Industrial-style decor in a trendy lunch/brunch spot.
Pros: charming decor, good atmosphere, no-fuss food
Cons: slow but abrupt service, limited menu options
Yard does not go that extra mile to impress. When I arrived, two tall, blond waitresses greeted me and informed me – not exactly with aloofness, but with a like-it-or-lump-it attitude and no apologies – that there was no record of my 1 p.m. reservation. The less brash of the two pointed to the bar, really a wooden perch separating the tight 32-seat dining room from the small open kitchen. While waiting for my drink order and, more importantly, my friend, who was running late, I examined the menu and watched the chef in action. It looked promising.
Located in a former working-class neighborhood now squatted by architects who have turned workshops in quaint alleyways into designer office space, Yard has a distinct Londony, New Yorkish feel. It is the exclamation point of a family business that restores houses, workshops, furniture, masonry, you name it, steered by patriarch Mike Dotter and his sons, while the restaurant is the brainchild of the matriarch, Jane. The spare, attractive industrial-style decor, as unflashy as the food, is mostly black and white, with dashes of red, burnished metal and unvarnished wood. A tiny antique hearth serves as the bread stand. I could not figure out what the tarnished-metal lampshades, hanging above us like large cowbells, might have been in their previous existence.
Behind me were many English-speakers and early lunchers – most were already nearly finished with their meals. The limited daily déjeuner menu was a mouthwatering read. I was thinking about starting with the tortilla with red onions and mint, followed by the encornets pili-pili (squid with pili-pili sauce). And there they were, served up on the counter for another customer, looking scrumptious. By 1:15,when I was starting to drool, one of the waitresses flipped her long ponytail over her shoulder and struck both desired dishes off the list, cutting the menu by a quarter. My second choice of entrées, tarte feuilletée aux oignons et sardines, was also gone. But at last my pot de vin blanc arrived, though direct from a box and not very cold.
By the time my companion showed up at 1:30, the menu had been slashed in half. What was left? Of the first courses, velouté de champignons and oeufs durs et mayonnaise. We ordered one of each and, lo and behold, neither was disappointing. The soup was a delicious mushroom, garlic and walnut mélange with a splash of olive oil on top. And what could be so great about a hard-boiled egg? The superlative sauce: pale-yellow homemade mayonnaise with fresh tarragon and piment.
Only two main-course options were left: filet mignon de cochon and maquereaux au vin blanc. Just as they were served to us, in walked a man we took to be Dotter himself: a tall burly lumberjack type in stained work clothes. His fawning daughters served him a gargantuan steak (which was definitely not on the menu). Meanwhile, the kindly chef with orange-tinted specs quit his den to apologize for the ecrasée de pommes substitute with the pork – would we prefer to wait for another batch of the promised pommes grenailles? Non. Both dishes were fine, although the pork was on the dry side, and the mackerel, which came on a bed of caramelized onions and potatoes, was slightly greasy.
When the dessert of fresh strawberries arrived, dotted with more fresh tarragon, my friend commented, “It must be the trendy new herb.” I admired the unusual pairing, which, appropriately, felt like spring exploding on my tongue (it was an unseasonably warm, sunny day). Other dessert offerings were fromage blanc au miel and crème de marrons.
When we left, we took a long look at the charmingly lopsided white-brick building, with “YARD” painted in bold black letters on the facade of what was probably an old warehouse. We then wandered through the back routes near Père Lachaise Cemetery, anticipating the spring bloom, thinking that Yard might be worth another try, but definitely at an earlier hour.
Yard: 6, rue de Mont-Louis, 75011. Métro: Philippe-Auguste. Tel.: 01 40 09 70 30. Open Monday-Friday, noon-2:30pm. Sunday brunch: noon-4pm. Fixed-price menu: €18.
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