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Please note that tables of up to four people will be reserved for two hours and tables of five or more will be reserved for two and a half hours.
As well as looking pretty cool in the kitchen, cooking over a licking flame transforms the flavour, texture and appearance of your food. And flame-cooking is going through a renaissance in the world’s best restaurant kitchens. The tepid days of vacuum-packers and sous-vide machines are being edged out by a new era of open fires, smoking grills and burning embers.
In Sweden, Niklas Ekstedt’s ground-breaking restaurant has just a fire pit, wood oven and wood stove in the kitchen. In Argentina, Francis Mallman’s Seven Fires restaurant uses seven different stages of flame, all in the open air, to create his legendary food. Meanwhile, in the southern states of America, barbecue pitmasters are just as revered as any chef in whites… or more so! This is the age of the flame.
A flame is a magical thing; it has different characteristics from it’s heart to the tail, and of course ‘fire’ can mean anything from glowing embers to a roaring furnace. Each type of heat will give a different balance of charred, smoky, caramel flavours. The chefs at Barbecoa have a full range of flame to play with, including Japanese robatas, an Argentinian grill, wood-fired oven, Texas pit smoker and a tandoor oven.
From executive head chef Steve Pooley
We can raise and lower food on our Argentinian grill, to change the temperature it cooks at. It has this huge wheel that cranks the grill closer or further away from the flames. You can get food as close to the fuel as possible, then quickly winch it up to cool down.
When we cook bigger cuts of beef such as Chateaubriand or rib-eye, we roll and temper the meat on an open flame grill, then we continue the cooking on a much slower heat. It keeps the meat tender all the way through and gives it a lovely flavour on the outside.
We use an internal coal-fired oven for fish and chicken wings – it gets fantastic results. We move all the coal to one side to create two heat levels. We sear the meat on the hot side of the grill and then move it to the cooler side to cook through. The lid creates perfect oven conditions.
We use a coal pit to impart smoke and gentle heat into food – I think the softer types of heat are often the more intriguing. We cook anything from potatoes, aubergines, langoustines or a dirty steak in the pit. Or we might hang food over to get heat into it that way.
Our naan breads are all cooked in the tandoor. We make the dough the night before and let it prove, then roll it out and slap it straight onto the inside of the tandoor, which is a like a deep furnace. The chefs who do the bread often have no hair on their forearms because it’s so hot!
I love to start things off in the cinder pit and finish them in the smoker – it’s a great technique for beetroot or artichokes. You almost scorch the food and then add depth of flavour in the smoker. We use the smoker for all sorts of ingredients, like butter, nuts, tomatoes, garlic, oils.
It may be the very oldest method of preparing food known to man, but there’s a lot to be said for reconnecting our food with the flames.