- Location: 2307 Ellwood Dr. SW
- City: Edmonton
- Phone: 780-752-2244
- Website: london-local.ca
- Price: $7-$33
- Cuisine: English gastropub fare
- Atmosphere: An open dining room with a comfortable vibe.
- Drinks on offer: Cocktails, wine and beer.
- Best bets: Scotch egg, fried Brie, brisket burger, sticky toffee pudding.
- Vegetarian friendly? Offers a handful of vegetarian options.
- Additional info: Offers a traditional Sunday roast prix fixe menu instead of their regular menu on Sundays.
There are plenty of moments while dining at London Local that remind me of having a meal in London, England – and then there are others that bring me right back to the Edmonton Southwest suburb we happen to be eating in.
Co-owner and chef Lindsay Porter drew from her family’s English roots to create a concept here in the city’s neighbourhood of Ellerslie – about a 25-30 minute drive from downtown – that sets out to be a gastropub. A lightly renovated former charcuterie and wine bar, there isn’t a lot here, design-wise, that lends itself to a British theme.
Small pendant lights hang around the room from a high ceiling while large canvases upholstered in tartan have been mounted on a wall of reclaimed wood panelling.
Housing various sauces and preserves is a bright red cooler designed to look like the iconic telephone booths scattered around the United Kingdom. Aside from that, the space is lacking in pub memorabilia – for lack of a better descriptor – that could help bring the gastropub completely to life.
Once you shift focus to your food and drink, though, you feel the effect of a full British invasion. Meat pies, Scotch eggs, bangers and mash, fish and chips and the list goes on. (Vegetarians, though, may not find much to enjoy here aside from salad, pasta and mushy peas.)
London Local also places a preference on gin and tonic, naturally, so there’s some fun to be had mixing and matching gins with a variety of tonics. Their playful take on a French 75, the “London 75,” sees Empress 1908 gin mixed with an aromatic lemon syrup and Prosecco to much success. Start with that.
Ms. Porter’s subtle touches with classic dishes generally result in delicious success. My friends and I fought for the final bite of the tremendous Scotch egg, a pleasantly jammy yolked egg wrapped in a layer of juicy, fennel pork sausage and an outer crust of crispy bread crumbs. Perfectly balancing out the richness was the chef’s homemade HP sauce and a small pile of mushy peas bursting with fresh mint and dill.
Next, was a perfectly smooth and simple chicken-liver mousse with small chunks of pickled plums and apples and a hint of vanilla, enjoyed on large shards of house-made seed crackers that offered a nice crunch. Our lively server, plucked straight from heart of Ireland, also served us a plate of chips (fries) with curry dip. Curry and chips is a British staple and whatever sweet magic was happening in the warm sauce was reason to dunk a new fry in again and again.
The heaviness continued – because gastropub fare is not typically known for its freshness and lightness – with a plate of deep-fried Brie served with pickled plums and onions, a honey-thyme sauce and candied peanuts. Delectable, although the table unanimously agreed that most people have never had a large chunk of deep-fried cheese and not found it enjoyable.
Ms. Porter’s take on tartare sees crumbles of Shropshire cheddar cheese, pickled beets, fried capers, pickled onions and fried onion added to the traditional chopped beef mix. The resulting bites are ones of intense saltiness and sourness. There is too much going on here to let the quality cut of beef shine.
A big piece of battered Icelandic cod sitting atop chips also left me indifferent. The texture of the batter inside and the fish itself was practically gummy. The fresh herb and cucumber mayonnaise (think tartare sauce, but much tastier) and mushy peas tried to help remedy the situation, but over all, it was a letdown.
A thin dill pancake wrapped around a blended filling of shrimp, salmon and cod – served with beets, potatoes, chutney and a curry sauce – could also be described as gummy. Soft on soft on soft leaves one begging for a little crunch.
The house-ground brisket burger proved to be a savoury redemption as the dinner began to draw to a close. Topped with a tart onion and cornichon “marmalade,” English cheddar-leek aioli and a little more of that homemade HP sauce, it was, by far, one of the best contemporary burgers that I’ve had in Alberta this year.
Of all of the dishes Ms. Porter is known for, her sticky toffee pudding is her most famous. Having enjoyed it on several occasions, it never disappoints and tonight was no exception. Three slabs of warm rum cake tipped over like delicious dominos, topped with Chantilly cream, a sweet toffee sauce and salty candy crumble. Delightful.
In Canada, British fare that’s a step above your no-frills neighbourhood pub is a fairly rare occurrence. While London Local may not fully transport a person across the pond by way of atmosphere, the thoughtful and honest cooking here certainly has the potential to.
Our star system
No stars: Not recommended
One star: Good, but won’t blow a lot of minds.
Two stars: Very good, with some standout qualities.
Three stars: Excellent, with few caveats, if any.
Four stars: Extraordinary, with near-perfect execution.