Barnyard is a restaurant I’ve been wanting to try out for a while now. It’s the second effort from chef and co-owner Ollie Dabbous – who appropriately also started the self-titled ‘Dabbous’ on Whitfield Street. Barnyard is right around the corner on Charlotte Street and I’ve passed it several times with more than a little curiosity.
A colorful, neon Chicken sign shines out on to Charlotte Street from under the corrugated tin awning and over the white picket fence. Both the awning and fence are appropriately beaten up, rusted, faded and peeling away in the same way the high street jeans you just bought have been expertly sand-blasted and ripped to look like they were purchased in the late 90s.
Grimey-Posh has been the fad in London for a while now – both in decor and in the onslaught of over-priced “fast foods”. Barnyard may be posh-grimed decor, but it’s much more than just pumped up junk or fast food: it’s homestyle comfort food at its best. However, being London after all, the portions are typically small, the prices predictably high and the grime and decor well-calculated by a zealous 20-something in Buddy Holly specs.
I’ve seen this decor before in places like Spuntino and Bubbledogs, but perhaps never so thoroughly and effectively as in Barnyard. I bought into the surroundings even though Ive seen these high tables and stool-chairs in countless other places. That neon chicken sign might have kept me at bay for a while, but I was ready to see what beef Barnyard could muster up.
The Bavette de flandchet is a French cut that is more commonly (and generically) called the flank stead in English. Bavette is a specific part of the flank though – the upper part which might be considered the cows abs – if a cow were ever inclined to do any crunches.
The bavette cut is less tender than fillet, but much less expensive and often overlooked. It can be braised, grilled or shallow fried and I find it much more enjoyable than a typical rump steak.
The bavette steak at Barnyard was expertly cooked, and served with a dill pickle and dipping sauce that is somewhat tangy yet creamy. Like a rump cut, it’s important that one doesn’t overcook a bavette steak. By its nature, it is more fibrous and the worst thing you can do is to cook it into an unchewable mass.
Barnyard happily served mine up just at a medium rare level. It was still cooking itself and ended up at a medium, but I was very satisfied both with the size, taste, and the texture. At £15 for the steak, it’s the most expensive item on the Barnyard menu. I recommend adding an order of their warm cornbread to accompany the steak – it goes perfectly to mop up the juice and in the sauce. The cornbread comes served in warm paper bag with a “baked-on” date printed on it. It has perfect little chunks of sweetcorn in it and is just the right balance of sweet and savoury.
The other entrees on the menu range from £7-13 and include little delicacies like a homemade sausage roll with piccalilli, bubble & squeak with apple chutney and a fried egg, or crispy chicken wings. One thing that I must state is that the other three people eating with me were all a bit disappointed with their portion sizes. I think that the entrees are probably intended for sharing at around 1.5-2 per person – but this wasn’t explained by our server, so my colleagues learned the hard way!
The chicken wings, which are intended as a buffalo wing-esque attempt at the American version fell a little short in my estimation. The sauce was certainly spicy, but lacked a tang and instead came across as having too much citrus. The wings were a good size, but I still have yet to find a really solid London buffalo sauce.
One major negative that one encounters at Barnyard is the cost of drinks. A bottle of beer (such as Camden Hells, Goose Island IPA, or Coopers Pale Ale will set you back a fiver. That’s for a bottle, not a pint. Shandies cost £7.50 and even the soft drinks are £3.50. I know this is central London, and I know that restaurants make their margins on the drinks, but this is a little excessive. The one drink menu item that seems a bit reasonable are their shakes; £5 gets you a standard vanilla, or funky popcorn, bubblegum or gingerbread shake. For £7.50 you get to add a shot of bourbon or golden rum to harden things up a bit.
Overall, I guess this is a mixed review. My meal was great and priced as I would expect – but my colleagues all thought they were shorted by the sizes and the prices. The steak is well-worth it and I would recommend it whole-heartedly. For a reasonable steak in a relaxed environment, it’s hard to find one with more flavour.
You can visit Barnyard at 18 Charlotte Street, London W1T 2LZ or visit their website here.