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Tel: +44 (0)20 8852 0700
Address: 1 Lawn Terrace, Blackheath, SE3 9LJ
Cuisine Type: Italian

January marks the start of the diet season: a combination of Christmas excesses with New Year’s resolutions means that you can’t escape the bombardment of ads for discounted membership of slimming organisations, three for two diet products and promotions for health foods to goad you into detoxing, dieting and depriving yourself back into shape.

I’ve never been one for dieting – I love eating far too much – but this year, The Bloke and I compounded the traditional Christmas gluttony by spending it abroad. If you’re anything like us, sampling the local cuisine is a vital part of the holiday, though in our case, sampling is perhaps the wrong word. Overdosing might be more accurate.

So we embarked on a detox – not a trendy diet made famous by celebs, but a cobbled together list of foods we’d cut out for a couple of weeks which, in equating detox with deprivation, comprised everything that makes eating pleasurable. We’d been fairly good at following our low fat, low carb, low salt (and frankly, low appeal) regime – until we went to Locale.

This charming Blackheath Italian, with its relaxed atmosphere, comfortable décor and friendly service, made us consign our detox to the bin and before we knew it, we were ordering with gay abandon.

The weekend set menu from which we ordered is a bargain at £13.95 / £16.95 for two or three courses respectively, but the wide ranging a la carte menu also represents good value. We started with marinated olives and freshly baked foccacia, both of which were excellent. My starter of tuscan bean soup, a hearty medley of pulses and barley, came with more foccacia but, following hot on the heels of my recent carbohydrate deficit, was gobbled up too. The Bloke’s choice of chicken liver paté came as a detox-defying portion, accompanied by crostini and reduced red onions, which could easily have served as a meal in its own right.

Our main courses put the final nail in the detox coffin. My rich risotto with leek, pumpkin and fontina cheese had a good texture, the rice having been cooked just long enough to release the starch necessary to give the dish its creaminess but not so long that the bite has been lost. The pumpkin added marginally too much sweetness for my taste, but I liked the gooey melted fontina. The Bloke’s roast belly of pork arrived as a huge slab of succulent meat ringed with crackling and accessorised with roasted root vegetables; perhaps more English Sunday roast than cucina Italiana, but a satisfying dish all the same.

We were definitely too full for dessert, passing up on the likes of poached pear in red wine with marscapone, tiramisu or semifreddo, but there is an extensive range of coffees, teas and digestifs to linger over.

The wine list features plenty of affordable options, with bottles ranging from under £20 to just over £50 for a Chateauneuf du Pape. Several of the whites and reds are available by the glass, plus there’s champagne for special occasions and a couple of dessert wines to round off your meal.

On the weekend of our visit, Locale was busy with a good mix of families, couples and groups of friends, giving the place a lively atmosphere. Perfect for brunch with the kids or grandparents, catching up with your mates over informal drinks, browsing the papers or nursing a hangover over coffee, or like us, rediscovering the joy of eating after a detox.

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