I say unfortunately because it’s not to say this city centre restaurant isn’t any good. Far from it, the food is quality, and surprisingly “cheffy” for the price, served with real attention to detail and flair. The service is excellent, too – the staff are affable, attentive, and fast.
What’s not to like then? Tucked away at the bottom of The Calls, the chances are you’ve been outside Shears Yard, and the chances are you walked straight past. Sitting across from a row of other successful restaurants on the river, such as Ambiente and Brasserie Forty 4, doesn’t help. Neither does the fact that it’s all just a bit grey, literally and figuratively speaking, starting with the large concrete wall at the entrance, leading into the dimly lit, dull outside space. It’s neither “gritty urban” nor “modern sleek” enough to make an impression.
Head down the steps into the restaurant, and the same can be said of the inside – warmer and brighter, but it’s still not sure of its identity. The bar area has plenty of space for a pre-dinner drink, and is well-stocked with superior spirits, and prides itself on its seasonal cocktails.
We head straight through to the dining area which is effectively one big open room which lacks any real atmosphere, but does at least have some style, with exposed brick, simple wooden chairs and tables, and low hanging light bulbs. While the venue itself might not be too inspiring, the food and drink is anything but, especially when considering the price. If you come between 5.30-10pm Tuesday-Thursday, and 5.30-7pm on a Friday, as we’ve done, two courses are £16.50 and three courses £19.50.
The star of the early fixed price menu though could well be the wine. Our white is light, fruity and quite possibly the best house wine I have tried – and just £12. Soft chunky bread is immediately brought to our table, quickly followed by our onion and truffle soup. If you are not too sure about the idea of soup during our “tropical” summers, don’t be put off. It’s light, not too warm, and has bags of flavour. Other starters include rolled pig’s head & ham hock terrine, and Mackerel fillet mi cuit.
The quality is maintained with our grilled plaice fillets, nori butter sauce, wakame, samphire & cockles, roast cucumber, and dill hash brown mains (sides are recommended as the portions are fairly modest in size.) If anything, there is almost too much going on with the dish. That said, the salty cockles work beautifully, adding another layer of flavour.
While it’s unlikely to live long in the memory and become a long-term favourite, for this level of quality at these kinds of prices, it’s likely most diners will forgive the restaurant’s shortcomings. It might be a little on the dull side, but Shear’s Yard is still most definitely deserving of a visit.
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