Ember Yard: where good food brings all the girls to the… uh, yard (and damn right, it’s better)

Ember Yard is the fourth restaurant under the Salt Yard Group’s umbrella of Spanish-Italian tapas joints. We used to frequent Salt Yard back in the day when our office was just a stone’s throw away from Noho (and Soho), and now Opera Tavern since moving to Covent Garden. I’ve yet to visit Dehesa, though.
My friend G has a thing about most things Spanish (particularly Rafa Nadal), so I wasn’t surprised she picked Ember Yard for her birthday dinner. I’ve known G since we were in fourth grade, which means our Gossip Girl-esque friendship has been “maturing” for about 20 years now (wow, WTF). 

We started off bar snacking with pork fat chips (£4.5). The hand-cut chips weren’t oily and the sprinkling of pork scratching was a nice touch (just beware of the occasional super hard bits). It was served with a ketchup made of blended chorizo, tomatoes, and spices.

G loves her deep-fried battered squid so there was no escaping the chipirones (£4.5). Served with capers and a crispy sage leaf, a wedge of lemon and a pot of what I think is mild aioli, it’s a smaller serve than Barrafina’s but is less oily.

 I didn’t get much squid flavour but it was still a decent bar snack; crispy, crunchy, salty and moreish.

On to the small sharing plates:

I’m not too huge on tomatoes which is why I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the heirloom tomato and kohlrabi salad (£5.5). Adorned with capers, chopped shallots and smoked almonds, this was yet another simple dish that’s refreshingly smart.

The stuffed courgette flowers (£4.5/piece) did not disappoint. The delicate flavour of the vegetable marries well with the tangy, creamy goat cheese and the drizzled honey binds the whole thing together. A menage-a-trois gone right, I could easily eat three of these in one sitting.

Octopus (£9) is one of those things I always order if it appears on the menu. It’s steamed then chargrilled (over sweet chestnut and plum charcoal this summer) at Ember Yard. It has a slight chew which makes me think it’s not massaged, but it works and I like it very much. The mojo verde aioli heightens the smoky flavours but the sweet and sour peperonata balances it out.

I also ordered the chargrilled squid with pancetta, peas and chilli (£7). The squid was nicely cooked, its natural sweetness blending well with the pea puree. I couldn’t eat the pancetta as it was Meatless Monday (such a shame because bacon and peas make such an awesome palate party). We had two of these and my friends said the dish works amazingly well as a whole.

We had two servings of parsnip-buttermilk chips with manchego (£6) because it was, plainly put, yum.

The hot smoked butternut squash (£6.5) was a bit dry but tasty. I like that it was kept simple, served with dollops of goat curd and grape “jam”.

As mentioned, it was Meatless Monday so there were a few dishes I didn’t get to try (but will come back for as they were meant to be awesome).

Chargrilled presa Iberico with whipped butter (£9)
This is, apparently, one of London’s best dishes of 2013.

Beef bavette, cauliflower purée, chargrilled onions, and jamon vinaigrette (£8.5)
I tried the cauliflower purée and it was delicious! 

Oak smoked burger with tetilla and chorizo ketchup (£6.5)
This was more of a giant slider, than a burger.
We also ordered the roasted and chargrilled Iberico pork ribs with quince glaze and celeriac puree (£8) which smelled and looked stunning. I was kicking myself for not being able to try it.

I’ve never been a fan of Spanish desserts but there’s always room for pudding!

The white chocolate mousse with pickled nectarines, honeycomb and mint (£6) was a creamy, fruity, sweet delight. I’ve never had pickled nectarines and was pleasantly surprised.

The staff put a candle on G’s chocolate and turron brownie (£6.5) which was sweet. Served with cherries and rosemary cream, this would have been a winner except the brownie itself was very hard!
Service was fantastic! Our server was very knowledgeable about the gluten-free items on the menu and the wine (she even asked if we wanted to taste three types of wine first, before bringing our actual selection). Also, Once a booth area was cleared, someone else asked if we wanted to move there to be more comfy.
Overall, I like Ember Yard. The fact that they can put bold statements on a plate in two-three flavours is a statement on its own. It’s quite the formulaic establishment: good vibes, great service, amazing food (possible contender for best tapas in town). Well done, Salt Yard Group. On to the next one!

Ember Yard
60 Berwick Street London W1F | +44(0)207 439 8057
Ave spend pp: £40 (with wine)
Ember Yard on UrbanspoonSquare Meal

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