Farrington has always been a great destination when looking for a spot to dine out, it’s the perfect place to meet when you and your friends work all over the capital, because it’s easy to get to whether you come from the East or the West, the North or the South of London. Famous for Smithfield’s, London’s meat market and its all-night cafés, there have been many additions over the last few years to the local dining scene and one, that has opened just recently, is The Localist on St. John’s Street.
On their website they describe themselves as a neighbourhood restaurant, as a local hub for residents, as well as a space for deal makers and an escape for Londoners and tourists. We recently went along to find out what it’s really like.
The Localist is a large, light and airy restaurant with exposed brickwork, wood floors, copper light fittings and mirrors; and comfortable dark turquoise blue upholstered chairs. There are several rooms to pick from, depending on whether you come for a working lunch, a drink after work, a dinner date or even a private function. We went for lunch and were seated in the main restaurant area where the skylight provided plenty of natural light. The service was excellent and very attentive. I thought I would mention it at the beginning of the review, rather than the end, because the staff really deserves to be mentioned as a highlight, rather than a footnote.
The restaurant under Head Chef Mario Scarparo serves seasonal modern European food, with a Mediterranean slant and concentrating on sharing plates tapas-style, a handful of meat and fish mains, burgers and salads. After looking at the menu we ordered several vegetarian dishes to share and a non-vegetarian main course each.
We absolutely loved the grilled Feta & Smoky Aubergine Purée served with a slither of Pane Carasau, a Sardinian flatbread. The saltiness of the feta went perfectly with the smokiness of the aubergine and the pane carasau brought back memories of a holiday in Alghero, where we somehow ended up going to the end of shoot party of the crew of Madonna’s ill-fated movie Swept Away. But that’s another story.
I am a big fan of burrata, so we had to try the Puglian Burrata with Broad Beans, Pea Shoots, Sicilian Lemon Zest & Olive Oil. On the menu the dish is advertised as a ‘Just for me’ dish, but I was happy to share it. The burrata was fresh and creamy and the beans, pea shoots and lemon zest added flavour and colour.
The third of our cheesy choices were Fried Mozzarella Bites with Poppy Seeds in a peppery tomato sauce, also very tasty. And the rustic black tableware makes all the colours of the dishes pop and as we all know, you do eat with your eyes too.
On to our mains, George ordered a 250g Hereford Sirloin Steak which was garnished with frisée lettuce and radishes and a side of Rocket Salad with Parmesan & Aged Balsamic Vinegar. The beef was tender and flavoursome and the salads fresh and crispy. We have started making the rocket salad at home at least once a week.
My main course came from the burger menu. I was intrigued what Prawn, Charcoal Bun, Pea Shoots, Salsa Rosa, Tomato & Lettuce would entail, but was surprised (and slightly disappointed) that it was merely a prawn salad in a black burger bun. Luckily, I love prawn cocktail, but a burger it was not. A burger should include some sort of meat or fish patty and should definitely be cooked or grilled. I was also not impressed by the gimmicky addition of a pair of black latex gloves. On the plus side, the prawn cocktail was very nice and I liked the addition of pea shoots to the garnish.
Dessert was Tiramisu, which was served in a glass, and could have been a bit boozier for my taste. Either that, or a stronger coffee flavour would have lifted it from good to excellent. We also had lemon sorbet, which was great – the right mix of sweet and tart and a perfect end to a meal. The presentation of the desserts was a little bit disappointing, but only because we had seen the efforts that had gone into that of the small plates. I would have expected a few home baked biscuits or wafers, a piece of lemon zest or fruit.
You can also opt for Mario’s Prix Fixe Lunch, which is excellent value for money. Two courses are only £11, three courses a mere £14.50. Available Monday to Friday, from 12noon to 4.30pm.
There is an extensive list of international wines and craft beers, as well as cocktails from a well-stocked bar. When we visited there was a special Italian cocktail list and we decided on a Bellini and a Campari Orange (both very good) along with a bottle of fizzy Italian water. I would love to return one day in the evening and try some of the cocktails on their regular menu, like the Frozen Green Kraken or the Comfort Berry Sour. There’s a Happy Hour on Mondays to Fridays from 4pm to 7pm when selected cocktails, beers and wines are 2 for 1.
The Localist sometimes offers live sets from DJs (check their What’s On listings), but every Tuesday from 7pm to 10pm you are invited to their weekly jazz evening with Richard Hadfield and special guests.
Our verdict: Lovely food. Beautiful venue. Good value. Great people. The Localist is delightful.
38-42 St John St
020 7490 9230
Monday & Tuesday: 12noon to 11pm (kitchen 12noon to 10.30pm)
Wednesday to Friday: 12noon to midnight (kitchen 12noon to 11pm)
Saturday: 5pm to midnight (kitchen: 5pm to midnight)