Overseeing two sizeable restaurant operations simultaneously may seem infeasible to some, but Robin Gill has a plan. When asked how he intends to divide his time between his latest restaurant venture, The Yard – which opened within the Great Scotland Yard hotel in London’s Westminster at the tail end of last year – and Darby’s – the New York-style neighbourhood restaurant space he launched across the river in the capital’s Nine Elms district last summer – his response is that he intends to travel between the two on a bicycle.
In contrast to Darby’s more classical approach, Gill describes his vision for The Yard as being “a refined version of The Dairy”; a reference to the Clapham-based modern bistro he owns with his wife Sarah. Both champion ingredient-led, British food, with The Yard combining ‘old-school culinary craftsmanship’ with evocative theatrical presentation to create an elevated dining experience that’s befitting of the hotel’s exclusive SW1 postcode.
The site itself is steeped in history, dating back to 997 when part of it was gifted to King Kenneth III of Scotland as a residence for when he travelled to London to meet the English monarchy. It’s best known, though, as being the former headquarters of the London Metropolitan Police Force, which occupied the premises for more than 200 years.
Originally the plan was for Gill to only oversee the restaurant, but that has subsequently grown to include all food and beverage within the Hyatt-owned hotel. The breadth of the operation is certainly bigger than anything the Irish chef restaurateur has tackled before, which perhaps explains why he’s brought along two close allies for support: former The Hardwood Arms head chef Alex Harper, who worked with Gill for two years at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in the noughties, has been appointed executive chef; while Lewis Wright, who spent more than five years working as general manager at The Dairy, comes on board here in a similar role.
The Yard has the grand air of a British countryside retreat; both in the cooking and the interior design (overseen by HBA designers). The 63-cover dining room boasts tall, barrelled ceilings, vintage lamps, and tanned leather banquettes. Similarly to Darby’s, it features an impressive open kitchen, with a central parrilla grill (as part of the deal with the hotel, Gill was given carte blanche to design all the kitchen and back of house spaces).
Harper and Gill’s ever-changing menu has an emphasis on meat and fish, with sample mains including jowl of Tamworth pork with apple purée, cabbage, and toasted caraway; Cornish cod served with a delicia pumpkin ravioli, and a shellfish bisque. Its Sunday roast is a haunch of Berkshire venison, with duck fat potatoes, braised spiced red cabbage, and hunter’s pie.
As the hotel’s central restaurant, The Yard also features an extensive breakfast selection. Its in-house bakery prepares all the pastries and bread while a butchery allows for all bacon to be cured and smoked on site. A signature full English breakfast sits alongside more international flavours, with smoked eel congee with warm egg yolk and nori; and buttermilk and brown butter waffle served with smoked bacon and maple syrup also featuring.
Beyond The Yard, Gill’s remit includes a number of smaller bars and tearooms including, most strikingly, the 40-cover Sibín drinking den, which is accessed through a portal hidden behind a bookcase. Here the offering is focused more on snacks and small plates, with plenty of bold, punchy flavours – smoked eel served with olive and chilli; and a caviar and bone marrow toast, served with braised beef and red wine shallots – to sit alongside the extensive whisky selection.
Then there’s the 28-cover Parlour tearoom which, suitably, looks like the sort of drawing room Hercule Poirot would gather guests to deliver his damning verdict. Working with Rare Tea Company founder Henrietta Lovell, and pastry chef Veronica Martinez, Gill has created a tea menu that includes crab tart with lime pickle; pate en croute with ‘Coronation flavours’ and mango chutney; and a pecan and granny smith apple tart.
Where Gill goes from here, of course, is anyone’s guess. As well as The Yard, Darby’s, and The Dairy, he owns two other restaurants in Clapham: casual neighbourhood bistro Sorella; and rotating chef residency spot Counter Culture, described as being The Dairy’s naughty little brother. Gill has previously said the dream “is to create an institution, similar to likes of The River Café or St John; that’s the goal”. Let’s hope he keeps his bike tyres pumped up.
3-5 Great Scotland Yard, London