Hicks' Weekly Dish: London Local offers jolly good food: GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN: October 24, 2017
2307 Ellwood Dr. SW (South of Henday Drive, off 91 Street.)
Tuesday to Thursday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to late
Sunday, noon to 8 p.m.
Dinner for two, excluding tip and beverages: basic, $50; loaded, $90
Food: 4 of 5 Suns
Ambience: 4 of 5 Suns
Service: 4 of 5 Suns
London Local is a veritable mountain of paradox.
On the one hand, a new, contemporary restaurant specializing in British cuisine (i.e. England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales) is extraordinary unto itself.
Isn’t “fine dining” and “English” an oxymoron?
Hasn’t the food world always laughed at the notion that these chilly, perpetually rain-soaked islands actually have a food culture … besides mushy peas, mashed potatoes and sausages? Aren’t Indian curries the tongue-in-cheek “official” cuisine of the British Isles?
On the other hand, a ready Edmonton market exists for London Local‘s “English-inspired contemporary food”. First-generation Brits are still one of the city’s largest immigrant groups. Edmontonians identifying themselves as English, Scottish and Irish equaled 49% of the city population in the 2011 Canadian Census.\
But are our British friends so Canadianized – most have been here 20 years or longer – that they’ve lost interest in black pudding, beef cheek pie or mussels & clams? Other than a few pubs and fish ‘n’ chip shops, no authentic “English” restaurant exists in town … while the Zomato Edmonton restaurant website lists some 350 Italian restaurants!
On the other hand, London Local’s Sunday noon offering should have universal appeal, thick beef slices carved off a fine haunch with big puffy Yorkshire puddings (real ones, not those wizened buffet imitations), delicious jus (not package-thickened gravy) and emerald-green peas on top.
Who doesn’t enjoy English-style fish ‘n’ chips? Once newbies learn what “bangers and mash” actually is, what better comfort food than English sausage with mashed spuds?
London Local’s nuclear weapon is chef and co-owner Lindsay Porter, Lindsay being a leading light among the young-ish chefs transforming Edmonton in the last five years into a leading Canadian culinary centre (see the results of the Air Canada Top 10 restaurants for 2017, below.)
Porter is the contrarian here. She saw the potential of English cooking in the hands of a creative chef, i.e. herself. Her dad is an English immigrant, so she grew up with all manner of English food … “I know its potential if treated in a contemporary manner,” she says. “Nobody else is doing it!”
I’d divide London Local’s menu into three categories. There’s safe food, i.e. fish ‘n’ chips, rib-eye steak, bangers and mash, ploughman’s platter, a ground-brisket burger.
There’s the semi-adventurous, perhaps rousing English childhood memories of sherry-glazed chicken, chestnut pasta and Scotch eggs.
Then the adventurous – items that foodies, regardless of background, will want to try, such as Lindsay’s take on black pudding, beef cheek pie, and, most intriguing, “glazed bone in eel.”
Quit with the squeamishness and try the English-style eel, lovely and crisp thanks to a fried crumb layer on top of the crispy skin. The meat was beautifully oily and sweet thanks to a brown butter, birch syrup and stout emulsion. Lovely!
London Local’s Scotch Egg. Graham Hicks Photo
The egg deep inside the Scotch egg crust was not rubbery, pickled and boiled a week ago. Rather it was soft boiled and still warm, the meaty crust full of flavour thanks to its base of fennel and sage ground sausage meat. The “HP” sauce is home-made, far more interesting than the store-bought variety. (All London Local sauces – ketchups, marmalades, Worchester – are made in-house with signature flavouring.)
A fine, firm slab of Icelandic cod made up the fish portion of the fish ‘n’ chips, with a somewhat predictable batter. The chips are home-made, perfect with the fish. The distinctiveness was in the sauces – Porter’s home-made Clamato ketchup, an anchovy dill aioli, a deep cleansing malt vinegar.
London Local’s desserts are heavenly – salted sticky toffee pudding, spongy treacle, custard trifles. Why English desserts are not a bigger part of Canadian cooking is a mystery. Perhaps they need a chef who knows how to tease out their innate sweet/savoury character.
Yes, there’s much paradox here. But, despite its apparent mining on shallow ground, London Local will be a hit, and should have a good long life based on good, basic English cooking on one hand, culinary adventure on the other.
Wow! Edmonton amazed itself when three of Air Canada’s enRoute Magazine’s Top 10 restaurants in Canada for 2017 were from our city.
Rarely has any city so dominated Canada’s best-known and most-credible top-restaurant list, let alone Edmonton with its fraction of the population of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
Super-congratulations to fifth-place Bar Clementine (Chef Roger Letourneau), sixth-place Café Linnea (Chef Kelsey Johnson) and 10th place Alder Room (Chef Ben Staley).