The Localist

The Localist is a larger bistro and lounge bar, restaurant and cocktail bar on St John Street on the right hand side as you walk up the road from Smithfield Market, about 50m past the Michelin starred St John.  This is the location of the original Vic Naylors, a bar and restaurant which was supposedly the start of the Clerkenwell bar/restaurant scene and had something of a celeb/gangster clientele.  (It was a featured location in Guy Ritchie’s East End gangster film, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.)  It must have closed down around 12 years ago.  Since then, none of the other restaurants that have followed it on the site have had a great deal of success so we’re hoping that The Localist does much better.

The Localist opened earlier this year only a few months ago after the closure of the previous restaurant there, Burger & Lobster.  A little research suggests the closure may be either some conflict over late licenses or some poor financials at the beginning of the year.  Whatever the demise of the poor Burger & Lobster, we’re lucky to have The Localist to take up the venue and, despite the imminent Brexit, invest in our area.

The Localist is the entrepreneurial innovation of Stefano Potortí, an Italian foodie businessman with Calabrian roots and Yuri Negodyuk, a Kazakh businessman who left his musical career after the National Conservatory to work up from the ground floor in catering.

Stefano started working in hospitality in London in 2003.  He is the Managing Director of Sagitter One, a separate catering consultancy which has been thriving since 2009, and also represents the Italian Chamber of Commerce.

Businessman Yuri Negodyuk is not just famous for his restaurants in his own country, he is also popular on social media for his style and success.

The interior is very well designed and has a modern, industrial exposed brickwork swank to it.  There is a view to the open kitchen if you are strolling by that portion of the room, but it is not in your face.  Because of its size, the venue can be all things to all guests and is cleverly zoned; visitors can be seated in the very comfortable chairs in the main restaurant or in the cozy lounge bar, or they can be outside or at the bar; we sat in an imtimate room with only 5 or so tables but merely 3 steps and a curtain away there was a very lively party going on in the larger lounge-bar next door.

The noise must have been cleverly sucked up by the design and the furnishings, though, because I didn’t even register it until I was poking around the rooms between main and dessert.  Suitable for business lunches, social get-togethers or romance, there is a nice spot for everyone; this includes that rarity: an outside area with tables on the large pavement.

The Localist fits right in with the combination of tradition with a fun vibe in Farringdon.

The menu is very safe but modern European cuisine using the best of the seasonal local produce, with exciting twists from head chef Marco Squillance.

2 for 1 cocktails between 5pm and 8pm is reason enough for a visit.  My partner started with a delicious Aperol Spritz and the bar made a huge, refreshing virgin Mohito for me on request since I wasn’t feeling the alcohol that night.

For starters, we shared the Fritto Misto which was the perfect size between us and safer because I could have devoured a whole plate to myself.  The aioli was deliciously rich, the calamari and octopus had a delicate mild flavour.

Fritto Misto with smoked paprika, aioli £10.00

If I had to find fault, then the calamari may have been too firm for some palates but I prefer them that way anyway.  If you prefer them on the more tender side, then just have a word with the waiter; they are very obliging and refreshingly keen.

Starters include:

NIBBLES
Bread Basket £3.00
Mixed Italian Olives with smoked almonds £3.50
Feta Cheese with Aubergine dip £4.00
Green Padron Pepper with aioli sauce £4.00
Mozzarelline with poppy seeds, tomato, chilli £4.50

SMALL PLATES

Amaranth, Broccoli with sweet potato, greek yoghurt £6.00
Arancini with chili sauce, watercress £7.50
Burrata with broad beans, pea shoots £9.00
Tuna Tartare with avocados, red amaranth £10.00
Fritto Misto with smoked paprika, aioli £10.00
The Localist Meat and Cheese serves 2 people £18.00

The wine list was, thankfully, not overly-complicated.  My partner chose the Rioja by the glass because he was honing in on a meat dish and settled on the lamb chops.

Lamb Chops with green beans, spring cabbage, salsa verde £23.00

The portion of lamb was generous but then you would expect that from the price.  The dish came with plenty of greens so much so that we didn’t really need a side dish.  The meat was juicy and tender and the vegetables fresh and cooked to perfection.

I went for the fish (sea bass) and again, it came on a generous bed of vegetables.  The fish was prepared very well and tasted delicious.  It had a mild, subtle flavour, just the trace of a buttery texture and the skin was seasoned very more-ishly.  I’m not a skin-fan, but I could eat this no problem because it was seasoned and crisped just nicely to not feel too skinny anymore.

Grilled Sea Bass with Mediterranean caponata, lime £18.00

Mains include:

SALADS

Roasted Broccoli with chilli yogurt, smoked almonds £9.00
Quinoa Salad with kale, avocado, apple vinegar £9.50
Chicken Salad with baby gem, guanciale, eggs £12.00

BURGERS
all of the burgers are served with fries and  choice of ketchup or mayo.
They are presented very neatly with mini-saucepans of sauces and the guests we noticed who chose the burger dishes all cleaned their plates ravenously.

Veggie Burger with goat cheese, courge‑e, tomato, le‑uce £10.00
Classic Burger (70p from this dish would be donated to St. James’s Place foundation Registered UK Charity No. 1144606) £11.50
Cheese Burger £12.50
Prawn Burger with lettuce, pink sauce, tomato £13.50

PASTA

Soup of the Week £7.50
Orecchiette with broad beans, guanciale, rosemary, parmesan £9.50
Best Beef Lasagne (70p from this dish would be donated to FoodCycle Registered UK Charity No. 1134423) £10.00
Linguine with Mussels with potato, pecorino cheese, cherry tomatoes £10.50

MAIN COURSES

Fish and Chips with mushy peas, tartare sauce £16.50
Grilled Sea Bass with Mediterranean caponata, lime £18.00
Lamb Chop with green beans, spring cabbage, salsa verde £23.00
Tuna Steak with rocket, baby corn, baby carrot, cherry tomatoes £23.00
Sirloin Steak 250gr with mixed salad leaves. chips £25.00

Despite not really needing a side dish for our mains, we gave in to temptation, tried to convince ourselves that it was the healthier choice, and enjoyed a bowl of crispy courgette fries.

Courgette Fries £3.50

Sides include:

French Fries £3.50
Courgette Fries £3.50
Butter lettuce salad with avocado, vinaigrette £4.00
Rocket & Pecorino Cheese with balsamic aged vinegar £4.00

My partner tried to compensate by having some refreshing and tasty, “sweet and bitter tangy” lemon sorbet for dessert, but I threw away all remnants of resolve and chose the millefeuille; I’d read several reviews before we arrived and everyone loved it so I wasn’t going to miss out!  The “thousand leaves” and rich creamy custard was heaven but then I’ve yet to meet a dessert that isn’t.  The portion was generous so I was forced to share, unfortunately!

Mixed Berry Millefeuille £7.00

Desserts include:

Ice Cream by Scoop (chocolate or vanilla) £2.00
Lemon Sorbet by Scoop £2.00
Coconut Pannacotta £5.50
Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream £6.00
Tiramisu £6.50
Cheesecake £6.50
Mixed Berry Millefeuille £7.00

I fully intend to go back if only to try the cheesecake which everyone was also raving about.  Fortunately, cheesecake is on the lunch menu too!

The Localist has a very reasonable lunch time set menu with 2 courses £11.00 and 3 courses £14.50 served Monday to Friday 12:00pm – 4.30pm.

Starters:

Burrata with cherry tomatoes
Tuna tartare
Quinoa salad with baby spinach and avocado

Mains:

Linguine topped with broad beans, rosemary and parmesan (veg)
Best beef lasagna
Pan fried bream with mixed salad leaves and lime

Desserts:

Tiramisu
Cheesecake
Fruit salad
Coconut pannacotta

It is very easy to linger longer here at The Localist and that spells success for the venue as their intention is to be a local hub.  Here is the ideal neighbourhood bar/restaurant to enjoy anything from a nibble to a 3 course dinner or just for a drink or three at the very welcoming bar or lounge area.  The magic is that you don’t have to decide before you arrive or state your intention at the door; you can muse and sip and take your time because there is no pressure and the flexibility feels very comfortable.  If you meet friends, you aren’t forced to blow the budget as there is a very workable menu for every purse.  Finally, just a quick note to the Christmas Party organisers amongst you – great place for a Christmas Party because guests can get outside quickly to smoke.

The Localist is at 38-42 St. John Street,EC1M 4DL.  Tel: 020 7490 9230.  Web: thelocalist.london

Kitchen Hours:  Monday to Tuesday: 12.00pm -10.30pm, Wednesday to Friday: 12.00pm – 11.00pm, Saturday: 5.00pm – 12.00am.  Sunday – Closed