Review: No. 3 The Yard, Stamford

One of the joys in exploring is coming across the unexpected. I was reminded of this earlier in the year wandering around Hué in Vietnam. Walking down a busy main street I passed a narrow, obscure alleyway. It opened into a bustling market, completely hidden from the main street. Perhaps Stamford is a little less exotic, but it too possesses intriguing alleyways and hidden corners within its Georgian charms.

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The Yard, off Ironmonger Street, is a good example of this and No. 3 nestling within, your reward for venturing off the busy thoroughfare. This delightful restaurant is an oasis of calm encouraging one to slow down, relax, and enjoy some fine food and drink. The manager Chris and his team provide a warm welcome and friendly service with good bread and water offered the moment we sat down. Karen’s request for gluten-free was met with a positive response.

A yard within a yard if you like, the courtyard is a charming place to sit and the hanging baskets and warmer weather made us feel hopeful that summer might finally be here! The lunchtime menu is part set lunch and part ‘Courtyard Menu’. This menu is varied and offers nine dishes, of which I could have eaten all nine quite happily. The set lunch menu offers a choice of three each starters, mains and puds at £15.95 for two courses and £19.50 for three. The Courtyard menu ranges between £7.50 – £16, the first smoked haddock fishcakes and the last a large linguine with white crab, mussels, chilli, fresh tomato and white wine – which certainly appealed. Many of the dishes on this menu come in small and large portions.

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However the wild mushrooms on toasted brioche with a poached free-range egg was truly delicious. Karen thought I was being unadventurous but I really love simple food cooked well, and the simpler the dish the greater test I think of the chef’s skill. Escoffier once said a chef can be judged by how he cooks eggs and I love them cooked everyway possible – omelette, fried, en cocotte, sur le plat, boiled, scrambled… and poached. A perfect poached egg must be of even shape, neatly trimmed with a set white and runny yolk. Sounds simple but the eggs must be fresh (the white deteriorates with age and won’t set properly) and the water at a good simmer with a splash of vinegar, which helps to ‘set’ the albumen in the egg white. Of course I don’t know if this is how my egg was cooked, but the result suggests that it was. The mushrooms – a lovely mix of oriental enoki, oyster and shimeji with a few button mushrooms thrown in for good measure – were lightly bathed in a bit of cream with some étuvé leeks and everything reclined on a thick slice of toasted brioche. In case you are left in any doubt – yes it was very good indeed.

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Karen’s pan-fried salmon had a good crust yet was opaque and moist inside, served with a light hollandaise and salty marsh samphire – delicious. For dessert I had a mini selection of chocolate and pineapple tart, chocolate flapjack and Cointreau and white chocolate fudge – to which I have an addiction that quite frankly needs to be treated! Karen’s lemon posset with vanilla shortbread was actually my first choice, but she had bagseyd it already, although luckily for me was too full to eat it all. Shame. This old English dish of hot milk curdled with wine was a rather more refined version, silky smooth and luxurious it was simply wonderful and the homemade shortbread was excellent too – buttery and crumbly.

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Inside, the restaurant is divided into several different eating areas downstairs and up. There are also two slightly secluded rooms that seat about 10 and 14 people each – ideal for a private party. An exciting cocktail menu is also on offer and everything within a charming old building with exposed stone walls. To say it is worth a visit is something of an understatement. Next time you are in Stamford, actually just make a point of going anyway, slip away from the hubbub and enjoy great food at No. 3 The Yard.

Robin Stewart
The author:

Robin is the founder and head tutor at Rutland Cookery School. He also photographs anything to do with food, cycles, goes fishing and has two grown-up children. He lives in Oakham.