There are good and bad sides to writing a food blog. The good being that you always have a valid excuse to go out for dinner and try something new, the bad (sometimes) being that your dinner guests expect to be overwhelmingly impressed by the venue you select when you invite them out for dinner. There’s inevitably raised eyebrows and pursed lips if you suggest that you just ‘nip to Wagamamas’ for a quick bite.
Equally I don’t want to choose a below par place, if it’s indeed my choice. However, my desire to try new places and my desire to impress my friends often isn’t always perfectly symbiotic. So, when my good friend of 10 years suggested we go out for dinner last weekend and I self-elected to pick the venue, I wanted more than anything, to pick somewhere really good, that we could both experience for the first time, but that was going to guarantee we weren’t disappointed.
Based on prior recommendations, and reputation, I opted to book us in to tapas haven, Salt Yard, in Goodge St, London. Conveniently located opposite the London Cocktail Club (and yes, I did drag her in there for an aperitif or two before our booking – it’s STILL excellent by the way) Salt Yard has been relatively high on my list of places I have been wanting to try for a while, but had yet to make it down there.
As my friend is one of these ‘inconvenient’ vegetarian types I scoured the menu online first and made sure there was going to be ample choice for both of us. Pleasantly satisfied that the veggie and fish options looked as appetising as the meat dishes (but obviously not quite as good!) we headed in for dinner.
Because of the reputation that precedes Salt Yard, and the good recommendations I’d received, I had high expectations. These expectations were made all the more pressing because I didn’t want to disappoint my friend on our big night out.
First things first, Salt Yard is not a big place. This was actually perfect for us as we were hoping for a quiet table somewhere we could catch up on our gossip. You enter into a fairly intimately lit restaurant area with a few tables and a bar area at the back. You’re able to order drinks at the bar and a fairly impressive selection of bar snacks if you’re not in the mood for a full sit-down meal, but we were there for the full restaurant menu. We were greeted by a friendly hostess who checked our booking and then lead us downstairs to the ‘cosy’ seating area, which has room for about 40 covers. It has a nice atmosphere down there, you get the sense that there’s a real buzz, or ‘life’ to the place but without it being too distracting or overwhelming. We were seated and approached by an equally friendly waitress, who proved herself to be very good at her job over the course of the evening, by managing to sell us the specials, convince us into cheese and even twisted our (bendy) arms into dessert wine. She was charming.
So, the service received a big tick and my friend’s face was glowing and happy at my selection so far.
We read, hungrily, through the menu leaping from item to item in the list like bees hurriedly gathering nectar. It all looked so good. So enticing.
(NB: this brazen enthusiasm may have been a result of the two cocktails we warmed up with in LCC beforehand, but I had been impressed with the menu when I’d previously looked at it online, so for the most part it was genuine)
We settled finally on 6 dishes. 2 fish dishes (and, oh shame, as we dashed through reading the menu so quickly we failed to notice that the scallops came topped with crispy Serrano ham so guess who got to extract and eat that to herself….it was delicious!), 3 vegetable dishes, and I just couldn’t resist the look of the pork belly, which I finished every last trace of myself; alone; solo.
As the food began to arrive I suddenly began to relax even more. The service had a big tick so far, and I was pretty sure the food was going to follow suit.
We tucked in thick and fast and like a plague of locusts had made short work of the 6 entire dishes that were presented to us. They were all good. They were exceedingly good. I find that a lot of the time tapas can be much of a muchness so I’m often concerned about going to a place like Salt Yard, where in all honesty it’s not a cheap place, but you’re still getting tapas. It can be a bit hit or miss, but in my opinion Salt Yard was a big hit. The food lived up to expectation (and price), the service was friendly, warm and not in the slightest bit overbearing, the wine was sumptuous (we opted for Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Innocenti), the cheese was tasty and generously portioned and the dessert wine also was a hit.
The bill was not small, but when it came I realised that (company being an influence also no doubt) I’d had a great evening. I’d eaten some really great food, in a comfortable and easy-going place, drunk some good wine and I was a happy and satisified person. Looking up at my friend and gauging that she was still glowing and happy by the broad grin fixed across her face, I think I avoided disappointing her, and hopefully held on to my blogger-type-authority of choice for at least another trip. Thank you Salt Yard.