Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Restaurant Review: Salt Yard

No pics from the resto, so here's some autumnal apples from a Kentish orchard instead!

"...Alas, I think sherry's reputation as a drink fit only for the participants in your Granny's Scrabble foursomes is probably going to be difficult to shift..."

Salt Yard is somewhere that I've been intending on making a trip for quite a while. I first encountered their now signature dish - courgette flower stuffed with goat's cheese and drizzled with honey - at the Taste of London festival a few years ago, and marked Salt Yard down as a place where they understood the principles of good food. So when I was asked where I wanted to go for a birthday blowout, it was one of the places on the short list I presented to VD. Being the cheapest on the list, naturally it was to the Salt Yard we headed to celebrate my reaching the last year of my twenties relatively unscathed.

It's funny how one's perceptions of a restaurant can be formed pretty quickly. Waiting five minutes plus for a menu and essentially being ignored when trying to order a nice glass of manzanilla to wet my whistle, meant that the nice lady waitress was playing catch up for the rest of the night. However, I'll let you wait until the end to find out whether she managed to redeem herself or not!

Aside from being ignored, the initial omens were positive; the ground floor room had a nice buzz about it and the sympathetic lighting meant VD wasn't exposed to the outward signs of aging my tough Yorkshire upbringing has caused (growing up in a rural idyll isn't all its cracked up to be). Once the waitress had found time to take our initial order of a couple of glasses of manzanilla, some smoked almonds and padron peppers, all was well with the world again.

Sherry seems to be having something of a mini renaissance with a quite a few sherry bars opening in London in last couple of months. I would hope this is more than just a fad, as a glass of crisp manzanilla and a dish of smoked almonds is one of life's little pleasures and guaranteed to get your taste buds going at the start of any meal. Alas, I think sherry's reputation as a drink fit only for the participants in your Granny's Scrabble foursome is probably going to be difficult to shift.

Moving on from the excellent sherry, almond and padron combo, we ordered a selection of tapas style dishes as well as a plate of Serrano ham. These, I enjoyed on the whole, but some plates were certainly more successful than others.

Starting off with the pork belly with cannelini beans then; the pork was well cooked, but the beans were curiously bland, and could probably done with a bit more seasoning. Of the fish dishes, the tuna with marinated beetroot was excellent, whilst I didn't enjoy the squid with chorizo as much as I thought I would and it was a bit of a non-entity.

As I expected, the highlight of these tapas plates was the deep fried courgette flower stuffed with goat's cheese, which is worth the trip alone. The crispy, lacy batter encases a delicate courgette flower stuffed with oozing goat's cheese and the whole lot is drizzled with honey. In my eyes, this is a bit of a modern classic and I could probably put a couple of helpings of these away without any problem at all.

On the other hand, I really didn't enjoy the polenta with girolles and baby artichokes. Polenta is one of those things that I can't really bring myself to enjoy, it's just pure, tasteless stodge and probably best used as winter fodder for farmyard animals. But that's just like my opinion*; VD said she enjoyed it very much, and in that case so might you (if your tastes are akin to those of a goat).

Left to ruminate over a couple of cheeses, a Piedmontese Robbiola and a Truffled Pecorino - I actually ordered the plain Pecorino, but they bought this instead - and the dregs of the excellent Selva Capuzza, an Italian red from close to Lake Garda, I decided that I had enjoyed the evening at Salt Yard. Despite the slow start, the food was pretty good and after that intital aberration, the service was friendly and efficient (so I forgave our waitress).

Will I return? I'm not so sure I'll rush back; for tapas I think I'd rather head to Barrafina, but there's not too much of an implied criticism here, as Barrafina is one of my favourite spots in all of London town. In any case if you haven't had that courgette flower, I'd urge you to head there sooner rather than later.

Food: 6.5/10 (9/10 for the courgette though!)
Atmosphere: 7/10

Salt Yard, 54 Goodge Street, London, W1T 4NA

020 7637 0657

Open Monday to Saturday (closed Sunday)

* who got the Big Lebowski reference...?

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