There are two overused clichés that spring to mind when one learns of the “top chefs, mixologists and sommeliers” that had a hand in creating Ember, the new late night drinking and dining destination on Pudding Lane. Spruiking a restaurant with a DJ booth for dining and dance, a cellar for small group gatherings, and a hidden bar for whiskey and sake tastings begs the question: is Ember trying to be too many things to too many people?
Will it be a case of “many hands make light work” or “too many cooks spoil the broth”? Happily, the reality is far more of the former and only one or two cases of the latter; namely in the slightly bored looking DJ looking down at diners from her perch. But as for the food and drink, those top chefs, mixologists and sommeliers seem to be working in perfect harmony to make light work of a pleasant evening at Ember. Food is at the hand of executive chef Jonathan Villar, formerly head chef of Peter Gordon’s (now closed) Seven Dials cafe Kopapa and, more recently, a brief stint at Antipodean-style eatery Bronte in Trafalgar Square.
In throwing lesser-known flavours into the mix, Villar has managed to inject fresh life into the archetypical Asian-European fusion cuisine. Think Korean ‘pajeon’ king prawns with calamari fritters and a spicy jam of chilli, wasabi and beetroot, inari tofu with an urad dal curry and coconut sambal, and the insta crowd pleasing wagyu beef and foie gras burger with smokey miso relish, streaky bacon and oozy Gruyere cheese on an avocado bun – as carbfree as a burger comes.
Every dish on the menu has been designed to be paired with items from the extensive cocktail and wine list, whether it’s the Vietnamese goat curry with a light, fruity Gewürztraminer or the curious (but quite nice) hot-smoked salmon cheesecake with a Junmai sake. Signature cocktails are presented under the auspices of light, medium and dark: a refreshing Kimchi martini for lunch or pre-dinner, the rich and nutty River Dragon during the meal, and the Kiuchi Highball to wind down – though by the sound of the Japanese whisky, sherry chocolate bitters and amber ale concoction, the party might be just getting started.
There’s also the Kitsune, a cocktail designed to cleanse the palate with an Acmella Oleracea (otherwise known as an electric daisy), which alters your taste receptors in what is an odd and not exactly pleasurable experience, but one you’re unlikely find anywhere else in these parts. In fact, the only stereotype Ember does succumb to is in its name – a reference to its location in Pudding Lane, widely accepted as the starting point for the Great Fire of London. But with a launch amidst all the pomp surrounding the 350th anniversary of this catastrophic event, it is unlikely to spoil the broth.
1A Pudding Lane EC3R 8AB