I have been looking forward to visiting The Yard for a while now. Just when you think Ely is done adding something new and exciting to the foodie scene it comes out with an absolute belter!
The Yard offers an all-in-one ‘ruin bar’ experience, similar to the ones found in places like Shoreditch and Budapest. For those of you unaware, a ‘ruin bar’ is a restaurant or bar which is run out of an unused building or shipping container and is usually located in cities. The original idea aims to cut overheads, which in turn reduces costs for the consumer. As ruin bars are smaller than a traditional shop they can also fit in more choice within a small area. These are great in the summer when people can enjoy a beer and some street food outside in a rustic setting and can really bring a forgotten part of a city to life. The Yard is a more polished take on what people may be used to with ruin bars but they do a great job of making it more accessible for everyone, other than hipsters.
By all-in-one, I mean that The Yard caters for everyone, whether it be to sit down with your laptop and study with a coffee, go out for a couple of beers with your friends, enjoy a dessert with the kids, or have something more substantial like lunch or dinner. The Yard is catering to a wide audience and is versatile enough to attract youngsters, families, and everyone in-between.
The Yard is operated by Silver Oak Coffee. Ely locals will already be familiar with them as they do some of the best coffee on the market square and are a trusted name throughout the community.
I tried to pop by on Saturday but found the place absolutely packed! It was great to see The Yard doing so well but it did mean that we had to come back another day. Some people were telling me there was an hour wait for food! This just goes to show that there is a very high demand for exciting new ideas in Ely. If you build it…they will come!
I decided to revisit on a Friday. I had a half day at work, so decided to pop down for lunch as I thought it might be quieter. The venue had a much calmer and more tranquil atmosphere compared to the bedlam of last week. I saw a few people working on their laptops with a coffee and several mums meeting up with their newborn babies. Even a few older gentlemen enjoying a quiet beer. Depending what time of the week you visit, The Yard will offer very different experiences.
There are 5 notable places within the site, which includes a children’s soft play area with a baby changing station/disabled toilets. This play area is aimed at very small children and won’t be suitable for kids over 5-6 but is a nice touch none the less. It feels like the team at The Yard have used the savings from running out of ruin bars and invested it into facilities like this, which I think is a good idea and gives the area a more community feel.
Since The Yard is run by Silver Oak Coffee, there is no surprise to see that there was a Silver Oak Coffee unit. I did not feel a huge urge to visit as most of us reading would have tried them before and know their coffee is excellent.
Naturally, I headed to the bar which is in a yellow container. There was a selection of beer, cider, wine, spirits and cocktails. Cocktails started from £7.50 and beers hovered around a fiver. The chap behind the bar has worked across the city, including The Poets House. Because of this, even though I did not try the cocktails myself, I have high hopes that they will be decent. If anyone in the Cambridge Pubs has tried them then please let us know how you got on!
There is beer and cider on tap. The beer is called ‘Hey Day’. This is a lager type beer which reminded me of an easy drinking San Miguel but much smoother and perfect for casual summer drinking. It was £5 a pint but you could buy a 4 pint pitcher for £18, saving you £2. I love the idea of the pitcher. It reminds me of the days playing pool in WT’s. In the age of beer prices being out of control, offering a bulk buying option is a great way to help people beat costs. Top marks!
The cider was ‘Pheasant Plucker’. A name clearly designed to catch out the people who have too much to drink at the bar. I am not really a big cider fan and I am probably not best qualified to claim what makes a great cider but after sampling some I was blown away. I ended up ordering a pint immediately!
What attracted me to this cider was its sharp tangy flavour. It was crisp and cloudy at the same time with a bold orange colour. Better still, it was sessionable at 4.5% meaning it wasn’t going to make you hit the floor after a few. In fact, I liked it so much that I went home and started Googling more. I will certainly be having that again!
The multicoloured container at the back provides ‘street food’ which is ordered and then collected through a gap in another container to the left. You are notified when your food is ready by a portable buzzing device. This device is very helpful, as you are able to sit down and relax while you wait for your food without having to hang about awkwardly by the hatch causing unnecessary congestion.
The menu was quite good and offers things which aren’t available elsewhere in the city. Most notably a rotisserie with a choice of chicken and pork, or smash burgers. There was a Plant Board with a generous selection of vegan options too. Unfortunately, it was lunch time and the lunch menu was very limited.
In fact, if you were looking for meat, then your only option was the smashed burger. The rest consisted of tofu tacos, a vegan burger, and plant based meat balls. This will be a refreshing change for the vegetarians or vegans out there who often have to suffer a token option at the bottom of the menu, like at my visit to Haynes the other day.
We both went for the smash burgers. These came to £12 each and were accompanied by a side of chips. The electronic alert made life easy and meant that we could sit down at the table and enjoy our drinks without having to worry about missing our order.
The burgers came out in a fair amount of time. Visually they looked fantastic. They were a good size, had thick cut tomatoes, and fresh green lettuce. The meat was well seasoned too. My wife and I were in agreement that the burgers were enjoyably thick and juicy, which added great texture to the bite. This is exactly what you want from a burger but we both found the overall bite to be lacking in flavour somewhat.
The chips were a huge letdown and some of the most sad, limp, and lifeless chips I have ever seen in my life. If I had ordered these separately, I think I would have made a complaint but since they came with the burger, we suffered through them.
I ordered some ‘cabbage and apple’ slaw on the side. This was a good portion with thick cut slices of cabbage. Unfortunately, I struggled to find any apple other than a big chunk, however I did manage to find a chunk of cabbage stalk 🙄. The slaw was essentially cabbage and mayo and very disappointing.
There is plenty of shelter outside but as we all know the English weather is very changeable. Upon arriving it was lovely and sunny then suddenly it was pelting it down. This was not an issue at the time as it was not very busy and there was space for everyone to sit under the shelters outside. During the more busy times this may become a problem, luckily they have thought of this and offer a lounge where people can go to sit indoors. The room is filled with booths which are equipped with usb charging. A great hangout place!
My wife decided to go for some dessert, so naturally this gave me an excuse to have some too without feeling guilty. There was a choice between dessert cones, American style pancakes, and specials like tiramisu and apple crumble. Unfortunately, the tiramisu and apple crumble were not available at the time. There were also gluten free and vegan options available.
I am a sucker for cheesecake, so my wife picked out the cheesecake cone. I must admit, it was absolutely fantastic. The only issue with it is that it’s hard to take a bite of all the layers when it’s in a cone but I enjoyed it either way. My biggest gripe was the cost, which came to £6. It’s hard to tell by the photo but it was very small, being the same size as a cornetto. I couldn’t help but feel a little short changed.
My wife ordered the chocolate pancakes. These came to a much more reasonable £4.50 for three. This felt like a much better deal than the cone as each pancake was very thick and the dish was large enough to fill you up. It was presented excellently and the chocolate was slathered on top. Unfortunately, there was a real bitterness to the chocolate which made the pancakes hard to finish. I am not sure if this is intentional but we had to leave half of it. I would love to know other people’s opinions on this in the Cambridge Foodies.
There is so much to get excited about at The Yard. There is something for everyone and there is nowhere else in Cambridgeshire like it – making it a truly unique experience. I can really see this being a great place to go out for drinks, host events, and bring the family for something to eat and drink when it’s quieter.
There are a few teething problems reported on the Cambridge Foodies with orders and organisation, which can (and hopefully will) be remedied down the line. This is completely understandable during the first few weeks and I have no doubt that this will be resolved. Just keep it in mind when planning your visit.
The biggest weakness for The Yard in my opinion was the food. We left feeling that for £30+ for two burgers and a side was just too much for the quality we got, especially when it came to the slaw. The same goes for the dessert. It was great to finally get smash burgers in the city but are a million miles away from the quality you can get at Grill Plug.
With that said the coffee, beer, and cider are all fantastic. You know the drink is good when you arrive home and start looking up what you had on the internet. I feel that going for a drink is a real strength of The Yard, especially in the summer.
The Yard is going to be great during the day time for a coffee or to relax in its tranquil outdoorsy atmosphere and buzzing at night when it gets more crowded. I predict that this could be a very popular hang out spot and an ideal place to meet up and rendezvous.
Thanks for reading!