Most of the city’s rash of meat joints have chosen trendy parts of East London or super-central locations to ensure constant footfall, so I was quite interested to see just what Meat Yard had to offer that might tempt customers to dine in the brutalist shadow of the Hammersmith flyover.
Its location may not be the most salubrious, but on entering it looks like they’ve taken careful lessons from their Eastern cousins. Walls are covered in artfully distressed wooden panels, old cinema seats and metal crates have been repurposed as benches, and once you open the (actually very lovely) mottled glass door there’s a great heaving wash of meaty smell to greet you. I also noticed a small, tell-tale sign on the wall: “If you like our décor, get in touch with our designers” (but sadly, no accompanying sign reading “If you don’t like our décor, here’s a map to the nearest Habitat”).
Yes, this is perfectly distilled hipster chic. Although it seems thoroughly weird complaining about anything being faux-hipster. I thought that was the whole point. I digress.
The menu is limited, and despite the name there are no steaks in sight. Instead, the Yard serves up a range of burgers, traditional beef, brisket and the ubiquitous pulled pork. There’s also ribs on offer and typical (and less typical) sides. Mac n’ Cheese is everywhere, but it’s not often you see jalapeno poppers outside a Papa Johns.
Our waiter recommended the brisket, so we took them up on that, but also tried a chicken salad, with fries, the aforementioned poppers and some hot wings. Because hey, we’re greedy bastards. As it was lunchtime and I try to limit my vomiting in marketing meetings to once a fortnight, I swerved on the Mint Juleps and tried a schooner of the Yard’s own pale ale to wash things down.
Service was prompt at this point, although the waiters have obviously been practicing their spiel and are a bit too keen to read it out without letting you speak. Calm down lads, it’s a burger, not a timeshare.
My brisket burger was… okay. There were too many white onions involved, and the slices of brisket are disappointingly thin. The taste is excellent, but it’s all a little bland compared to some of the other smoke houses in town. The salad is similarly ’fine’. It comes with generous slices of chicken and large crunchy croutons, so it’s hard to knock, but also hard to praise. It feels as though this food needs something to make it stand out from the crowd.
Moving on to the sides, fries is fries, so we’ll leave them out, but the poppers were a disappointment. The peppers are too hard, and could have done with some pre-frying to mellow them out before being finished. The hot wings are very good, although conversely, not that hot. It’s good chicken with a nice smoky-sweet saucy, but it doesn’t quite achieve that sinus-searing effect that I’ve come to expect.
As we finished, it was also difficult to attract the staff’s attention to get the bill. Normally I’m not bothered by this, but it was both quiet, and a lunchtime, when staff really should be aware that customers might be in more of a rush than usual.
Overall Meat Yard is unexceptional. In the interests of fairness it has opened fairly recently, so there are kinks to be ironed out, but the key here would be to concentrate on the food. Beef brisket should be big, bold and incredibly moist. Mine was lacklustre and too dry, a sin almost unforgivable in a smokehouse, where long slow cooking is the rule.
Nestled as it is next to the Apollo, I’ve no doubt that I’d rather stop in here for a pre-gig bite than Nandos down the road, but as a destination dining experience there’s a lot of work to do.