The Ninth, Charlotte Street

After spending five months on the road it has been a joy to rediscover the food scene in London. The Ninth is one of the many new restaurants to arrive in the capital recently. I rarely visit any eatery more than once, but in the last two months I’ve been to The Ninth twice, an obvious sign of my admiration. This sophisticated but discreet venue on Charlotte Street is the first solo venture for Jun Tanaka, a chef whose previous credits include stints at The Square, Brasserie Chavot and Pearl. He has created a menu which celebrates the seasons with imagination and flare, and the dishes served have a French feel while illustrating Tanaka’s eclectic influences.

The Ninth is particularly reasonable at lunch when two plates cost £17, or three are £21. I found the menu exciting and varied with deliciously inventive dishes like Nettle and fregola risotto with grelot onions and yoghurt or the vibrantly fresh and simple Asparagus with truffle butter and crispy egg. One of my favourite dishes was the crispy duck salad with blood orange and pomegranate, the perfect combination of irresistible meat with sweet tangy fruit.

Venture off the set menu to enjoy richer recipes from the a la carte. The dishes change regularly depending on produce. When I visited I enjoyed the silkiest cut of lamb with a Mediterranean mix of wild garlic, tomato confit, courgettes and lemon.

Dessert was my favourite course. The Pain Perdu with vanilla ice cream was utterly delicious, a melt-in-the-mouth sugary delight that was both light but indulgent. Guests can also choose to order the Tarte Tatin to share with rosemary ice cream, a classic French pudding made in a rustic style with an unusual flavour of accompanying ice cream.

This little unsuspecting venue is one of my favourite new eateries to eat at. With an inspiring menu of delicious dishes and prices that won’t make you wince, The Ninth is the perfect place to dine on Charlotte Street.

More information and book a table at The Ninth here.

Barnyard, Fitzrovia

If you are happy eating at an anti-social time then you might just get a table at Barnyard, otherwise you will have to queue with everyone else for hours. Ollie Dabbous is certainly playing hard to get… his first restaurant Dabbous is fully booked seemingly forever and Barnyard takes no reservations so you cannot get a seat without paying your dues in the line. By the time you get your hands on some food you are positively starving.

The young chef’s newest venture is very different in style to his first but the culinary creative streak is still very evident throughout the innovative menu and delicious dishes. With just 36 covers, this tiny venue has a cosy feel. Unlike the utilitarian Dabbous, Barnyard is immediately noticeable with a wooden fence containing the front exterior, corrugated iron walls inside, rustic plank tables… basic but charming decoration. It is a warm and welcoming place, I felt like I was entering Aunt Em’s house, in a scene from The Wizard of Oz. Staff are extremely friendly and unassuming, rare in a restaurant of such hype. They seemed in no hurry to usher us out despite the growing, groaning line outside.

Our waiter cheerfully arrived at our table with brown paper menus, “You got the memo then?” he said gesturing towards my red checked shirt, almost identical to the uniform he and his colleagues were wearing. It wasn’t planned but I was pleased to feel part of the Barnyard crowd.

Food offerings are listed simply with unusually flavoured shakes and shandies (beer cocktails) on the reverse side. The prices here are admirably reasonable, no item is priced over £12, most cost between 3 and 6. I assumed each would be tapas sized, but in reality they are much larger, the staff recommend two to four each depending on hunger. Ignoring the experts advice, we ordered nine between us. Of the drinks, the popcorn milkshake (with optional Bourbon) was a slightly nutty, comforting drink, but a little thin. I would highly recommend the Shandies, apparently the Country House Shandy is the bestseller but with an absence of Goose Island IPA, we chose Hedgerow Shandy and the Dandy Shandy which was my personal favourite. Light, refreshing and subtly hinted with fruity and spicy hints, these drinks are a genius companion to the cuisine on offer.

Just a week since opening, Barnyard already had established favourites on the menu, which we soon gathered were the chicken wings and popcorn ice-cream. Alongside these delights we ordered Homemade sausage roll with piccalilli, lard on toast, mince and dumpling, warm cornbread, cauliflower cheese, fresh fries, charred broccoli vinaigrette and corn on the cob with salted butter and meadowsweet. Unusual flavours are Ollie Dabbous’ speciality and they are employed throughout all these recipes. Everything was exceptional, but here are a few of the foodie treats we particularly enjoyed: the chunky hearty sausage roll encased in a flaky buttery pastry was addictively good, it would be an ideal lunch snack. I loved the floral buttery salty corn on the cob which arrived with a thick screw through the centre presented in a ceramic mug and lard on toast was rather unattractive – a gloopy sheen on crunchy bread, but the flavour was fabulously fatty and delicious. The chicken wings were the winner on the table though – spicy, succulent, tender and garlicky morsels of meat, and at £4 for four they really are a bargain.

Cauliflower cheese had a spicy kick which I guess is from mustard in the sauce. Fries were extra thin and crispy, not dissimilar to the McDonalds variety! The broccoli had a pleasant charred taste and was coated in a subtle, creamy sauce.

Desserts are priced at £4 each, we shared the famous popcorn ice-cream with smoked fudge sauce and the warm acorn flour waffle with chocolate and malt. They arrived within a few minutes, carefully presented, classy puddings. If you can only manage one to share, order popcorn ice-cream which is served soft and whipped accompanied by crunchy caramel popcorn and a slightly bizarre, woody, smoked fudge sauce. The waffle is more classic, served with a thick rich chocolate sauce and contrasting malt flavoured cream.

Casual, carefree with cheap prices and comforting food, this little barnyard is inclusive rather than exclusive. Another hit for Ollie Dabbous.

More information and see the menu here: www.barnyard-london.com