Lokanta means 'local eating house' in Turkish and after having the pleasure of dining there it has definitely become our new local eating house. Nestled in an area of Richmond Road that has seen many restaurants come and go, Lokanta is doing everything right to see the spot finally has a long term resident.
Everything about Lokanta is welcoming, from the tall outdoor fires lining the footpath and warming the outdoor diners to the friendly host that greets you within seconds of your arrival and the simple décor and artwork that transports you to the Aegean Coastline within moments of sitting down. It is however the food and the service that will keep you coming back to Lokanta.
The menu is a mixture of small plates, flat breads and main meals all designed to be shared. The food draws inspiration from a mix of both traditional Turkish and Greek dishes with such items as kizartma, a traditional Turkish combination of fried eggplant, courgette and pepper, dressed with a traditional Greek yoghurt and cucumber tzatziki. On first look of the menu everything sounded delicious and we struggled to limit our choices however after much debate we settled on a smoky eggplant dip, fresh chargrilled octopus, fresh tuna and Aegean Island goat which came recommended as a must try.
As we waited for our food, our extremely attentive waitress was only too happy to explain the wine list which contains a broad selection of New Zealand regional wines as well as a Californian Zinfandel and Greek Agiorgitiko and Assyrtiko grape wine. Having no idea what these tasted like but curious to try, our waitress offered us a taste before committing to a bottle.
The atmosphere is Lokanta is great. On a Friday night it was busy and bustling and felt more like a European restaurant than a neighbourhood bistro. Our food only further emphasised that feeling. Our smoky eggplant was just that, served with Turkish bread that was crispy on the outside, soft in the middle. The dip needed a little more seasoning but we still managed to devour it all. The octopus was charred to perfection, again with just the right amount of smokiness while the seared tuna with a tomato, mint and parsley salad provided a freshness burst that cut through all the smoked flavours. Our main too, failed to disappoint. The goat fell off the bone, it was succulent and tender and even though the broth it sat in was slightly over seasoned, this didn't stop my partner wanting to savour every last bite, sucking the meat straight from the bone.
We couldn't fit dessert in on this occasion but the baklava is becoming a legacy in it's own right with people coming in purely to have this dish. We'll just have to have it when we return. From our experience and the amount of people in there, Lokanta is here to stay.