THE LOWDOWN: The Salt Yard Group have opened their fourth London restaurant, Ember Yard, on Soho’s Berwick Street. The menu, put together by chef-director Ben Tish, focuses on Spanish and Italian-inspired dishes cooked over charcoal. After five years as sous chef at Salt Yard, rising star Jacques Fourie is leading the kitchen as head chef. The group also owns Dehesa (close to Carnaby Street) and Opera Tavern in Covent Garden.
THE FOOD: The menu includes some knock-out grilled dishes like Iberico presa with whipped jamon butter, cuttlefish with n’duja sauce and roast pumpkin, and huge prawns seasoned with Basque salt, garlic and chilli. Ember Yard is the group’s first restaurant to serve larger dishes like hot smoked Old Spot pork belly and whole sea bream baked in salt, designed for sharing.
If you love the mini Iberico and foie gras burger they serve at Opera Tavern, don’t miss the smoked Basque beef version that’s already flying out of the Ember Yard kitchen. (Best served with some of their Iberico manteca fries with chorizo ketchup). On our visit, the stand-out dish was the quince-glazed Iberico pork ribs on celeriac puree that are already doing the rounds on Instagram. The meltingly tender, sticky sweet and smoky meat pulled easily off the bones, with the smooth earthy puree beneath bringing all the flavours together.
If it sounds like the sort of place that would frighten a vegetarian, don’t worry – there are meat-free dishes like parsnip chips with truffled honey, a grilled pear salad, and a wonderfully indulgent gratin of roasted root veg with smoked ricotta and Idiazabal cheese. Save room for dessert though – the hot chocolate ganacha with salted caramel ice-cream is well worth sharing.
THE DRINKS: Ember Yard is the first Salt Yard Group restaurant to offer an extensive cocktail menu, so it’s worth heading downstairs to the basement bar for a pre- or post-dinner drink. In a nod to the menu’s smoking and grilling theme, drinks like the Ember & Ash and Il Profumo di Maria arrive in a cloud of flavoured smoke. (The latter – a mix of vodka, Prosecco, violets and elderflower – smells like an elderly aunt’s wardrobe, in a good way). There is also an excellent wine list (with plenty of choice by the glass), plus some top notch sherries and Italian and Spanish beers.
THE VERDICT: As die-hard fans of Salt Yard and Opera Tavern, we (rather predictably) loved the food at Ember Yard. Sure, the bill adds up fast if you order plate after plate, but when the cooking is this good it still feels like excellent value for money. When we visited during their soft opening week, the slick front-of-house team and the guys in the busy open kitchen were already working in near-perfect harmony and the dining room was buzzing with contented diners.
Our only niggle was with the seating – we would have preferred one of the cosy tables for two, rather than the slightly squashed high table we ended up sharing with four strangers. (If that would bother you, request a low table when booking to guarantee a little more space and privacy).
Ember Yard is a welcome addition to one of London’s consistently impressive restaurant groups. If you’re planning a West End shopping or theatre trip this winter, making a booking here will be the best decision you’ve made all day.