54 Goodge Street, W1T London | www.saltyard.co.uk | ingested Friday 4th June ’10
Ben Tish’s unique breed of hybrid Iberian-Italian tapas is bold and inspired, drawing packs of happy diners night in, night out to this sleek and contemporary Goodge Street tapas bar. The emphasis here is on quality produce, and the star ingredient tends to be combined with 2 or 3 other complementary flavours to truly complete it. It’s one of those places where all the dishes on the menu sound too good to be true. Turn up starving like the 3 hungry boys we were that evening and you will suffer from the same dilemma we had of wanting to eat just about everything. Here are a *few* things we ended up sampling…
Uno. 18 month-cured Serrano Ham from Teruel D.O. (£7.75): Wafer-thin to the extent that it’s almost see-through, this 18-month matured Serrano ham sourced from the Teruel region had a great depth of meaty flavour. Lovely with the Tempranillo we were drinking, but a little dry when eaten on its own.
Dos. Deep-fried Courgette flowers stuffed with goats cheese, drizzled with Honey (£7.40): One of Salt Yard’s signature dishes, it’s a playful and bold combination. Once you are past the beautifully crisp Tempura-like batter of the Courgette flower, the milky savouriness from the cheese then kicks in followed shortly by the taste of sweet, rich honey. A symphony of flavours.
Cuatro. Crispy Saffron Arancini with Mussels, Squid, Crab and Chilli Ailio (£5.50): Little deep-fried treasures of saffron flavoured risotto, with lashings of fresh mussels, squid and crab thoughout. Brilliant and probably my favourite dish of the night.
Cinco. Roasted Scallops with Caramelised Cauliflower and Hazelnut puree, with Wild Garlic Leaves (£9.25): These whopper-sized scallops were plump, juicy and roasted to a beautiful caramelisation. However, I found the nutty richness of the Cauliflower-Hazelnut puree a little overpowering towards the end of each bite.
Seis. Pan-fried Whiting with Broccoli, Chilli and Fresh Cornish Crab (£6.25): Cooked to perfection with a crisp, filo pastry-like shell, the mild heat from the Thai-flavoured chilli broth and sweet, delicate crabmeat complemented the fish extremely well. However, it’s one that I would recommend having earlier on in the meal if possible as by the time we got to this one, the bolder tasting dishes had already overworked our tastebuds for us to fully appreciate the complexity here.
Siete. Gloucester Old Spot Pork Belly with Rosemary and Cannellini Beans (£6.25): The Pork Belly was melt-in-the-mouth tender from slow roasting with just a hint of rosemary infused throughout the meat. With a crackling that was as crispy as a newly opened pack of Ryvita, this was for me the best of the meat dishes that evening.
Ocho. Chargrilled Beef Bavette with Crispy Violet Artichoke, Shallots and Horseradish (£7.00): A simple, unfussy combination of skirt steak cooked rare to a nice pink, with sea-salt, horse radish and caramelised shallots. A good, classic combination. Not sure where the violet artichoke was supposed to come in though. It was nowhere to be seen and I certainly didn’t taste anything artichokey about the dish at all.
Nueve. Pot Roast New Season Lamb with Cipollini Onion, Wet Garlic and Fennel Pickle (£7.25): Bold, hearty and comforting. The Lamb was oh-so-tender from slow cooking it fell off the bone while the garlic was subtle and delicate. A lovely dish that could have done without the pungent fennel pickle altogether if you ask me.
Okay, so we did go a leeeettle overboard with the ordering hence the damage including drinks racked up to just under 40 quid a head. Steep relative to the La Tascas of this world, but unlike other generic tapas joints, everything here seemed cooked fresh to order and was piping hot when served – testament to the very proficient waiting staff who staggered the timing of the orders out perfectly in 2s and 3s over the course of the evening. Definitely one of the capital’s better tapas bars that is worth a visit for the buzz and atmosphere alone.