I went there on a Saturday evening in April, expecting it to be rammed. Like Grace Dent, I was annoyed about the “no reservations” policy that seems to be the norm on Charlotte Street these days (see Review: Bubbledogs), so I made a contingency plan should there be a hefty queue. However, on arrival it was actually pretty empty (albeit at the early-doors time of 5:30pm – a quick pre-cinema dinner date before a trip to the Odeon Tottenham Court Road).
So I waltzed straight in and found my friend at the bar, having already made herself at home with a beer and some friendly barmen. We were greeted extremely warmly by the staff and shown to a prime table spot on the mezzanine level of the barn.
Despite the friendly atmosphere upstairs, it was absolutely freezing. When I asked the waiter if the air conditioning could be turned down a notch, he explained that the seating area is above the kitchen and gets boiling hot without the air con, so they have to turn it on and off. I spent the meal intermittently stripping off and dressing myself again while reliving painful memories of chemotherapy-induced hot flushes. Not ideal.
Anyway, the food. The incredibly cheerful waiter (who helped himself to a seat next to us while he took our order over a bit of chinwag) recommended two or three dishes each as the portions aren’t huge.
So I ordered the barbecued grain-fed short rib with homemade dill pickle, mustard and black treacle (£14), the chicken in a bun (£7), corn on the cob with salted butter and meadowsweet (£3.50) and cauliflower cheese (£3.50). My friend had the homemade sausage roll with piccalilli (£6), crispy chicken wings with smoked paprika, garlic and lemon (£5) and charred broccoli vinaigrette (£3.50).
It was good, but not brilliant. The corn on the cob was the highlight of the meal for me – amazingly sweet and juicy with a perfect amount of salted butter and lemoniness, but the short rib was just average and a bit greasy, and the chicken in a bun was a real let-down.
I guess I should have asked what it consisted of as I was expecting some sort of miniature chicken fillet in a burger bun but instead I got a long slither of chicken thigh in a sort of hotdog bun. Perhaps a bit more explanation on the menu would be good.
The chicken wings were pretty tasty – nice and zingy and moreish. My friend seemed to enjoy the sausage roll, but she did not go so far as to share Grace Dent’s opinion of it as marriage material.
We skipped dessert in favour of cinema popcorn, but from the look on the faces of our neighbouring diners, the popcorn ice cream with smoked fudge sauce (£4.50) looked pretty good.
The interior is bright and breezy and the staff are lovely – absolutely not a hint of pretentiousness. But some of the facilities could do with some tweaks, i.e. the aforementioned air con situation. I am going to assume they’ve sorted this out by now, but when I went to the loo (down some lovely barnyard-like rickety stairs with uneven steps) I found there was no water coming out of the tap and no soap from the dispenser. This made hand-washing rather difficult.
All in all, it was a decent meal in a pleasant and friendly spot, but the food is a bit overrated and overpriced, so I probably won’t rush back.
What we ate:
Me: Barbecued grain-fed short rib (£14), Chicken in a bun (£7), Corn on the cob (£3.50), Cauliflower cheese (£3.50), Country House Shandy (£6.50)
B: Homemade sausage roll, (£6), Crispy chicken wings (£5), Charred broccoli vinaigrette (£3.50), Barnyard Shandy (£6.50)
Price for two people for dinner:
£55.50 before tip (there’s no service charge)
Service: Really really super-friendly, if a little too much so
Value for Money: 6/10
Recommend? Maybe. But there’s nothing that really makes it stand out from all the other half-decent American food restaurants in London right now, unfortunately.
http://www.barnyard-london.com / 020 7580 3842
18 Charlotte Street, London, W1T 2LZ