In my review of Goodge Street tapas restaurant Barrica, I frequently mentioned the neighbouring Salt Yard. Although I visited sister restaurant The Opera Tavern a couple of months ago, I have only just had the chance to revisit The Salt Yard dragging along The Flame Haired Squelchie, Weyoun and January to help me out.
The Salt Yard is split across two floors, the ground floor and a basement. Both are on the small side, making reservations essential. Both are simply decorated with moody lighting making the place feel even cosier. Service is helpful and efficient.
I couldn’t come to The Salt Yard without ordering the signature dish that impressed me so much the first time I ate there – courgette flowers stuffed with goats cheese and drizzled with honey. I was fully prepared to be satisfied and slightly underwhelmed just as I had been by The Opera Tavern’s version of the dish, but I needn’t have been so pessimistic. The delicately crisp batter gave way to a firm vegetable bursting with intensely stinky cheese that somehow blended well with the delicately sweet honey. Order two and keep them all to yourself.
The Salt Yard has an impressive charcuterie board and we all indulged mightily (sorry Squelchie). Weyoun opted for the pistachio salami which tastes much as you would expect it to – pleasingly salty and nutty. His second charcuterie choice of chorizo ibérico de bellota was similarly by-the-books – pleasing, but if you’ve ever had chorizo before then it has all the bold fatty meatiness you’ve come to expect.
If only all meat platters were like this.
I’m not sure who picked the San Daniele proscuitto, but it’s a classic wafer thin ham full of fatty goodness and a much gentler saltiness than either of Weyoun’s charcuterie choices. Weyoun did have the inspired idea of asking for walnut oil which is intensely nutty and is surprisingly good as a dipping sauce for the proscuitto.
Goes surprisingly well with walnut oil.
I opted for the Jamón Ibérico de Bellota. Oddly the variety here, while still very tasty, wasn’t as good as the Bellota I savoured at The Opera Tavern which had a more distinctive woody saltiness to it. It was still waxy and melted in the mouth though, so it’s by no means a failure.
Not bad. Not bad at all.
The Squelchie wolfed down the sprouting broccoli accompanied by grapes, radish and pecorino cheese which is always a sign of approval. The rest of us never had a chance.
The Flame Haired Squelchie says ‘nom’.
I greatly enjoyed the tortilla, or Spanish omelette filled with slices of potato. It was creamy, soft and silky with liberal lashings of potato, but was considerably less stodgy than Barrica’s version. It was perhaps a little too soft, breaking apart easily as we all attempted to get a slice.
Nom, nom, nom.
January’s choice of chargrilled bread and olive oil may seem uninspired, but even here The Salt Yard managed to put a twist on it. The initially crisp then fluffy bread had a surprisingly tangy, banana-like aftertaste to it. Dipping it in the oil merely enhanced this peculiar but addictive quality. More please.
January also has an obsession with poultry, so it’s no surprise that she ordered the roasted chicken served with truffled macaroni, chestnut mushrooms and asparagus. The asparagus and the meat were nothing to write home about, but the truffled macaroni and mushrooms was creamy, nutty and richly addictive. I could eat that all day.
You can have the chicken, I’ll have the rest.
It was a similar story with the pan fried duck breast served with both whole broad beans and a broad bean puree. The meat was tender but surprisingly bland and uninteresting. The broad beans were more satisfying with a firm exterior yielding to a soft interior that was complimented well by a garlic dressing.
The Squelchie doesn’t like nomming on cuttlefish (they’re cute apparently), but I have no such qualms. The chargrilled little bugger has a firm bite with soft, tender interior. As expected it has little flavour of its own, acting as a tender carrier for the pea, pomegranate and mint dressing, although the disparate ingredients of the dressing never really come together as a whole. An interesting failure.
More successful was the inventive combination of a poached egg with manchego cheese. I’ve never been taken with Spanish cheese, but here the manchego takes the form a crisp omelette-like layer sitting on top of the gently poached egg. Combined with a chard, red pepper and wheat dressing it makes for an intriguing multi-layered dish that works surprisingly well.
The last of the savoury dishes, but by no means the least, was the chargrilled chorizo. Unlike the standard charcuterie slices mentioned above, this chargrilled version is much more interesting. The gentle saltiness is complimented well by a surprisingly light, fluffy yet crisp texture. It’s quite unlike any meat dish I’ve ever had and is well worth sampling.
January and the Squelchie skipped dessert, but I couldn’t resist trying out The Salt Yard’s version of churros, deep fried dough sticks served with dipping chocolate that’s popular both in Spain and Mexico. The churros here are thankfully oil-free, but the dense, smooth exterior doesn’t absorb or hold the dipping chocolate very well and is also blanketed in an excess of sugar. The dipping chocolate, which uses Valrhona chocolate as its base, is much more of a success. It’s dark, rich and has a bitter spiciness to it.
Excellent chocolate, shame about the churros.
The food at The Salt Yard is almost consistently excellent. Although there are some dishes which have their flaws, even here there are elements that are worth dwelling your tongue over. It’s not cheap and while rival Barrica does have some excellent dishes of its own, overall The Salt Yard really is the best tapas in Fitzrovia.
Name: The Salt Yard
Address: 54 Goodge Street, London, W1T 4NA
Phone: 020 7637 0657
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday – noon to 23.00; Saturday – 17.00-23.00. Closed Sundays.
Total cost for one person including mineral water: approx. £30-35