A car park that’s been converted into a restaurant? Now there’s a novel idea. I’m joking, of course: nothing gets Londoners going like a car park being used for something that isn’t parking. Just look at Frank’s and Dinerama. But the latest addition to Bermondsey Street’s rapidly expanding selection of places to gorge is a bit different.
For starters, it actually feels like a restaurant. Exposed brick, an open kitchen, dangling light bulbs and warehouse windows – it’s everything you’d expect from a trendy new place on one of London’s hottest streets. The only evidence of the restaurant’s former life is the flooring itself – they’ve retained the car park’s smooth black asphalt – and a couple of out-of-place drainpipes.
The seasonal menu changes regularly, and it throws up some wonderful moments: a grilled squid starter was enormous, served with fiery nduja meatballs that gave the dish a seriously punchy edge. Another starter – smoked eel – came with a dollop of treacle yoghurt that we’d happily slather on everything we eat from now until the end of time.
But just as things were getting into top gear, someone slammed it all into reverse. A steak arrived unseasoned, sitting on a bed of oily vegetables, while another main – a huge leg of chicken – came with a delightful remoulade and apple mayonnaise, but the meat itself was dry. It was about this time that the restaurant began to fill up and the waiting staff went from being attentive to non-existent. We sat with our finished dishes for so long that we began to wonder whether this was a new ‘do your own dishes’ dining concept and someone had forgotten to tell us.
The bill came to just over £80, and that’s the problem: for the same amount you can get a meal for two at Pizarro just up the road, and the food will be markedly superior. The Bermondsey Yard Café has got the ambience just right, and has potential in the kitchen, but there’s no need for the competition to start checking their rear-view mirror just yet.