Salt Yard (August 2012)

One of the big debates in culinary London seems to centre on experimentation and pushing the boundaries of food (think ‘foam’, ‘reduction,’ ‘surprise’ ad nauseum) versus an emphasis on high quality fresh ingredients, prepared simply yet to perfection. Salt Yard definitely makes a strong case for the latter. The very mention of tapas often, to my mind, conjures a potential minefield outside of Spain. Far too regularly, dishes are prepared badly (or simply appalling; once at Floridita, limp tomato and garlic bread sticks unfortunately in my memory) or restaurateurs resort only to the tired clichés (such as meatballs or patatas bravas). Moreover, tapas – increasingly too an overused term and excuse for restaurants to offer the diner small over-priced dishes – affords the opportunity either to be bold and experimental or horribly traditional. Fortunately, Salt Yard does not disappoint. It does not try and do anything too complicated and what it does, it does exceptionally well, with an emphasis on the fresh and the high-quality. Furthermore, my dining comrade and I were delighted by the equality of the menu for it was quite rare, but very much appreciated that there were a roughly equal number of meat, fish and vegetarian options. Staff were helpful and indicated that six dishes (conveniently two of each) would be an appropriate lunch for two people, and this proved to be the case. While it would be possible to fault the order in which the dishes came (they were brought to the table when ready, and there was quite a big gap between some of the dishes), each was prepared to perfection. Salt Yard pulled off the trick of tantalising me with each dish, leaving me wanting more, but then lifting me up again with the next offering. The crispy soft shell crab, fennel salad and piquilo ailoli was among the best I have ever had. Other positives: a good range of sherries (manzanilla went perfectly with our food) and tables adequately spaced (despite it being a small location). Would definitely return and London needs more places such as this.