By Jonathan Hatchman, Food Editor, @TLE_Food
London’s biggest shopping thoroughfare – the World famous Oxford Street still continues to divide opinion across the city. Name any high street shop and you can almost guarantee that Oxford Street is the home to their London flagship outlet, stocking nearly everything you could ever need, conveniently squeezed into one street for optimum efficiency. That’s before 11am, of course. Before every shop is filled like a rush hour train, littered with the contents of every shelf and rail strewn across the floor. For the most part, Oxford Street is an unwieldy behemoth that needs to be tranquilized. Every time I find myself in the area, I’m suddenly reminded of why I vow to never return, but there’s still something that compels me no matter how much I may regret it.
Thankfully, Ember Yard is just a short distance from Oxford Circus, situated ever-so-slightly off the beaten track on Soho’s Berwick Street – providing a resplendent retreat from the hell that is Oxford Circus tube station and the surrounding area during rush hour. Opened as the fourth restaurant from the Salt Yard Group, the speciality on offer at Ember Yard is Tapas. Upstairs, the main dining area offers a menu of Spanish and Italian inspired food with a strong focus on cooking over charcoal, as well as an assortment of different woods. On the menu there’s a collection of dishes that include artisan cheese and charcuterie platters amongst small plates intended for sharing, and plenty of pork dishes. Downstairs there’s a bar with staff that shake up some of Ember Yard’s signature cocktails in the cosy setting that seems hundreds of miles away from the busy rigmarole of Central London. There’s also a selection of bar snacks, an extension of what’s on offer upstairs, again the main focus is the charcuterie platters that are split into both Spanish and Italian.
Seated at the bar, we’re joined by a large tap that’s shaped like the hind leg of a pig, filled with Alhambra (a very sweet, gentle lager that’s easy on the palate and works as a surprisingly good digestif). The tap is cacophonously garish but it somehow works with the rest of the features that decorate the interior, somewhat surprisingly providing a harmonious array of understated sophistication. As for the cocktails, there’s a selection of classics on offer, but it’s the specially crafted Ember Yard cocktail list that grabs our fancy, each inspired by various grilling and smoking techniques.
‘Anyone For Tennis’ is served in a champagne flute and delivers a bright crimson complexion and a taste of fresh strawberries that overpowers the other delicate flavours of basil, elderflower and Vodka. The freshness is stimulating and the result is very drinkable, but it’s far less memorable than my ‘El Duende’. The taste is relatively modern, but the assembly is classic: more of a late night after-dinner cocktail than a quick pre-dinner escape from the cold. A Bourbon base is infused with Camomile then mixed with potent thyme syrup and smoked Acacia honey – a match made in bar heaven. The bar snacks are also impressive and comforting, overall. Smoked chorizo skewers (£3 each) aren’t particularly ground breaking, but the accompanying saffron aioli is marvellous, grilled flatbread (£4.50) is spiked with the same potent aforementioned thyme and smoked butter, as well as honey which does get a little bit lost in the mix, but again the overall result is still satisfactory. The real jewel in the crown, however, is the Sardinian cow’s milk ricotta that’s smoked and then baked in the Josper and expertly paired with an exciting chilli honey – needless to say it’s fantastic. Following our recent visit to the bar at Ember Yard, the memory of an ideal escape and thirst quencher will certainly spring to prominence next time I’m caught in human traffic at Oxford Circus.
Ember Yard can be found at 60 Berwick Street, London, W1F 8SU. A number of exciting events to keep in mind are also coming up at Ember Yard over the next couple of months. Notably including James Ferguson’s (Beagle/Rochelle Canteen) takeover at Ember Yard on October 26th and Martin Morales’ (Ceviche/Andina) takeover on November 23rd.