A commercial estate on the outskirts of Bath might not seem like the obvious place to go for dinner, but then the all-new Locksbrook Inn isn’t your average gastropub. The canalside inn, which opened at the end of May, is the fourth pub from seasoned restaurateurs Joe Cussens and Justin Sleath of the Bath Pub Company, and while it follows much of the same winning formula as its sister establishments in the city, it also exudes a personality all of its own.
The place is huge, surprisingly so, and incorporates everything from a Georgian bar to a cosy snug, restored waterside restaurant spaces and a vast expanse of lavender flanked terrace and sun-trap decking, where the kids can play and adults can relax over a Stoney Bonk and watch the narrowboats chug by. It’s been a popular watering hole for bargees since the 18th century, and as such, there are plenty of brilliant black-and-white photos showcasing the history and local characters of the time.
The obvious nod to The Locksbrook’s past does nothing to detract from its effortlessly slick décor and modern food offering, which focuses on sharing plates, street food, pizzette and vibrant salads, while still staying true to its gastropub roots.
Chef Charles Mooyaart brings a welcome international influence to the menu from his native Netherlands, and we hear first-hand how he’s as passionate about fresh ingredients and balancing flavours as he is about pushing the boundaries when it comes to typical pub food, as he shimmies into our booth to talk to us.
He enthuses about the conger eel he’s got hot smoking for his ‘seacuterie’ sharing plate, apologises for the customer policy of serving the burgers just over medium, and reveals the secret to the perfect chip is not in fact triple cooking, but beurre noisette, chervil and a sprinkling of parmesan (just one of the tricks he learned at a three-star restaurant in Holland).
We get stuck in with a gourmet hotdog, Vietnamese rolls and a crisp Picpoul de Pinet to start. There are cocktails too, and homemade smoothies, local Electric Bear beers and an interesting-sounding elderflower and cucumber cider, for those honing in on liquid refreshments. Charles was one of the first in Amsterdam to put the humble hotdog in a restaurant setting; “everyone laughed at me,” he tells us.
He talks a good talk, and his Instagram-worthy hotdog, with the frankfurter it took three weeks to source, truffled sauerkraut (the truffle is really subtle, if not really needed), pokey green mustard, rock chives and yellow turmeric onions (it’s an Amsterdam thing), is one of the stars of the night. Slightly less successful are the Vietnamese rolls, which – though fresh and clean tasting with their mix of raw mooli, carrot, cucumber and beansprouts and served with both a cashew sauce and Asian tamari dip – are rolled so loosely, that they prove particularly challenging to eat.
Big on flavour and portion size is the street food chilli, which turns out to be a rich and smokey slow-cooked 12-hour brisket – gorgeously tender and with a nicely acidic twang – accompanied by bulgar wheat, guacamole, yoghurt and flour tortillas, so that you can build your own burrito type affair.
The beast of a food truck burger is similarly impressive, juicy and well-seasoned, with a healthy version of coleslaw and a smile-inducing fizzy kimchi on the side. The bun is a touch too soft to hold up to my burger aficionado companion’s exacting requirements, but those Locksbrook fries have us automatically reaching out for more.
We set off all the meat with a primavera pizetta, which is pleasingly wonky, fresh and light despite its generous topping of spring veg, lovage and mellow ricotta.
Pudding, by this stage, is completely uncalled for, though it doesn’t put us off ordering the simply-named ‘banoffee’ – a deconstructed Kilner jar number with ginger crumbs, salted caramel and mascarpone – and clashing spoons over the pools of dulce de leche, madeleines and chocolate popping candy, all the while trying to avoid the flambéed banana (only on my part).
The Locksbrook Inn is the neighbourhood local that keeps on giving; it’s everyone-friendly with its keen prices – around £5/6 for a small plate and £13 for a big plate – has an effortlessly cool aesthetic and a genuinely surprising contemporary foodie outlook that only inspires you to come back for more.
Written by Kate Authers, July 2016
103 Locksbrook Road