Eat Here: Ekstedt at the Yard, WestminsterBy Jake Hawkes
It doesn’t take a food critic to know that London is a crowded market for restaurants. Seemingly every street inside the M25 has a dozen eateries jostling for attention, so it never hurts to have a unique selling point – as long as it doesn’t devolve into being just a gimmick.
Ekstedt at The Yard, named after owner and Michelin-starred chef Niklas Ekstedt, takes this to heart. Like Ekstedt’s first restaurant (located in his native Sweden), all of the cooking on Ekstedt at The Yard’s menu is done using open flames. No electricity, no gas, just wood fires. It might sound limiting, but their menu proves that limitation can be a valuable tool when creating something unique.
Seaweed baked leek might not sound too exciting, but paired with trout roe and infused with the smoke of an open fire, it’s genuinely delicious. The same can be said for the smoked venison, thin, melt-in-the-mouth slices, paired masterfully with pickled lingonberries and thyme emulsion. For anyone whose only interaction with lingonberries is at the IKEA canteen, it’s a must-try.
Mains are similarly inventive. All are necessarily centred around the charcoal notes of the cooking style, but it’s incredible how different the other flavours manage to be. Juniper smoked duck is a deliciously decadent slab of meat, paired with an onion tart clad in fluffy, crumbly pastry. The whole grilled red mullet is a refreshingly generous size for a fish course. Flavour wise it leans into the liquorice tones of dill and fennel, as well as delicate samphire, all adding to the fish without overwhelming it.
Desserts are a more mixed affair. Don’t be scared by the accompaniment of a ‘sourdough ice cream’, the wood oven-baked apple tart is a real highlight and the perfect sweet note to end the night. The smoked dark chocolate mousse cleaves a bit closer to the dominant smokey flavour of the evening, but doesn’t quite hit the mark in doing so. There’s something about a charcoal-tinted dessert which is quite overwhelming, and the sweet pickled cherries which are dotted throughout don’t do enough to cut through the flavour. It’d be a nice novelty as a small portion, but here it ends up just a bit too much.
Alongside each of these dishes is a wine list with a nice twist – one of the options is to pair each dish with a wine from a volcanic soil, with each vineyard’s origin explained via a QR code. It’s not something we’ve seen before and is a good way of offering something a little bit different without compromising on quality.
Overall Ekstedt at The Yard takes what could have been a flash-in-the-pan gimmick and elevates it to a unique and unforgettable experience. When hundreds of restaurants are offering the same thing, the smokey notes of an open fire are just what you need to cut through the noise.
For more information on Ekstedt at The Yard, see here.
3-5 Great Scotland Yard, London SW1A 2HN