Ember, on the street where the Great Fire of London started, wants to light a fire in City workers' bellies

 
Steve Hogarty
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Wagyu beef and foie gras burger, served in a seeded avocado bun

Opened in October of last year, Ember is a smart, subterranean drinking and dining spot on Pudding Lane with a focus on pan-Asian cuisine, original cocktails and small sharing plates. Expect contemporary presentation with carefully considered flavours and curated drinks pairings, rather than the Chinese curry from your local.

In the evenings the place takes on a bouncier atmosphere, with a live DJ dropping what I am assured are sick beats and spinning up the decks with all of the latest grooves and tunes.

WHERE?

1A Pudding Lane, by Monument. Famously the ignition point of the Great Fire of London (I worked out why it’s called Ember all by myself), Pudding Lane is now somewhere you can get really good tofu tempura. Mind you don’t stroll right past it though. The underground restaurant is remarkably well-hidden, with just a closet-sized lobby at street level leading downstairs to the renovated basement. The cosy, vault-like interior is like descending into the bowels of an industrial age factory, inside which somebody’s built a cool and sophisticated, mid-century whiskey bar.


The basement bar area, leading to a private dining room

WHO?

Chef Jonathan Villar (previously head chef at Peter Gordon’s Kopapa) has created the menu at Ember, which brings together elements of Vietnamese, Singaporean and Thai dishes. The drinks menu is curated by wine and sake sommelier Jean-Louis Naveilhan, who’s moved here from Mayfair’s Sumosan, while the space itself is designed by the award-winning Ross McNally using copper and teal furnishings from renowned British designer Tom Dixon.

ORDER THIS...

The menu is divided up, not by origin, but by style, so pick and choose from categories of Crispy, Steamed, Grilled, Curry and Raw & Cured. The cruel and ongoing psycho-culinary experiment of putting three of something on a sharing plate for two people comes into play with the prawn and coconut ceviche. The shiitake mushroom, spinach and tempeh dim sum is easier to share, and difficult to regret. Ask for cocktail pairings, too.


Prawn chorizo siu mai dumplings

BUSINESS OR PLEASURE?

There are several small private dining rooms for entertaining guests, and the tapas-like nature of the dishes means you can be in and out fairly quickly if you or your clients are pressed for time.

NEED TO BOOK?

It’s probably best that you do, especially if you plan on arriving later in the afternoon. The restaurant takes reservations at ember.london

THE VERDICT…

Diminutive sharing plate portions mean you won’t be snoozing at your desk in the afternoon, but your tummy will be grumbling again by dinnertime. But hey, that’s how tapas works, and it’s an excellent excuse to sample more of this eclectic and consistently surprising menu. A curious little venue hidden right under the City’s nose, Ember has something of a spark about it. And, I can only assume, impeccable fire safety standards.