable talent backstage, it’s a venue that we’re almost reluctant to let you know about. To paraphrase ex-United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, there are unknown unknowns, but there are also known knowns. We don’t claim to know much but we are emphatic in knowing that Lockslane is the Island’s best known – yet unknown – secret.
This is the full-length version of the shorter review that was published in the Isle of Wight County Press.
- Freshly prepared locally-sourced food
- Imaginative and tasty dishes
- Delightful service
- Too much choice!
This is the full-length version of a shorter review that was first published in the County Press.