Barnyard London is the second restaurant by Ollie Dabbous. This venue is very different and a lot more informal than his first restaurant, the Michelin Star holding Dabbous. So what can you expect from this new venue, just a few minutes walk away from his first? I attended on their first pubic day to have a look.
Dabbous has become known as one of London’s most difficult venues to book. Countless acquaintances complain that they can never get a table. However, Ollie Dabbous’ new venue, Barnyard, is only a stone’s throw away and, like many new venues it does NOT take bookings. So if you are turned away from Dabbous, it is worth coming to Barnyard instead?
Barnyard takes the site of former Indian restaurant ‘Curry Leaf‘ opposite the brightly coloured Mexican chain ‘Wahaca‘ on Charlotte Street. The venue has approx. 50 covers and will open daily from 12h00. The front is dominated by a large bar area with 15 seats. In a change from the venue’s previous incarnation, the downstairs area has been converted to storage and is no longer for public seating. However the rear of the venue has a mezzanine dinning area decorated with a wooden fence and filled with several rough, and rather uneven topped wooden tables. The non-banquette seating is cleverly recycled from oil drums. All that’s needed is a tractor and a few bails of hay to complete the barnyard theme.
The look and feel of the venue reminds me of Russell Norman’s Spuntino in Soho. Albeit a brighter, less grungy and an altogether more mature version. If Spuntino is a spotty teenager, Barnyard is its elder brother who finished uni a few years ago and is working on a grad scheme. It’s still young at heart but with more of nod to refinement. For example, although both venues have ‘brown paper menus’ Spuntino focuses on the beers and bourbon, Barnyard focuses on a selection of bespoke shandies and six hard shakes (also available sans-alcohol).
The head chef is the aptly named Joseph Woodland, formally of ‘Launceston Place’ who trained at Michelin-starred Restaurant ‘The Square’. The general manager is Charlie Boulton, formally of Burger & Lobster and part of the original opening team at Dabbous.
As with many venues the menu is a nice simple one page affair. Food on the front, drinks on the back. The dishes are divided into self explanatory sections marked ‘Pig’,’Cow’, ‘Chicken’, ‘Egg’, followed by ‘Vegetable & Sides’ and ‘Pudding’. There are 18 dishes plus 4 desserts on the day I visited. There is no ‘starter’ section as all dishes are the small plate variety. Just like Spuntino and Pitt Cue Co, everything arrives in the obligatory enamel coated camping bowls with distinctive blue trim.
The Drinks menu is dominated by the ‘Hard Shakes’ and ‘Shandies’ with a large ‘Beers’ section. The beers are all available as Boilermakers (i.e. for an extra £2.50 you get a shot of whisky). Fittingly for the venue of this style there are only 4 wines available. Diehard wine aficionados should probably venture elsewhere.
There are six different hard shakes, all at £6 (or £4 without the alcohol). They contain 35ml of alcohol in each, however if my memory serves me correct, the Meat Market hard shakes are a lot more expensive, albeit much larger. I didn’t try any of the hard shakes at Barnyard, however I did struggle to taste the bourbon in my last Meat Market shake, so if anyone samples one and can compare, do let me know!
Shandy for me evokes the simple mix of 1 part larger to one part lemonade. However, Baryard has five different variants on offer. Except for Hawksmoor and their rather stunning Shaky Pete’s Ginger Brew (Freshly lemon juice, gin, London Pride) I don’t recall any other restaurants or bars which have shandy or shandy-like drinks on the menu.
I sampled the Barnyard Shandy (a traditional beer and homemade lemonade, albeit with a shot of gin) and the Country House Shandy, (Elderflower, lemon, ginger ale, bourbon, Goose Island IPA). Much preferred the latter which had a nice bite to it from the ginger and hops… very different. If you like Hawksmoor’s Shaky Pete’s Ginger Brew you will definitely have fun working your way through the menu.
All desserts are £4 each. We shared the “popcorn ice-cream with smoked fudge sauce”. the smoked fudge a great little combo with the crunchiness of the popcorn offsetting the texture of the ice cream and the little pot of smoked fudge for self pouring giving a nice adult edge to a dessert.
My favourite dish was also the most expensive. The “Barbecued Grain-Fed Short Rib”, served with a homemade dill pickle, mustard and black treacle. For £12 you get two oversized mouthfuls. However, to put this into context, most dishes are only £3-6. A good alternative is the “Crispy Chicken Wings with Smoked Paprika, Garlic and Lemon” at £4 for 4 wings that’s a bargain compared to Dabbous where a mashed potato starter is £11.
If you’ve never tried it, order the “Gosnell’s Mead”. For a beverage I associate with debaucherous banquets of medieval kings it’s surprisingly pleasant. Unsurprisingly, as a drink made by fermenting honey, it is a little sweet for me. However, bear in mind that I find find ‘full-fat Coke’ ridiculously vile (For those unaware, a can of coke is more than 10% pure sugar, 35g per 330ml can).
I was pleasantly surprised by the offering at Barnyard. As the sibling to Dabbous I expected a quite expensive evening. However, it is definitely NOT a ‘like-for-like’ alternative for those unable to get into Dabbous. It is a completely different style of venue. Do not expect Michelin Star white tablecloths and silver service. This is more of a fun venue for a drinks and food with your mates. I will definitely be back.
EDIT: 22-Mar-2014: Amended “a can of coke is more than 1/3 pure sugar” to “a can of coke is more than 10% pure sugar” – Thanks to Tim for spotting the error.