When Ollie Dabbous opened his eponymous restaurant over two years ago it was seen as the big revolution in the British food scene. Not bad for a relative unknown who had trained in all the best places and yet was not on the radar until Fay Maschler gave him 5 stars and pronounced Dabbous a ‘game changer’. From that February moment, it became the impossible place to book and frankly I kind of lost interest in trying.

Two years on and he has opened his new place, Barnyard, in Charlotte Street. This time, presumably to avoid the issues and bad press he had about booking a table, he adopted the fashionable no booking policy. Problem solved. Or is it? Now the poor young man at the door has to manage the constant stream of trendy Londoners that appear daily, descending with all sorts of reasons to queue jump. Yet they handle it impressively well. It really is first come first served and all with an energetic smile and professionalism that pervades all of the staff.

I tried to get in early on just a couple of weeks after opening hoping that it was before the hype caught on but sadly that was the week the Evening Standard review came out and I was told the wait was over 3 hours. Not for me! I just turned around and made for home.

My Hedgerow Shandy: pink grapefruit, tonic, sloe gin and Wyld Wood cider served in a chilled half pint glass. Very refreshing

My Hedgerow Shandy: pink grapefruit, tonic, sloe gin and Wyld Wood cider served in a chilled half pint glass. Very refreshing

Yesterday I was in London for an appointment and thought I would try again. I got there early at 5.30 and it was surprisingly quiet for a gorgeous sunny day in Charlotte Street. JR was at least half an hour away so I put myself at the bar and ordered one of the signature shandies. These are more cocktail than traditional shandy and the flagship of a clever bar menu of well balanced drinks combined with local beers or ciders. The chilled glass and pink tones were ideal for a girlie like me and I happily took in the surroundings and watched the world go by.

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It seems the whole industrial look has overstayed its welcome. We seem to think that trendy means not so comfy and my barstool was in much the same vein as those at Grain Store. The walls are all corrugated metal and open brickwork. The lights are the trendy green New York look. My wait gave me time to take in the Barnyard styling and I could imagine the many meetings that had taken place choosing not only the signature menu items but also the decor. Picket fencing, enamelware and galvanised metal were the order of the day with the staff in ho-down style checked red shirts. So far so farmyard.

The menu was more compelling. Simply segmented with sections entitled ‘pig’, ‘cow’, ‘egg’ etc., it all looked wholesome and yummy. I was hoping this was going to be good honest homely cooking with the twists that we have come to expect of Mr Dabbous.

When JR arrived they sat us down straight away although rather annoyingly said we had an hour for the table. I hate that! Why can’t they just manage it to time without making me feel bad about sitting there? Anyway, I was more than ready to order and we shared a mix of dishes from across the menu. They recommended 3 each, but we ordered 2 each plus one extra veg dish and that was plenty for such rich indulgent food.

Spot the measly beef short rib at the back

Spot the measly beef short rib at the back

So did it live up to the Dabbous reputation? Sadly not. Some things really did and others were really lacking. Having spoken to the barman at the end, he seemed surprised that we said this and put it down to the fact that we were expecting gourmet cheffy stuff but that wasn’t what it was at all. Whilst the sausage roll was nicely done, the piccalilli wasn’t as flavoursome as I had wanted even with that great mix of well prepared veg. But it was the barbecued short rib that let the whole meal down. It may have been, as the barman said, cooked for a long time but clearly someone forgot to put it anywhere near a BBQ! The best thing on that plate was the home made dill pickle. We couldn’t help comparing the rib to those served at Pitt Cue Co. They have been doing wonderful BBQ beef ribs for years now and frankly they are setting the benchmark. And the charred broccoli felt like something Ottolenghi put in his salads yonks ago, just without the chilli.

That sauce is to die for

That fudge sauce is to die for

Yet, when it worked it really did have that element of style and surprise that I had so wanted everything to have. The corn on the cob was served in butter flavoured with meadowsweet. I have to admit this is my first experience of that particular herb and it was almost medicinal but definitely added a contrast to the sweet buttery corn. And the crispy chicken wings were fab with a great hit of citrus coming through. By far my favourite thing was the smoked fudge sauce that came with the popcorn ice cream. Personally I could take or leave the ice cream but that sauce alone restored my faith in the whole place. It was just immaculate. And absolutely what I had wanted to get from this talented team.

We walked away fearing that we were too old to embrace this experience. But the truth is that we have simply seen it too many times before. The whole enamelware and industrial vibe really has been there and got the t shirt. I am glad I have tried it and funnily enough it made me want to go to the real deal more than wanting to go back there. If I was in the area and could get in, then yes, I may repeat the experience but there are so many places in London these days that I think it is the last time I will be line dancing towards the Barnyard for quite some time.

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