If you’re looking for upscale comfort food created by Michelin-star chefs, then I’ve got just the place for you.
Barnyard is a quirky cool restaurant in Fitzrovia fitted out with reclaimed wood and corrugated iron walls, a white picket fence separating the lower & upper levels and low-hanging faded blue steel lamps. Hence the name ‘Barnyard’. I love.
The restaurant is the second venture of superstar chef Ollie Dabbous and his business partner Oskar Kinsberg, who own Michelin-starred and infamously hard-to-get-into Dabbous just down the road.
Head chef Joseph Woodland was formerly at The Square and Launceston Place, and thus should be churning out dishes of faultless standard. The menu is unique and in keeping with the ‘Barnyard’ theme in that it’s divided by food type rather than the traditional starter/main, small/large plate categories. Thus come prepared to take your pick from ‘Pig, Cow & Chicken’, ‘Eggs, Veg & Salad’ and ‘Sides’. Although people have criticised Barnyard for the lack of guidance as to how large each dish will be, I think the pricing is fairly indicative of its size and such commentary is nitpicking to the extreme.
Whilst waiting for me (oopsie) the gorgeous Honey got settled in with a shandy (£8.00), which she proclaimed to be the best she’s had in a while, though once I arrived we quickly got stuck into a bottle of ‘Los Espinos, Merlot, Chile, 2014’ (£28.00).
Looking back at the menu I’m pretty gutted we didn’t try any of the ‘hard shakes’, which apparently come served in cute milk bottles (an alcoholic milkshake would go down an absolute treat right now I tell ya), although it’s probably for the best that we saved ourselves from the liquid calories as the food certainly isn’t light on the tummy!
The food (naturally, you’re really still in Soho) comes when ready, so order in rounds people!
We began with warm cornbread (£5.00) served in a paper bag.
The bread hit the flavour nail on the head with just the right level of sweetness, though was on the dry side with the outer edge crumbly rather than crunchy and overall lacking moisture. Nothing a good slathering of butter (which I thought was strange I had to ask for) couldn’t fix though. Be warned: Dreadfully moreish.
The pancetta with fennel & black pepper charcuterie (£6.00) was literally raw bacon with some cracked black pepper, with no fennel in sight or its flavour discernible and, at such a price for such little labour, one fairly expects more.
The homemade sausage roll with piccalilli (£7.00) is one of Barnyard’s signature dishes (as are the chicken wings which we didn’t order as I’m not a big fan).
It was nice enough, but I wouldn’t say ‘signature worthy’. The pastry needed to be more buttery flakey versus crisp and the sausage meat inside was, like the cornbread, well-seasoned but dry.
The accompanying piccalilli, however, did wonders for the dish, with the pickled vegetables and spices really lifting the sausage meat and preventing flavour monotony.
Starting with the bavette grilled over hot coals with triple cooked chips and béarnaise sauce (£15.00).
I found the presentation of the bavette unusual since it’s commonly served sliced against the grain to maximise the tenderness of this high-fibred cut, hence it wasn’t overly surprising that we found the steak to be on the stringy & chewy side, and unfortunately had also been unevenly cooked so that some of the meat was correctly rare whilst the thinner outer edges were well-done.
But, you know me… drown anything in some (rather good) béarnaise and I’ll keep shtum.
Onwards & upwards. THE VEG. Oh the veg. Definitely the highlight of the meal for us both and really & truly excellent.
Both dishes were perfectly prepared and their dressings exceptional. The charred broccoli vinaigrette (£4.50) was crunchy and juicy and creamy and tangy.
The dressed courgette with Sussex slipcote, basil & pine nuts (£8.00) was even better. Beautifully presented featuring both yellow & green courgette, the courgette was firm with the creamy slipcote marrying deliciously with the fresh homemade pesto.
Two steps forward one step back. The lobster roll with garlic and tarragon (£13.00) was our final savoury dish, and potentially our least favourite of all those that we sampled, with the brioche overly crisp and seriously lacking in butter, and the lobster filling a rare sighting amongst the forest of plain lettuce. Definitely one to miss.
I’m sorry Barnyard, but as far as I’m concerned, THIS is what a lobster roll should look like:
However, I’m pleased to say that we finished on a high with dessert.
Despite the popcorn ice-cream with smoked fudge sauce (£6.00) coming highly recommended, Honey & I had set our sights elsewhere and therefore only tried a taster of their signature pud.
Due to the Mr. Whippy nature of the in-house-made ice-cream our shot glass sampler had melted by the time it was placed before us, thus I don’t really want to pass too much judgment as I know others have raved about the “marvelous texture” and “extraordinary combination of flavours”, yet we just experienced a slightly bizarre burnt-tasting vanilla goo. However, had we tried the full shebang with all its candied popcorn, I’m sure we would have been as impressed as others.
Nevertheless, the two puds that we actually ordered were sublime.
The apple & cloudberry crumble with clotted cream (£6.00) was simply outrageous. My kind of 50:50 apple:crumble ratio which hit the perfect level on the sweet-mometer and had the most fabulous crystallised, clumpy, crumble topping.
We were both in heaven. The warm chocolate brownie with toasted hazelnuts and vanilla ice-cream (£6.00) was also yummy, but not quite as outstanding. It had a good gooey consistency but I think Barnyard could step it up on the richness front, but I guess the current version is more of a general crowd pleaser (i.e. for non-hardcore chocolate lovers).
In short, Barnyard is cool and different. I love the theme, the vibe and the menu. There is so much potential that it’s almost frustrating that the dishes are so hit & miss. If I may be so bold and make a general observation, it seems as if there’s something’s not quite right in the pastry department, whether it be the oven temperature or cooking time, since the cornbread, sausage and lobster roll were all over-cooked.
Still, there were some real triumphs. Recalling the veggies and apple crumble still brings a smile to my face, and the staff were so hospitable & friendly that I really do want to recommend them to you guys. The concept of Barnyard is unique & appealing; with a few kitchen tweaks, I think it could be a real gem.
I dined as a guest of Barnyard, but all opinions are my own.