Of all the trends to have seriously emerged in London in the last few years, perhaps none have been gushed over as prolifically as tapas restaurants. Their often rough around the edges dining rooms and sharing plates act as a burning effigy, made out of starched white tablecloths, to the dwindling popularity of fine dining. When done well, a tapas restaurant and its food can be a joyous thing. A good tapas menu should convince you that there will be a next time; another chance to explore.
Ember Yard, the fourth of the Salt Yard Group’s growing collection of restaurants, has a menu so full saliva-inducing and charcoal scented dishes that it’s hard not to embrace its charms. First, take charred and tender cubes of cuttlefish, plus golden little nuggets of pumpkin, and factor in blobs of hot N’duja and delicate buds of oregano. Ditto octopus, first poached and then chargrilled, that comes with a sweet and sticky pepperonata and a Mojo Verde alioli that makes a trip to the Canaries seem imminent. The pull of Spain and Italy sweeps through both.
On another occasion, should you sit in the moodily lit basement bar, the wonderful Salt Marsh lamb’s exterior may seem more blackened than it probably is. It won’t be a total trick of light – the force of its smoky exterior is beyond compare and smacks of an intense session on the grill. It billows and blisters before yielding to reveal the rosy flesh within. Perfectly seasoned and joined by a herbal, zesty and spot on salsa verde, it’s almost as moreish as a little Basque Beef Burger with Chorizo Ketchup. Bursts of gentle heat and a loose, relenting patty make this a burger to savour.
If you do have only one final, mournful visit to Ember Yard in your future, save the ribs till then. Oh the sweet, sweet glory of the Iberico Ribs. Glazed with quince, they’re full of the kind of unseemly gastronomic glory that eventually sees you tearfully calling home and asking for a bath to be drawn – this kind of sticky shame won’t come off easily. An accompanying celeriac purée is silken and creamy. A battered Courgette Flower Stuffed with Goat’s Cheese and slicked with honey features the same understated excellence as parsnip chips with a weaving hat of grated, melting manchego.
Augmenting all of this is a supporting cast of delightful things. Staff do well to navigate their way round a small, cramped space while serving drinks such as the Ember & Ash cocktail (raisin infused rum, Pedro Ximénez sherry and smoked bourbon) – a fair bit of smoke and a flurry of theatre – and are at ease dishing out the charming small talk.
Two notable ice-creams, Smoked Muscavado and Malaga Raisin, are excellent (though the latter is a little let down by a Brown Butter Panna Cotta a wibble short of the desired wobble) and act as a symbol for the restaurant as a whole. Evocative of all that’s so alluring in Italian and Spanish food but still inventive, Ember Yard looks set to enjoy the same success as the three that came before.
Ember Yard: 48/60
To book a table at Ember Yard, 60 Berwick Street, W15 8SU call 0207 439 8057 or for further information visit here.