Barrafina has long been one of my favourite tapas restaurants in London, but Ember Yard is now on a par.
Great location, chic vibes, attentive staff, Art Deco interiors – it ticks all the boxes. As for the food (the emphasis is on grilling and cooking over charcoal), it’s some of the best I’ve had in the Big Smoke!
We had a very romantic banquette spot by the window, looking out onto Berwick Street and directly onto Franco Manca. Even though the sourdough pizza place is my absolute favourite in London (and great for a cheap date!) I couldn’t help feel incredibly smug about my choice of restaurant for tonight.
Ember Yard is part of The Salt Yard Group (Salt Yard, Dehesa, Opera Tavern) so I knew it wouldn’t disappoint. I’d actually been on a date here a few years ago and it has always stuck in my mind – for the paradisiacal food, not the date (sorry!).
It was even better than I remembered…
The waiter explained the menu of small plates, charcuterie boards and starters to share and suggested ordering some Padron Peppers while we wait. I’ve always heard that there is ONE extremely hot pepper in the batch but in all the 20 plus years I’ve been eating them, I’ve never had a single one.
Well my date ended up having not one but THREE. His eyes started watering, he guzzled down a pint of water, his vanilla tastebuds couldn’t take it, I thought. He was losing massive lad points. “Are you sure these are peppers and not chillis!?” he asked.
He handed me half of a spicy one he’d bitten and to prove my point I devoured the whole thing – all of the seeds. Oh my God my mouth was on fire! I felt like I’d been to the hygienist and had my teeth, gums and mouth hacked at with a chainsaw. The fire roared in my mouth!
“Oh you got one? It’s the season,” laughed the waiter as he saw me wagging my tongue (very sexy). About a minute later he returned with a glass of milk – now that’s customer service. Life saver, literally!
The dishes came out haphazardly, which gave an element of surprise to the meal. We had burrata with the most flavoursome and colourful Heritage tomatoes I’d ever seen, followed by smoked pork belly cooked in beer, juicy duck breast with leek and garnish, and the most appetizing wood roasted cauliflower with harissa and oregano.
The piece de resistance for meat-lover me was the chargrilled iberico presa with whipped jamon butter – indulgence on a plate!
We couldn’t pass on dessert so shared the caramelised pears with yoghurt and hazelnut crumble and the very understated chocolate, hazelnut and biscotti truffles.
Date factor: great for special dates, dinner dates, 100th dates, mates dates
Price: approximately £80 for a meal for two
Getting there: 5-minute walk from Oxford Circus
More info: emberyard.co.uk