THE SALT YARD: PUT A CORK & BOTTLE IN IT
Supper tonight at one of London's relatively newest and one of London's oldest.
I am lucky enough to have a dear dear chum called Susanna who has forgotten more about food that I will ever know. From 1980 to 1986, she ran a 1* restaurant in Oxford and she has the single most amazing palate of any person I have ever encountered.
I arranged to meet her in The Salt Yard at 8.30pm as she was off seeing the Michaelangelo exhibition so, I decided to head to one of London's most treasured hidey holes and one that many Londoners, let alone visitors, forget to consider, Don Hewitson's Cork & Bottle.
Situated between a grim fast food shop selling crappy pizza and Fish & Chips and a Sex Shop offering, ahem, I believe, a wide range of spanking videos, Cork & Bottle is one of THE places to visit in London. Don buys wine by the case direct from estates around the world and so offers wine to his customers from wineries that seldom, if ever export. He offers a vast range by the glass along with a short range of well prepared food. I settled myself at the bar and had a glass of Duck Pond Oregon Pinot 2004 for £7.00 which would have benefited from another year and a Stoneleigh Marlborough Reisling for £5 which was perfect and suitably petrolly.
By then, it was nearing 8pm and I headed up to The Salt Yard.
There has been a proliferation of Neuvo tapas bars in London in recent years. Far removed from the crap with potatoes and tomato sauce that informed those of the 1980's. Some are good ( Vinoteca, though not strictly a tapas bar ) some are definingly lousy ( The truly excerable Fino ) The Salt Yard is, to my mind, the best of the bunch, although I would prefer to visit when it is not quite so full of young folk and not quite so deafeningly loud. Damn them and their ability to have a good time. The music was so loud we were practically screaming across the table at each other.
I arrived early and settled at a seat downstairs next to the kitchen and ordered a glass of Manzanilla. Susanna arrived soon after and ordered the same and we chomped on a plate of caperberries.
The menu is a slightly odd mix of tapas and Italian. We did a bit of a mix and ordered
Jamon Iberico - This was hand cut ( see the striations on the meat in the photo ) and served with plenty of acorn rich fat. Not cheap for £12.50, but, for ham this good....
The Spanish Selection - Salsichon, Cabezeda, Lomo and Chorizo - Very good, but not quite up to that at Vinoteca in the taste stakes.
Morcilla Croquetas - My favourite being so redolent of my most enjoyed snack in Madrileno bars. Susanna's least favourite
Calimari with Chickpea Puree - The weakest dish by far. The squid was fine. The chick pea was over salted to a huge degree and reeked of far too much cumin. A misfire
Pimientos De Padron - well prepared but £3.50 for a dozen peppers?? Why not just carry a gun and a bag marked SWAG
Broccoli with mozarela, polenta croutons and caoda sauce - off to Italy but not bad for that. A very well thought out dish
With this, S had a glass of Rueda and I had a glass of something red from Navarre, both priced at around the £5
For puds, some house made Cantucci with a glass of Passito dessert wine and, for me, churros with hot chocolate and vanilla icecream. I also managed to glug down a glass of PX.
The Churros were vile. Dense, sugary lumpen doughnuts of yuk. Just so far from what they should be as is possible to get. just out and out wrong. Nice PX though.
Meal for two inc service was about £80.
Anyway, on the whole a good if flawed meal with friendly efficient service in an incredibly noisy environment. I will definitely be back again, but perhaps earlier before it turns into Fabric Goodge St Branch