There’s purity in food cooked over fire that I love. I crave the richness of the meats cooked over the flames. I love my vegetables charred and caramelized. Whenever I smell wood smoke in the air it captures my soul for a spell. It whirls me around in its wisps and makes me think of the seasons, warmth, friends and cooking. For me, when you are eating something that is warmed by smoke and enveloped in it, it feels cared for, and most importantly it evokes a caveman like insatiable hunger, strongly influenced by millions of years of evolution dating back to our ancestors cooking over open fires. It is a smell that literally rocks my dawn-of-man world! So when I found out about Embers, an exciting newly opened concept in dining, where everything is cooked entirely over local ash and birch, my inner caveman went into overdrive, so I hoisted my wife over my shoulder and followed my nose all the way down there faster than you can say “yabadabadoo.”
A must-visit restaurant for anyone looking for a unique dining experience in Brighton. The open flame style of cooking used at Embers is truly something special, and the food is exceptional.
Opened earlier in month on meeting house lane by much revered Brighton chefs and long-time friends Dave Marrow and Isaac Barlett-Copeland, Embers focuses on “creating bold flavours from locally grown ingredients,” where everything is cooked in a medieval fire cage in the centre of the restaaurant. Embers also has a large focus on cocktails, with some exciting house signatures that seemed to pop out of the menu as soon as we were settled, just begging to be sampled. So of course we waste no time in ordering a spicy “Cadillac Jo’ Margarita” and a regreshing zingy “El Fuego” to enjoy while we peruse the menu and take in our surroundings.
It is obvious a great deal of thought has been put into the look and feel of the restaurant, the vibe is classy yet informal, with charcoal grey walls adorned with charred oak trunks, and and industrial griddle-backed bench stretching the length of the room. Piles of pre-cut logs are scattered here and there in handy positions for the chefs to come out from the bustling kitchen and grab to stock the fires. Some fortunate diners have got in before us and taken their seats at the pass, overlooking the theatrics involved in cooking over the charcoal barbecues, grills and a wood-fired oven. We are more than happy settled into one of the tables. The griddle-backed bench is suprisingly comforable and our delicious, rather potent, cocktails are taking affect. The chefs working their magic over the wood-fired grill produced an intoxicating aroma. I could tell that this was going to be a meal to remember. The menu is easy to navigate, with a choice of ten small plates and three more substantial centrepiece dishes. We opt to stick to the small plates so we can give the menu a thorough taste-test.
As we peruse the menu I see Alex Preston, the longtime sommelier of sister restaurant Isaac At, so I grab his attention and ask for a wine recommendation, knowing full well that we would be in safe-hands. We were not wrong. He swiftly appeared again with a bottle of Argentina Mendoza Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec and in true Alex style told us a lovely story about how he came across it when he contacted a supplier for a recommendation for a barbecue he was attending, and everyone loved it. Alex has had a lot of fun designing the select wine-list for Embers, tearing up the rule-book so there is nothing on there you would expect.
We begin with soused mackerel on beetroot sauerkraut, Bramley apple and labneh which was an absolute delight. The mackerel had a lovely light delicate flavour I was not expecting, the accompanying sauerkraut and apple did well not to overpower and was somewhat soothed by super creamy tangy lebnah. A dish that challenged, excited, and refreshed our pallettes all at the same time!
Next up, melt-in-your-mouth, sticky aubergine that had an exquisite smokey essence, on a bed of delicious piquant stewed caponata and Tahini cream to bring it all together. I could not get enough of this hearty dish, which went very well indeed with the next plate that appeared; smokey chicken leg with honey butter and n’duja aioli, which was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. The chicken was so succulent and juicy, and the aioli added a unique twist to the dish. It was smoky, sweet, and savoury all at once. Superb!
The next dish to arrive was one that had caught my attention and had me salivating as soon as I saw it on the menu. Trenchmore Farm Wagyu steak with Roscoff onion and coffee hollandaise. What a treat it was too! Cooked to perfection. The meat was so tender and juicy that it practically melted in my mouth. The smoky flavour from the wood grill gave it an extra depth of flavour that was hard to resist. The uniquely mild flavour of the Roscoff onion and the buttery tang of the hollandaise were genius accompliments that allowed the distinctive flavour of the meat to shine!
Whilst we were savouring every mouthful of Wagyu another dish appeared. Creamy “bonfire” potato, which happened to go very well with the steak and had a lovely flavour you can only get from cooking potato over flame and futher enhanced by black garlic and onion seed crumble.
Our final small plate was particularly interesting in that it defies the norm, pairing ingredients from farmland and the sea to produce an inspired combination of flavours that somehow worked in total harmony! Scorched Sea-Bream on a bed of earthy heritage grain, with smacked cucumber and chermoula. A wonderful array of flavours and textures cooperating to compliment the delicate taste of the fish.
For dessert, we shared the banana split, which was a classic dessert done with a twist. Served with toffee sauce, pralines, and lashings of parsnip and rosemary ice cream which was rich and creamy with a subtle flavour that worked well in contrast to the other super sweet ingredients The truffle cheese on toast was another standout dessert. It was a unique twist on a savoury dish that worked beautifully. The truffle flavour was subtle but definitely present, and the Tunworth cheese was perfectly melted with almost a cloud-like consitency. A superb way to end our evening!
The overall experience at Embers was outstanding. The food was exceptional, and the service was top-notch. The staff friendly and welcoming, taking the time to explain the cooking techniques and ingredients used in each dish. The ambiance was cosy and inviting, and the open flame cooking added an element of excitement to the meal.
In conclusion, Embers is a must-visit restaurant for anyone looking for a unique dining experience in Brighton. The open flame style of cooking used at Embers is truly something special, and the food is exceptional. The Wagu steak, chicken with coffee aioli, and sea beam were standout dishes, and the banana split and truffle cheese on toast were perfect desserts to cap off the meal. I can’t recommend this restaurant enough. Foodies of Brighton and beyond, you need to try Embers.