The latest in a mini-chain of four of London’s most enjoyable new-style tapas bars: every flavour combination a winner, and bar snacks are among Soho's best.
Salt Yard, Dehesa, Opera Tavern: three of London’s most enjoyable new-style tapas bars, and they’re all run by the same young company. Ember Yard is the fourth in this growing chain, and builds on the strengths of its forebears, using Italian as well as Spanish dishes and techniques as their inspiration.
What sets Ember Yard apart from its siblings is an even greater emphasis on the grill. If you’ve eaten in a charcoal grill restaurant in the Basque country – or even in a Turkish grill in Dalston – Ember Yard should feel oddly familiar, especially if you’re sitting near the glowing coals. There’s a mixture of bar stools, high counters, dining tables and banquettes on the ground floor; the basement has more of the same but with even more emphasis on the list of house cocktails, and a well-chosen selection of wines by the glass, or even bigger selection by the bottle.
The bar snacks are among the best in Soho. Smoked chorizo oozed flavour, and was served hot with a smooth saffron alioli. Chips are cooked in pork fat, and arrived perfectly crisp. Cheese and charcuterie platters are divided into Spanish or Italian.
Every tapas flavour combination was a winner. Tender octopus was coated in a peperonata sauce, served with a green squirt of the garlic and coriander mayonnaise called mojo verde alioli. Ibérico pork ribs were grilled to melting softness, the flavours of the quince glaze and smear of celeriac purée melding into the warm fat. If we have any caveats at all about the menu – and there aren’t many – it’s that sometimes there’s just a bit much happening on one plate. For example, a delicate carpaccio of sea bream was flavoured with the strong citrus hit of bergamot flesh, with coriander sprouts and gratings of bottarga – cured mullet roe. The citrus overpowered the other more subtle flavours.
We visited Ember Yard three times in a fortnight, and found the cooking consistently good to excellent, the service informal but informed. With any small plates menu of this type, the bill can add up quickly – it’s tempting, once you’ve discovered just how brilliant but small the dishes are, to order some more. Ember Yard’s that sort of place: somewhere you can’t quite get enough of, and are sorry to leave.