Kellie Erm heads to Brick Lane to sample the small plates with big flavours at Craig McAlpine’s first solo venture, Ember in Shoreditch
Chef Craig McAlpine opened his first restaurant this April, combining fresh international flavours with the smoky coals of the embers the dishes are cooked over.
Some might recognise McAlpine from his time on television, as the first to win the original Channel 4 series, Come Dine with Me.
His win led to him pursuing a career as a private chef, first founded the catering company Bespoke Cuisine, and then taking on the position of head chef at The Yacht restaurant and consultant executive chef at Hotel Indigo.
At Ember, an intimate space in Shoreditch with a large open kitchen at the back, the menu is broken down into Earth, Sea and Land, where Earth is vegetarian, Sea is fish and Land is meat, creating the potential for exciting combinations of shared dishes,
I’m always keen to know what the chef’s favourites are, and we were recommended the roasted harissa-spiced cauliflower with yoghurt and a tahini dressing – an Earth dish with a delicate balance of smokiness in the cauliflower, spice in the harissa and a tangy tahini dressing.
‘The chargrilled sea bass with pickled greens and sherry glaze is definitely one of Ember’s standout dishes’
We also opted for the grilled Jerusalem artichoke with baked beetroots and a deliciously creamy goats’ curd, before dipping a toe into the Sea dishes.
The chargrilled sea bass with pickled greens and sherry glaze is definitely one of Ember’s standout dishes, with the pickled greens expertly offsetting the richness of the sea bass, and a deliciously crispy skin adding a whole other dimension.
Back onto dry land and we tried the crispy buttermilk chicken with hand cut slaw and a chipotle aioli, which had a very thin but utterly moorish crunch to cover the chicken. The chipotle aioli nicely tied in with the smoky theme of the other dishes.
Lastly we had the grilled flat-iron steak with smoked garlic, succulent heritage tomatoes and grape mustard, which really made the dish complete (I definitely could have taken a jar of that mustard home with me).
It is always impressive seeing a chef thriving in a one-man kitchen, and Craig McAlpine certainly does that. And with it’s excellent location right on Brick Lane, it certainly is a great spot for a Negroni and some sharing plates before heading out for further fun and frolics in Shoreditch.
202 Brick Lane E1 6SA; ember-restaurant.co.uk