Drink & Dine

Review: Ember Yard Soft Open – Tasty Tapas but a Tad Expensive

Ember Yard, Salt Yard Group’s fourth London venture, is centred around Italian and Spanish tapas and grilled dishes in particular. Located on the north end of Berwick St, it’s a fairly cosy yet airy affair defined by smooth dark woods, shiny glass, and friendly smiling staff. We made it in for the soft open (and the 50% off food deal) but normally prices range from £5-9 for starters and £8-12 for mains with the sharing plates being considerably more. Keep in mind this is tapas-style so you’ll need to budget for 2-3 dishes per person which lessens the value for money proposition a bit.

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Meeting friends?

This isn’t the best place for bars and pubs and Ember Yard itself doesn’t appear conducive to hosting groups in the progress of forming up. However, you do have Goodge St just a few minutes across Oxford St and a number of places around Soho/Chinatown about 10 minutes walk away. I’d suggest LCC on Goodge St or maybe Carom on Wardour St for a cocktail before dinner.

How does the menu stack up?

Given our group of 6 was starving, we ended up ordering the majority of the menu and overall it was a pretty stellar performance. The highlights fell soundly in the grilled meats category although the sweet prawns were a definitely a crowd favourite too (except for my cousin Dan who, for some reason, has a strong aversion to seafood).

We started off with some grilled flatbread, olives, and padron peppers which you really can’t go wrong with. The bread was topped with honey, thyme, and smoked butter and I could honestly eat that all day. In fact, it would have made an excellent breakfast item today…damn. We followed it up with guindillas (a spicy thin yellow pepper) and the Spanish Charcuterie selection which was basically a trio of sliced chorizos  – good but small for the price and lacking in diversity.

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Then it was on to the mains! The Bistecca Fiorentina (aka Florentine Steak) was delicious and tender albeit unevenly cooked – however at £45 it’s a bit of an ask given it’s not quite up to the standard of Hawksmoor or Goodmans. It’s also a bit different from the authentic one (or so I’ve been told) in that it’s a slimmer version although the flavourings are the same. Think porthouse topped with garlic and herbs and you’ve got it.

The stars of the show were the fall-of-the-bone Quince Glazed Iberico Pork Ribs (thanks @Wilkes888 for the recommendation) and the Grilled Iberico Presa with Jamon Butter. I mean, ham butter? Hells yes! Both were perfectly grilled rare, well seasoned, and the jamon butter really brought out the sweet meat flavours of the pork.

On the seafood front, the aforementioned prawns were tasty but essentially just grilled prawns while the smoked bream carpaccio was underwhelming.

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Sides were, in general, fairly pleasing with the chargilled chicory and salad of grilled pears adding a lighter balance to the meal while the Wood Roasted Gratin of Root Vegetables in Smoked Ricotta pleasing the cheese lovers. However, the one that blew us away were the Parsnip-Buttermilk Chips with Manchego which were so good we had to order another bowl to snack on.

Finally, desserts – definitely not something to be missed here. We tried them all although picking a favourite really depends on the palate. The Tiramisu was light and creamy with just the right notes of coffee and liqueur (and therefore my favourite), the panna cotta earthy yet sweet, and the Valrhona Chocolate Ganacha rich and gooey. The donuts and grilled  pineapple were both perfectly adequate but lacking a bit of wow factor the others had.

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And are cocktails up to spec?

Surprisingly, yes. Cocktails aren’t something I’d associate with tapas but Ember Yard puts on a fairly good range. I tried the “A Moorish goes to Manhattan” made with date-infused bourbon and walnut bitters while my cousin’s Il Profumo Di Maria was a smoky vodka and violet concoction that matched the grilled food quite well. They have a sizeable wine list which we didn’t test out (having a heavy one the night before) but I’ll add my support to the Pedro Jimenez sherry being served up as it was delightful and worked will with the desserts.

Worth the dosh?

Here we get to the main drag. On the soft-open prices, it was a steal. At full price, it’s a bit of a mixed bag with some dishes (the presa and the quince glazed ribs) being worthy of the c£7 price tag but the starters and charcuterie board failing on this test. The three desserts we liked were of a good size and also worth the £5-6 each. Our meal would have come to around £40pp at full price which was a tad much but not completely out of reason. I’d save it for a  bit of a splurge meal but it’s too much for me to be a regular dining spot.

Despite the fact it was still a soft open, the staff were on the ball and the service was excellent. When we had a slight accident and knocked over a glass of water, someone was there with a towel to mop it up almost before it had finished tipping over. Top marks!

Find Ember Yard here

60-61 Berwick St, London W1F 8SU


020 7439 8057

Ember Yard on Urbanspoon

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