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Salt Yard (Spanish-Italian), London Restaurant Review

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Reviewed by The Wild Boar

Despite various positive reviews from the bloggerati, Salt Yard has been sitting on my to-eat list for nearly a year now; so when I had cravings for Spanish tapas this was the first place I thought of.

Located on Goodge Street, Salt Yard is a tiny little restaurant and we were sitting pretty much elbow-to-knee with our neighbours. Although we were early at 6.30pm, the place was already buzzing with happy diners creating a pleasant atmosphere.

We started with some Jamon Iberico de Bellota, my favourite ham to eat from Spain. It is a speciality ham from a specially bred black pig fed on acorns which does make for a difference as the aroma of the nuts actually does come through. This was a great way to start the meal, especially when the ham sits on the tongue and the taste seeps out onto the tastebuds.

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Saffron Arancini with Mussels, Crab, Squid and a Chilli Alioli”. Essentially, a little deep fried ball of risotto, this was a lot better than it sounded. The risotto was actually quite tasty and had lots of the seafood flavour. Texturally, the crunchy skin was an excellent foil to the naturally soft risotto while the occasional little bits of squid inside gave another chewy dimension.

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Stuffed and Roasted Baby Squid with Braised Fennel and Nora Pepper Oil”. Ok so I’m not entirely sure what the stuffing was, but I think I caught the tastes of potato as well as egg. Anyway the squid itself was cooked just nice and wasn’t rubbery at all. The sauce was quite delicious and slightly tart, although I think that if it was thicker (ala Chinese style with the corn starch), it would have coated the squid better.

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Courgette Flowers stuffed with goat’s cheese and drizzled with honey”. This is the one dish I remember from reading Kang and Helen’s reviews over 6 months ago. I wasn’t keen on ordering it at first as I’m not a fan of cheese (especially goat’s cheese!!) but our neighbour had ordered it and it looked so good we couldn’t help ourselves and added this on to our initial orders. The PigPig was certainly very happy we did as she absolutely loved this; the soft creamy courgette was delicately deep fried with a very light batter and the pungent goat’s cheese was complimented perfectly by the honey. Whilst not to my tastes, I can certainly appreciate this simple little dish.

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Chargrilled Lamb Leg with Creamy Polenta, Squash Caponata and Black Olives”. I’m sure you can appreciate the juicy pinkness of the lamb from the pictures; the lamb on its own was already excellent as it was seasoned well. However, it was the combination of the polenta (which I normally dislike but not in this case) as well as the mouth-watering sauce that really brought the entire dish together; this was perhaps my favourite out of many good dishes that night.

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Braised Oxtail with Tomato Gnocchi and Bone Marrow”. As is my wont, I tasted the oxtail first on its own and was slightly disappointed as the meat felt as if it lacked taste and flavour despite being very tender. The gnocchi on the other hand was simply bursting with flavour and complimented the oxtail extremely well. One of those things where the sum is greater than its parts.

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Smoked Wild Mushrooms with Olive Oil Whipped Potatoes, Free Range Egg Yolk and Chorizo Oil”. The last of our main dishes to arrive, but this perhaps had the longest lasting impression on our minds. Firstly the potatoes had a really amazing olive oil aroma to it and the texture was slightly different as it had a rather strange glue-like texture (we theorize the olive oil makes this change in texture as Cambio de Tercio’s whipped potato had a similar texture as well). Next, the wild mushrooms add flavour and texture to the dish whilst the egg yolk provides richness and the chorizo oil and paprika provides more aroma and flavour. Overall, a superbly balanced dish much like the egg dish at Alain Ducasse @ Dorchester.

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Lemon and Cinnamon Doughnuts with Coco Nib Ice Cream”. Whilst asking for the dessert menu, we also asked for recommendations for dessert from one of the staff who advised choosing this, something we would probably have given a miss if left to our own devices. Instead we were pleasantly surprised with the results, especially as the aroma of baked cinnamon goodness wafted to our noses. I felt the doughnuts themselves were a little dry, although very fluffy and light; a view not echoed by the PigPig it has to be said.

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The ice cream contained cocoa nibs, explained by the staff to be blended husks of the cocoa seed. To me, they felt just like chocolate chips and provided crunchy textures to the soft fluffy doughnuts.

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Plum and Almond Cake with Salted Almond Caramel Ice Cream”. Not so much a cake as a tart, the almond tart bit was a good balance of sweetness as well as being moist. The plums then added a slight tart nature while the ice cream was slightly salty. Personally, I wasn’t a huge fan of this creation but the PigPig adored it; she felt that it was beautifully balanced and had the holy trinity of sweet salty and sour without each element being too overpowering.

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Altogether, the bill came up to £36 each for a heck of a lot of food and tap water. The service was more perfunctory than friendly and whilst being fairly attentive and prompt, it wasn’t particularly overwhelming.

Food – 7.8
Service – 5.0
Atmosphere – 5.0
Value – 5.0

Basically, I was blown away by the quality of the food on offer. I thought all the dishes were on average of very good quality, and most importantly they all seemed very well thought out and had very good balance, particularly the wild mushroom with potato.

My favourite tapas bar has always been Barrafina (Cambio de Tercio is too simply exorbitant to go for regular eatings) but the Salt Yard trumps it in terms of good food, albeit in a different style.

Best bit: extremely well balanced dishes with the ingredients complimenting each other and coming together extremely well.
Worst bit: knocking elbows with other diners.

Salt Yard
54 Goodge St
Fitzrovia, W1T 4NA
Official website

Salt Yard on Urbanspoon

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