Shopping and Eating in Berwick Street, Soho – Ember Yard:
Ember Yard, near the Oxford Street end of Berwick Street is part of the Salt Yard Group. I know and love Opera Tavern, a great place for tapas and a glass of wine or sherry and more recently I popped into Salt Yard itself, the first restaurant in the group which now includes Dehesa as well as those already mentioned; it’s a perfect place for a light lunch and I really enjoyed my padron peppers and crispy baby squid with saffron aioli. If you don’t really want a full meal you should be able to find a bar snack or two that will keep your lunch bill under £10 at any of the Salt Yard group. But, the catch is that the food is really very good and unless you are careful you’ll find yourself ordering just a few more dishes.
The solution of course is to go with friends. That way the calories won’t count. Or perhaps more accurately, you won’t be able to keep track of what you’ve eaten.
Ember Yard differentiates itself from the three other members of the Salt Yard Group by specialising in grilled food cooked over charcoal. The wood for the charcoal is varied to match the seasonality of the food being served so, for example in late summer they were using Sweet Chestnut and Plum. Of course that necessitated ordering a number of dishes from the grill. In the interests of research of course.
The plan for the afternoon was supposed to be to explore the shops after a light lunch – and I’d fully intended spending about half an hour in Ember Yard. Somehow I think we managed to draw lunch out to four times that – so I’m going to write a bit more about Berwick Street itself in a second post.
We also took the advice of the restaurant and started with one of their speciality cocktails. In my case the idea behind ordering Geppetto’s Tonica (Gin, Homemade Tonic Water and Grapefruit bitters) was that it should be a lower calorie option than some of the alternatives.
The Hedonist in the mean time went for one of the smoked cocktails, I can’t remember whether he picked the Sazarac or the Nigroni but I remember a gentle aromatic fragrance and a smile on his face.
We’d ordered Grilled Flatbread with honey, thyme and smoked butter to keep hunger pangs at bay while we waited for a whole range of dishes that we’d planned sharing between the three of us to arrive.
Whenever I am with the pescatarian Hedonist I get a craving for meat. So of course top of my order list was the Oak Smoked Basque Beef Burger. It’s closer to a slider than a burger, but priced accordingly. And, very, very good with a deep smoky taste. Best of all neither of my companions ate meat. So that one was all mine!
Sadly I had to share the Padron Peppers.
Grilled New Season Sardines with Summer Herb Emulsion and Crispy Sea Purslane were rather spectacular on the plate and bursting with flavour. A wonderful smokey charred skin protecting the fish meat from drying out at all.
I think we may just have over indulged a little bit. The excuse – well of course we needed a good selection of vegetable dishes since one of the party didn’t eat meat or fish. In any case it would have been a shame to miss this Hot Smoked Butternut Squash with Goat’s Curd and Grape Jam. A perfect solution to provide a bit of sustenance for a vegetarian it was decadent in a way that vegetarian food is often lacking
On a similar note, the Arancini were gorgeously lush – served with smoked ricotta and piquillo stuffing and fennel aioli. There are moments when I could happily just eat a vegetarian diet.
Of course those moments vanish in a flash when I’m faced with temptation. As was the case the minute something fishy turned up on the table. I loved these buttermilk fried squid with capers, lemon and sage served with a squid ink aioli. Part of the theme of Ember Yard seems to be pairing flavoured aioli with the dishes – it’s a theme that works very well to provide a little extra richness to the dishes.
Burrata came with chargrilled aubergine and was served on a slice of focaccia with a kind of pesto of chilli and oregano. If I’m honest this wasn’t my favourite dish, but then I have been spoilt recently by what seemed to be a sampling of the best burrata in Puglia
On to desserts which came with matched sweet wines. I was a little disappointed to find that there were no truffles. I had a yearning for a small sweet end to the meal and the best alternative I could find was actually just a little bit more than I wanted at that moment in time. Which probably just shows I shouldn’t have ordered quite so much in the first place. I’m sure too, that it would have been a better dessert with the accompanying cherries which were removed at my request (I just felt it would make the dish too sweet for me).
The lovely Hedonist’s Chargrilled Italian Peach with Amaretti, Mascarpone, Honey and Thyme was a more successful dish for me.
But perhaps I’m being overly fussy. Ember Yard serves a whole range of wonderful dishes. The smokey plates from the grill are worth focussing on but for all that I’d happily dine on the Charcuterie, Cheese and Bar Snacks.
I’m a little hard pushed to pick a favourite out of the three Salt Yard restaurants I’ve tried so far. But, I think perhaps it is this one.
The grill just adds something special to Ember Yard, though I’d happily dine in any of the Salt Yard restaurants any day of the week.