Ollie Dabbous’s number two restaurant offers an approachable small-plate menu, often realised to a very high standard, at reasonable prices; the ambience is comfortable enough, though – for Fitzrovia – it does strive rather hard to be hip.
Dried flower arrangements. How achingly ‘now’. And how very 1964 too, as you can see at Pimlico classic La Poule au Pot. What goes around in the restaurant scene comes around, it would seem.
Apart from said flower arrangements, there’s not much décor at Ollie Dabbous’s much-awaited newcomer. The concept is, after all, agricultural. So the walls are covered with corrugated iron, and the furniture is unadorned and manly. Service? All in matching lumberjack shirts: Abercrombie & Fitch goes to Williamsburg. A bit odd in the heart of a traditional restaurant street that’s so far shown itself largely immune to ‘Polpo-isation’, and the crowd – at lunchtime at least – was about as un-hip as you can get.
Dabbous, as those not recently returned from Mars will know, is the Wunderkind of the London restaurant scene, whose original eponymous restaurant is famous – well, it certainly was was famous – for the length of time you need to book ahead to secure a table for dinner. We’ve frankly never been quite persuaded that there isn’t an element of Emperor’s New Clothes about the place, but we quite accept we’re in a small minority on the issue.
Here at Barnyard, small (enamel) plates are the order of the day, and the dishes have a sort of rustic simplicity that’s often beguiling. The sausage roll and picalilli – with its rich pastry and its carefully seasoned filling – was excellent. Mince and dumpling was similarly a general hit. Hispi cabbage with clover (and a generous hit of butter) was also impressive, and we enjoyed the cornbread, in its Dabbous-trademark paper bag, too. Popcorn ice cream with smoked fudge sauce was magnificently moreish.
There were also dishes which were more ho-hum. Broken eggs with mushroom and garlic were, surprisingly, rather in the could-do-this-better-at-home category. Fellow lunchers were also quite hard on the grain-fed short rib of beef, but we couldn’t quite avoid the feeling that they were applying standards more relevant to a grander establishment charging higher prices. Bills here are relatively moderate, and the overall package is hard not to enjoy.