When it’s done well, barbecued food is about as good as it gets and make no mistake – Ember Yard is very, very good.
Small plates is definitely nothing new. All too often I find that it’s just a ploy for restaurants to try to squeeze more cash out of you by encouraging you to share tiny plates of non-Spanish, mismatched food rather than the traditional three courses. Happily, there are exceptions and quality tapas style dining makes perfect sense. It also means that we get to order pretty much everything on the menu, which we attempted here.
Ember Yard is part of the Salt Yard group and specialises in cooking over charcoal and wood (or barbecue as it’s also known). They have a custom built Basque-style grill and put it to good use with a menu that’s influenced by Tuscany as well as the Basque country. When it’s done well, barbecued food is about as good as it gets and make no mistake – Ember Yard is very, very good.
It’s normal to order around seven dishes for two to share but in the end we managed to rack up quite a few more than that. It all started sensibly enough with grilled flatbread and a couple of excellent chorizo skewers. We also couldn’t resist the jamon board, which will set you back £16 but is actually decent value for the amount of ham you get.
Our enthusiastic waitress convinced us to add on the sardine dish from the specials board. Gladly so, as it was lovely and fresh and really complimented another dish of charred octopus with pepperonata. The octopus was the most tender we’ve ever eaten and really benefited from being cooked on the barbecue, it was delicious.
We didn’t actually order the Wye Valley asparagus but when it was mistakenly brought to our table, it looked and smelled so good that we decided to keep it. Served with truffle oil, giroles and beurre blanc, it was even better than a similar dish at a certain two-Michelin starred restaurant just across town.
The meat dishes were quite something too. Oak smoked beef bavette was perfectly rare in the middle with a great char. It was smoky but not overpowering and the sage on the dish worked really well with the onions and beef. Chargrilled pork ribs were sticky, sweet and worth the mess.
Even better was the Iberico presa with whipped jamon butter. Rich, slightly sweet and you guessed it, chargrilled. The staff were clearly passionate about the dish and were very happy when we told them how much we’d enjoyed it. It was cooked medium rare but if you’re open minded you’ll love it. When it’s prepared like this, the pork has a real buttery quality and could perhaps pass as beef or veal. I’ve eaten hackepeter in the past, which is a bit like a German version of steak tartare so I had no problem with the dish. My dining partner was more sceptical but enjoyed it nevertheless.
There’s no denying that we’d eaten a lot of food but somehow we still found room for desserts. I especially liked the muscovado panna cotta; while the orange and almond cake with crema Catalana ice cream and saffron meringue pushed us dangerously close to a food coma.
Out of the vast number of plates we ploughed through, there was only one bum dish – the parsnip chips. They were just a little too greasy and too sweet from the honey. Besides that, we were thoroughly impressed by the standard of the food here. This is in no way your run of the mill tapas bar. It’s far more refined without being pretentious and the barbecue element really makes it stand out.
Just a word of advice. Ember Yard isn’t the sort of place to take fussy friends. This particular tip comes too late for the poor chap who was on the next table to us whose guests vetoed pretty much everything on the menu. Taste is not something you can teach people in one sitting. Luckily if somebody can’t eat vegetables, rare meat or seafood, it’s unlikely that we’d be friends in the first place.
Food inc. 12.5% service: £104 (bear in mind we ordered around ten savoury dishes, they recommend around six for two people)
Total bill: £162.72Visit site
Address: 60 Berwick Street, London, W1F 8SU
Tel: 0207 439 8057