Embers Isaac Bartlett-Copeland Dave Marrow Credit David Charbit

Embers restaurant are making fine dining accessible – new summer menu review

indulging in their concept of wood fire cooking and friendship

I first knew of Embers when I smelt it. Wandering around the lanes, it’s impossible not to sniff the burning of wood as this new restaurant prepares for an evening of cooking. It’s one of my favourite smells, and I have the ‘embers’ White Company candle to prove it. Tucked down Meeting House Lane, this spot unsurprisingly became a must-try. When I saw that they had announced a new summer menu, I had to be one of the first to try it.

One of the best things about food is, and always has been for me, the stories that come with it; the memories that taste can unlock. One Christmas I was in Berlin and, roaming around the food markets, I noticed these large cuts of salmon being smoked and cooked on planks of wood over an open fire. The smokey, woody flavour consolidated for me that this is how food should be made and enjoyed – using our elements to take charge of the finest and best ingredients. That, I presumed and hoped, is what I was getting myself into by entering a restaurant named Embers. 

Embers bar image by David Charbit

Founded by chefs Dave Marrow (previous head chef at Terre a Terre) and Isaac Bartlett-Copeland (owner of Isaac At), this was guaranteed to be a culinary adventure.

Their goal for Embers was to create an inclusive space with the concept of fire and friendship. The smaller, dimly lit space made for a romantic atmosphere. It accurately imitated that feeling of chatting with mates over a campfire. Located in the center of the dining area was the food being charred and roasted in the medieval-style fire cage, as the chefs waltzed around their counter space. Locating the kitchen right in the middle of the restaurant really highlights the importance of finely made dishes, and the care that goes into every detail, every garnish, as it travels just steps to your table. It is high end food which feels as though it has been prepared exclusively for you in your own home. 

The lovely waitress was very happy to answer questions about the menu, and point out the specials. But first, we each ordered a cocktail. The Contractor’s Lady (£11.50) – dry gin, apricot & peach, citrus – was extremely smooth and sweet. The Lychee Martini (£11.50) – lychee liqueur, pink gin, chambord, citrus – was fresh and even more sweet. They were both served in martini glasses, and garnished accordingly. Alongside our hand-crafted cocktails, were some complimentary olives, which was a pleasant way to establish our meal. 

cocktails Image by David Charbit

For food, we were spoiled with the choices of small plates, or show stopping center pieces fit to share.

It was recommended that we ordered 6-7 small plates between two people, or 2-3 small plates plus one central sharer. We opted for the small plates in order to try more creations, which had an equal balance between vegetarian, fish, and meat dishes. Plus, it should be noted that a lot of the vegetarian plates were also vegan, and many of the options were also gluten free making this a reasonably inclusive menu. 

Following staff recommendations, we ordered the beef short rib and chicken leg which were noted as regular customer favourite plates. We also went for the sea bass, charred broccoli, charred peppers, and sticky aubergine. 

In two pairs of three, our dishes quickly appeared. The ability to witness our food being cooked, plated, and travelling straight to the table made the experience immersive. We first tried the beef short rib with anise glaze and wasabi mayo (£12) which was unbelievable. Even the diner on the table sitting next to us said, “that’s amazing that beef is” as he watched the plate land in front of us. He was not wrong. It was so soft, and that glaze was so sticky. The mayo was not harsh either. It answered Dave and Isaac’s aim to deliver simple yet punchy and memorable dishes with the very best ingredients. 

Dave Image by David Charbit

The Chicken Leg was next and if you think ordering chicken is a predictable choice, think again.

It was possibly the favourite dish of the night. Served with honey butter and pul biber aioli (£10.50), the flavours were dreamy. Chicken meat succulent, with charred skin which tasted perfectly burnt, do not underestimate the simplicity of this dish. 

With our first round of plates, we were also served the charred broccoli with sweetcorn cream, mole and hazelnut (£8.50). The crispy parts of the tender stem had a hint of saltiness to it. Swiping through the sweetcorn cream created an interesting earthy, smooth concoction. Two of my favourite vegetables evidently deserve to be together. 

Once we had cleared our plates, they were taken away and out came the second half of our dinner.

This also became a drink interval for our second round of cocktails. We went for Alessandro’s Legacy (£9.50) which was served in a wine glass. A delightful, botanical spritz of Chenin Blanc, Brighton Gin, italicus, and cucumber. This was a great pairing for the fish which then arrived. The sea bass with salsa rosso (£13.50) flaked apart with the touch of a fork. It was salty, fresh, and the salsa had a stunning little kick. 

Next was the sweet bell pepper (£9) on a mound of butter beans, tomato and chilli oil. My dining partner was not overly keen with the overall texture of this plate. The butter beans were not to her preference, but I swept them up and ate what she didn’t with pleasure. While I enjoyed this plate, I personally believe the beans somewhat stole the show from the pepper. They, instead, should have been the focus. 

Finally was the sticky aubergine (£8.50) which was very rich. The mysterious “sticky” had a very pungent taste which we admittedly enjoyed more once we gave it a chance. Balanced with the fresh, sweetness of the other dishes, this one struck as slightly unusual. With the kimchi carrot top, it was extra sharp. 

It was impossible to resist a desert

especially when we read ‘The Rolo’ and identified that as the gorgeous looking chocolate pudding the gentleman sat beside us had just delved into and enjoyed. Chocolate, caramel and burnt butter ice cream (£9), we shared this sweet treat and glad we did so because it was very rich. Like a hard ganache in texture, with an oozing caramel middle, it imitated its chocolate inspiration well. I enjoyed how the burnt butter ice cream was on theme for the embers element of the restaurant, though it made the pudding even more sweet. Again, we wiped the plate clean, entirely satisfied with the luxurious tastes of our dinner.

Embers chilled chocolate fondant Image by David Charbit

Embers is certainly a fine dining experience but one which is inviting and more casual than what you may expect. There was immaculate service, great care to details in every dish served, and an atmosphere that is quietly seductive. They take a classic barbecue, the key to any English summer, and transform it into this concept which is so refined yet modest. Reserve this restaurant for a special occasion or space to impress as the menu is not cheap, but it’s definitely worth coming here at least once. I would personally love to return, with rotating specials, and centrepieces still to try. Now, everytime I embrace that smell of burning embers, my mind will travel back to my evening at 42 Meeting House Lane.

Book a table on the website HERE

Read our review of The Seahorse on the seafront HERE

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