Timberyard opened in August 2012, a family run restaurant with chef Ben Bradshaw in charge of the kitchen and assorted other family members playing other roles. The family had previously run two restaurants in the city called Atrium and Blue, but shut these due to rent increases. The culinary emphasis is on local ingredients, including foraging, and modern rather than traditional cuisine. There is a small garden behind the dining room where herbs and vegetables are grown. The dining room has the exposed brick industrial feel that is now required by law in all Scandinavian-influenced restaurants, along with tattooed waiters. The menu is fixed with varying lengths, from four to eight courses (£55 to £75), but there are vegetarian and pescatarian alternatives available. The dining room is huge, and tables are well spaced, though the lighting is so low that you will need illumination to read the menu. There is a wooden floor, bare tables and a central bar as well as an area for drinks before dinner. The kitchen is also vast, with around ten chefs working at a given shift.
The wine list was lengthy at around 400 references, with an emphasis on natural wines. Example labels were Domaine Perillieres Costieres de Nimes 2014 at £23 for a bottle that you can pick up in the high street for £8, J.J. Prum Bernkasteler Badstube Spatlese 2009 for £62 compared to its retail price of £24, and Vino Tondonia 1994 at £135 for a bottle that will set you back £70 in a shop. They also had a particularly superb sweet German Spatlese by the glass for dessert.
The restaurant makes its own bread, a white. To be honest it left a lot to be desired, as it was quite hard and lacked flavour. It also needed more salt, which to be fair was provided on the side. Still, this was far from good. I love bread and am a big fan of restaurants that make their own, but they need to do it better than this (11/20).
Some nibbles began the meal. Oyster came with kohlrabi and turnip. This was pleasant but mostly tasted of kohlrabi (13/20). Mushroom and tarragon broth had reasonable depth of flavour but was not quite hot enough (13/20). Raw scallop, daikon, and apple came with a parsley sauce and smoked roe. This was OK but the scallop was tiny in relative terms, and you mostly tasted the radish and the dominant parsley flavour (12/20).
Mackerel with beetroot, horseradish, buttermilk and sorrel was a better dish. The mackerel was nicely cooked and tasted fresh, and the beetroot was excellent. For me the horseradish was too subtle, but the balance of the dish was good (14/20).
Mallard came with onion, chanterelle, elderberry and grains with chard and was another good dish. The mallard was cooked pink, the chard was fine and the onions were particularly nice, sweet and enjoyable (14/20). This was followed by slow cooked duck egg with mushrooms, truffle and crisp onion on top of the egg. This was pleasant but no more, and needed more texture contrast for me (13/20).
The final savoury course was loin of 50 day aged beef with carrots, some of which were pickled, along with kale and shallots. The beef was fine, though in some ways the carrots impressed me more, the pickling juices providing useful balance to the dish (14/20).
For dessert, there was a pre-dessert of locally foraged Japanese wine berry with dill, a sharp but pleasant enough precursor to the final course (13/20). The dessert itself was a let-down for me, apple and gooseberry paired with milk, sorrel and pine. The fruit and milk were OK but the shrubbery was an unpleasant guest at the feast. Nobody wants for their last meal on earth a dessert filled with vegetables and herbs (11/20). Coffee was excellent, provided by a London roaster called Assemby, who work with a range of independent suppliers.
While this was not the kind of food that I really like, I do want to highlight the service, which was dazzlingly good from the moment that we entered the restaurant. Every member of staff that we encountered was friendly, professional, helpful and charming. A three star Michelin restaurant would be pleased to have a service team of this standard, which doubtless is a significant factor in the commercial success of the restaurant. The bill came to £125 a head, albeit with lots of very good wine. A typical cost per head if you shared a modest bottle would be around £85 a head. This to me seems like a lot for the quality of food that appeared, though I can forgive a lot because of the stunning service.