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Original ‘Come Dine With Me’ Winner Has Opened a Restaurant in London

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Craig McAlpine has opened Ember on Brick Lane in Shoreditch

Chef Craig McAlpine has opened a restaurant called Ember on Brick Lane in Shoreditch
Ember [Official Photo]

A 2005 winner of one of the U.K.’s most bizarre, cult TV shows has opened a restaurant in Shoreditch, Eater has learnt. Chef Craig Ian McAlpine, who won one of the original series of Come Dine With Me in 2005, has opened Ember — his first restaurant in London, a grill restaurant serving “small plates with international flavours” on Brick Lane.

McAlpine, identified in programme notes nearly 15 years ago on the first series of the popular Channel 4 reality show, as a “super suave 25-year-old”, was at the time a PhD student. Following his victory, he changed careers, eventually founding a private catering company called Bespoke Cuisine.

More recently, McAlpine worked as head chef at The Yacht restaurant on Victoria Embankment and consultant executive chef at Hotel Indigo in Leicester Square. Ember, his solo debut is described as “an intimate space of 36 covers with a large open kitchen at the back where guests can see chefs in action.” The menu, McAlpine says, “pays homage to the finest seasonal produce, sourced from carefully selected suppliers, letting bold flavours take centre stage with a Mediterranean influence.”

Inside Ember in the evening
Ember [Official Photo]

Where there has been a recent trend for modern European restaurants to place emphasis on “coastal cuisines,” others, like McAlpine, have elected to split menus into “Earth, Land and Sea,” — aka vegetable, animals, and fish or The All-Foods Trinity. All or most of the produce at Ember will be cooked over embers on a grill: Ember-baked celeriac hummus, olive oil, hazelnuts, and kale; smoked sweet potato, garlic, and verbena harissa; whisky-cured hot-smoked salmon, celeriac, and green apple remoulade; and grilled slow-cooked pork belly, smoked aubergine, and beetroot purée. The chef who practices a gluten-free diet will include a number of dishes on the menu without wheat, including the not-Mediterranean crispy buttermilk chicken, hand cut slaw and chipotle aioli effort.

Scottish malt whiskies and South African wines have been selected in a nod to McAlpine’s heritage. A weekend brunch menu will feature eggs Benedict; pea, rocket, and new potato frittata; French toast with maple syrup and bacon; and Scottish peat-smoked smoked salmon and scrambled eggs.