Burn the formal white tablecloths and fling open the kitchen doors. The latest craze in restaurant culture is open-fire cooking – where chefs sweat it out over roaring flames in full view of their customers. And the simple, raw nature of this method of food preparation seems to have set diners’ imaginations alight.
‘Cooking outside over flames is primal and in our DNA as human beings,’ says Andrew Clarke, co-founder of Acme Fire Cult – one such restaurant in Dalston, north London. ‘The smell of woodsmoke and animal fats hitting the hot coals stirs up something deep inside.’ For Tomos Parry, chef and co-owner of Brat – another open-fire restaurant – the flavour that can be achieved from this style of cooking adds an extra dimension to most dishes. ‘All of your five senses are engaged,’ he says.
The sensory nature of the experience is important, too. Hearing the crackle of coals, smelling the wood char and watching the beads of perspiration on the chefs adds an energy that closed-kitchen eateries cannot match. Want to see for yourself? Follow Spectator Life‘s guide to the fire-led London restaurants worth trying and the chefs fuelling the trend.
Probably the most experimental eatery on our list, HUMO’s menu is a love letter to flames and wood. Executive chef Miller Prada (described by his family as a ‘pyromaniac’) uses different stages of the fire that blazes within his glamorous Mayfair restaurant to ensure every dish touches it in some capacity – whether it’s slow-cooking a cauliflower by burrowing it into ashes, using oak fumes to smoke potatoes or tenderising lobster over the dying embers.
He uses different types of wood – oak, silver birch, beech, cherry and more – to create different flavour profiles. ‘I’ve made many mistakes regarding how to use each type of wood to truly accentuate the ingredients.