What: A luddite’s dream of a restaurant that eschews any form of modern kitchen tech in its kitchen (although we did spot a ticket machine). In Westminster’s Great Scotland Yard Hotel, Ekstedt at the Yard is located in the space that was once home to the short-lived The Yard by Robin Gill. The layout and design of The Yard by Robin Gill has largely been retained, with an open kitchen that’s been designed to feel like ‘an extension of the restaurant floor’.
Who: Top Swedish chef Niklas Ekstedt. Launched in 2011, his Ekstedt restaurant in Stockholm famously eschews all forms of electronic gadgetry, focusing instead on solid fuel cooking with food cooked on wood and charcoal-fired grills, stoves and ovens. The current holder of a Michelin star and a regular on the The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, it has been well-received. Ekstedt knows the UK well having lived on the south coast briefly as a child and is fairly well-known on these shores having recently appeared as a judge on the Channel 4 series Crazy Delicious alongside Heston Blumenthal and Carla Hall.
The vibe: The Yard by Robin Gill had only been open a few months when the pandemic hit, so ripping it up and starting all over again wasn’t really an option for the Hyatt-owned hotel. The 60-cover dining room retains its tanned leather banquettes and vintage lights, with the only difference being some new art and cooking paraphernalia hanging from the walls. Gill oversaw the entirety of the F&B programme at the hotel but Ekstedt is only responsible for Ekstedt at the Yard (his low-tech approach probably wasn’t deemed a great fit for breakfast and room service).
The food: The menu at Ekstedt at the Yard is billed as a greatest hits lists of the dishes served at Ekstedt over the last 10 years. There are two set menus: three courses for £75 or seven courses of £135. Key dishes include hay-smoked mallard with black pudding, trout roe, buckwheat and turnip purée; flatbread with seared smoked venison heat, allspice and lingonberries; and oyster flamabadou with apple, beurre blanc and nasturtium. There’s a fair amount of theatre involved, with the venison hearts cooked at table in a heated metal bowl and the oysters semi-cooked with aged beef fat super-heated in a flamabadou, a medieval-looking cast iron cone with a large opening at the top and a small one at the bottom attached to a long metal handle. While one would think soufflé would be low on the list of dishes that a kitchen with no access to stand mixers and combi-ovens would want to serve, Ekstedt at the Yard's sole dessert is a cep soufflé paired with pine needle ice cream and wild blueberries.
To drink: Each menu has a duo of pairing options, with alcoholic drinks priced at £80 and £50 respectively for the seven and three-course menus with non-alcoholic priced at £45 and £35.
And another thing: The restaurant was originally set to offer a la carte as well as its set menus but the offer has had to be scaled back due to - you guessed it - staffing constraints. Ekstedt got a few of his key staff in Sweden to help him launch his London restaurant but is now wholly reliant on the staff he has managed to recruit in the UK.