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61 Berwick Street
“Cool but not too expensive”, this casual spot deals in Spanish and Italian food with a “smoky twist”. The two-tiered space is suitably clad in wood, with assorted seating upstairs, more intimate corners and a large bar in the basement. A succinct small-plates menu is great for groups, from Ibérico pork fat chips or smoked burrata with zingy heritage tomatoes to morsels of “wonderfully rich and juicy” hot-smoked Gloucester pork belly served with smoked apple and cider – all given the treatment over single-species charcoal from Kent.
The menu is also peppered with trendy extras such as whipped jamón butter, brown crab alioli and chorizo ketchup, while a range of Spanish lagers and intriguing cocktails (acorn liqueur, anyone?) refresh the palate after all that smoke. Ember Yard delivers the goods, whether you’re after a beer and some buttery barbecued flatbread or a full-on celebration; meanwhile, “enthusiastic staff” add the final gloss to this “smoking” venue.
Best Child-friendly Restaurants in London
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61 Berwick Street
Tottenham Court Road Tube Station 286m
Oxford Circus Tube Station 346m
Marks & Spencer Pantheon (Oxford Street) 132m
Oxford Street Youth Hostel 164m
Mon-Sun 12N-12M (Sun -10.30pm)
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 5
Ember Yard fitted perfectly the brief I had been given by my comrade for the evening: find somewhere cool but not too expensive for six people in central London at fairly short notice. I added an arbitrary extra criterion to the above, wanting to go to a place I had not visited previously. Having dined enjoyably on several previous occasions at Ember Yard’s sister restaurant on Charlotte Street (Salt Yard), the former seemed a good choice for our night. In no sense were we disappointed. The place was busy on a weekday night, but with a pleasant atmosphere, buzzing but nowhere near so loud that we couldn’t hear ourselves speak. We were allocated a good-sized table downstairs and were attended to by prompt and enthusiastic staff. As the restaurant’s name hints at, the USP of Ember Yard is its approach to cooking, namely, over wood and charcoal. The restaurant’s website talks of how it commissioned a bespoke Basque-style grill and uses only single-species charcoal from Kent. While I cannot verify the accuracy of this claim, all the food we sampled received a resounding thumbs-up. Being a group of six, we were able to rove across almost all of the menu, taking in a range traversing meat, fish and vegetables. There were clear successes in all categories. Ember Yard draws most of its culinary influences from Spain and Italy, but their piece-de-resistance was the wonderfully rich and juicy hot smoked Gloucester pork belly, served with smoked apple and cider. It was indulgent and probably terrible for the health, but worth every moment. Ember Yard also proved that vegetables were not an after-thought and indeed we ended up ordering several of their hot smoked butternut squash and also their char-grilled artichoke dishes, both topped with enterprising herb/spices/ condiment combinations. The drinks list also impressed, and their selection of wines, while heavy on Spain and Italy, made a clear effort to draw bottles from the less-obvious regions. We found our Valencian Bobal juicy and refreshing, a versatile food match. It is clearly easy (particularly when in a group and re-ordering dishes) for the bill to rack-up, but more parsimonious diners can also comfortably come here and undoubtedly enjoy the experience.
Food + drink: 3
One of the issues that occupies me in deciding where to eat in London is the balance between visiting old favourites and experimenting in the hope of finding new ones. Leaving aside real “special occasion” places, we have a list of about 20 London restaurants that we really enjoy and feel assured of a well-cooked tasty , good value meal. Given that we travel a lot and don't live right in London, two visits a year to each of the 20 favourites would about do us for virtually risk-free eating.
But we're a little more experimental than that; always looking for something that bit different or that bit better, and we enjoy the process of finding them . So in general we split our restaurant visits about evenly between old favourites and first-time visits. The problem is that we're on the wrong kind of roll. Last year we seemed to “discover” at least several places that we really enjoyed. But in these last six months we've found only two new to us restaurants that we've enjoyed enough to know we'll go back, and one of those is outside London. So we're actively looking to find first visits that buoy our spirits, look forward to going back to, and importantly mean that I can spend a half hour writing the more upbeat, optimistic reviews that I'd much rather write. We know our luck has to change soon . Sadly though that wasn't to be today.
We arrived for a small-plates lunch at Ember Yard , stimulated by an enthusiastic report in the press. It's a place very much of the moment, barbecue-driven and with lots of rustic wood. Just the sort of place you'd expect to have twenty-somethings lining up round the block in the evenings, and indeed most customers were a lot younger than us- and I mean a lot. We were greeted with “Hi, just follow me downstairs ” despite the virtually empty ground floor. A minute or two later we settled into the ground floor table I'd asked for when booking, and following that service was always proficient and pleasant. The tables are small, in the context that you're probably going to have several dishes on the go at the same time, and close together.
We ordered a couple of bar snacks, three small plates, two vegetable plates and a bottle of an Italian Vermentino/Trebbiano blend from the lower end of a list that mostly comprised bottles over £30. Without getting into too much detail, everything we ate seemed cooked nicely , but seemed to lack flavour and interest. A lot of little bits of this and dots of that which didn't seem to contribute much. Certainly we felt the food was under -seasoned, and I did wonder whether the squid and octopus I ate had been frozen- I didn't ask so don't know. Ingredients you can normally taste strongly- like broad beans, seemed to disappear into anonymity. Same with the wine. Nothing technically wrong with it, just bland and uninteresting- nothing to discuss and certainly not worth £26.
The small plates are pretty small, and you're going to need a few if you've an appetite. Certainly without the desserts and the large portions of chips and roast potatoes we might have gone away hungry, despite a bill for £96. Now I can eat pretty well in London for that, and I'm not at all sure that Ember Yard competes very well in the value for money stakes. Its not an “occasion” place either. Without the between-course gaps of a conventional restaurant, without the coffee we'd have been out in an hour. Certainly in terms of flavours and value, I'd prefer Polpo/Polpetto to Ember Yard , which I don't think earned a place on our “must go back” list.
Maybe next week.
A spanking new Spanish tapas was to me, the perfect pre- theatre valentines treat. Yes the service was fast and there was none of the pomp surrounding a 3 course meal, but there were too many schoolboy errors. Ember yard is the 4th eagerly awaited venture by the Spanish gods behind Salt yard and Opera tavern. The emphasis here is on the grill which gives everything that chargrilled barbecue edge.
The restaurant itself is nestled in pumping Soho and so the vibe is good and the interior very inviting on a gales and storms sort of day, which seems to be every day at the moment. The menu is an attractive one with yummy sounding bites and intriguing condiments; ‘iberico pork fat chips’ , ‘saffron alioli’, ‘smoked beef burgers with chorizo ketchup’, ‘quince glazed iberico ribs’ ie lots of porky favourites. I know tapas dishes come very randomly but the chips came first (slightly undercooked and definitely under-seasoned ) and then a long hiatus before the others. 2 wrong dishes came throughout the meal, with minor apologies. The chargrilled cuttlefish were like chewy bits of elastic bands..not even the nduja could rescue this dish. However the quince doused chargrilled ribs were a thing of melting beauty, definitely the top dish. The end bill was a very reasonable £60 for 2, with a free lamb chucked in.
Ember yard has all the elements of good, trendy, laid back tapas restaurant but attention to detail and slick service were lacking. Opera tavern and Donostia still win hands down.
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