Quince-glazed ribs and chorizo skewers on Berwick Street
Soho isn’t short of tapas restaurants – indeed, it’s an area of London absolutely overflowing with them. That hasn’t stopped a new one from opening though – Ember Yard, the latest restaurant from the group behind Salt Yard and Opera Tavern. Although it may appear similar to its stablemates at first glance, the menu not only has both Spanish and Italian influences but also focuses on dishes cooked over a charcoal grill.
Ember Yard weekend lunch
The Ember Yard charcuterie selection includes jamon iberico de bellota – cured slices of ham made from acorn-fed pigs. The board of thinly sliced pig that I tried lacked the deep woody, grassy flavour I’ve come to expect, but it was still fatty and not overpoweringly salty.
I love pumpkin, cuttlefish and nduja, so I had to try a dish that combined them all. The cuttlefish here was dressed in punchy oregano and had a firm bite and tender flesh. However, the very mild spicy heat of the nduja was still potent enough to drown out both the oregano-flecked cuttlefish and the chunks of sweet, tender pumpkin.
Quince-glazed pork ribs sounds weird, but it’s not that far removed from pork chops with apple sauce. The distinctively fruity glaze suited the tender, smoky flesh of the baby back ribs perfectly, but the rib meat’s smokiness left an odd chemical-ish aftertaste that I last encountered at BBQ Whiskey Beer. Although odd, it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of these ridiculously good ribs.
Eating out can be hard for vegetarians, but the vegetable section of Ember Yard’s menu is no mere afterthought. The vegetable gratin was easily a highlight of my meal. Tender, flavoursome chunks of celery and pumpkin were served in a sheep’s cheese and smoked ricotta sauce that was thin, yet silky and creamy without being overpowering. In my dreams, Aphrodite’s breast milk tastes like this.
The burnt butter taste of the light and fluffy panna cotta would’ve made for a perfectly acceptable dessert in its own right, but the addition of a crunchy biscuit crumb crust provided a skilful contrast in texture. It wasn’t too heavy and the sweet and fruity ice cream dotted with bits of chewy raisins nonetheless provided a refreshingly icy counterpoint.
Virgin Mary cocktails are simple, but surprisingly hard to do right. The version here was suitably spicy and peppery, but also a bit too watery for my liking.
Ember Yard weekday lunch
Ember Yard’s menu is extensive, so I had to return at least one more time to try out some other dishes that caught my eye. Charcoal grilled pork is available in various forms. There are the chorizo skewers for example – tender, moist and lightly smoky with a mildly garlicky aioli.
Then there’s the pinchos morunos, a lightly smoky chunk of pork with a charred crust. It’s the texture, not the smokiness, that’s most remarkable – tender to the point of fluffiness. Pig, you died for a good cause.
And of course there’s the presa – a cut of pork from the shoulder/loin area as I understand it. Each tender medallion of meat had a charred crust and an almost rare center. The texture was great, but the meat was surprisingly bland on its own. Everything changed when taken with the smooth drops of lightly creamy sauce though, the pork then took on a sweet, honey-like flavour that was utterly beguiling.
The flaky fillet of mackerel was bland, which was all the more disappointing given the quality of its accompaniments. The pleasingly bitter greens contrasted nicely with the fluffy, zesty cream and tart, acidic clams.
No restaurant relative of The Salt Yard would be complete without the group’s trademark dish of stuffed courgette flowers. The Ember Yard’s version is as good as I’ve ever had it – two tender courgette flowers stuffed with bold, earthy and tangy goat’s cheese. Each flower was coated in a crisp, oil-free batter and then drizzled in a sweet honey that offset the potency of the cheese. Delightful as ever.
Pork fat chips with chorizo ketchup sounds like a sure-fire winner. The thick slices of whole potato were soft and fluffy and were at their best when taken with a mouthful of the soft, crunchy, chewy pork scratching-style topping. While the vaunted chorizo ketchup certainly wasn’t bad with its coarse, fluffy texture and garlicky taste, I could take it or leave it.
Mahon is apparently a Minorcan cow’s milk cheese and here it’s served with honey and a stewed plum. The creamy and mildly salty baked cheese bore a very superficial resemblance to halloumi, but was fluffier and had a chewy rind. It was fairly unremarkable, but the sweetness of the two accompaniments livened it up a little. The aniseed-esque flatbread was too overpowering though – the crisp Sardinian flatbread was a better way of shovelling the whole shebang into your mouth.
The menu at Ember Yard is a touch hit and miss at the moment, but when the kitchen gets it right, the results are sublime. There are few other places in London I’d rather go to for quirky, inventive tapas. I’ll be back and you should go too.
Name: Ember Yard
Address: 60 Berwick Street, Soho, London W1F 8SU
Phone: 020 7439 8057
Opening Hours: Monday-Wednesday noon–midnight; Thursday-Saturday noon-01.00 and Sunday noon-22.00.
Reservations: highly recommended.
Average cost for one person including service, soft drinks and coffee: £50-55 approx.