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Shoreditch Aesthetes Are Having Another Crack at Making Elite Cooking Feel Like Home

Blue Mountain School and Maõs founders James and Christie Brown will open Cycene with Theo Clench, formerly of Portland and Akoko

A chopping board with a single knife on it in the foreground; in the background, a konro grill and white tiles.
A still-life at the Blue Mountain School restaurant, in its former guise as Maõs.
Tomas Jivanda

The founders of a minimalist haven in Shoreditch are having another go at making elite level cooking feel like an evening at (a very, very nice) home.

James and Christie Brown will open Cycene at Blue Mountain School with chef Theo Clench in October 2022, expanding on and replacing Maõs, the idiosyncratic tasting menu experience that actually lived up to what is normally marketing gobble. It went on to earn a Michelin star, marred by the sudden and tacitly acrimonious departure of its opening chef and star name, Nuno Mendes.

When the Browns announced the closure of Maõs, the reason was that it had served and exceeded its purpose: the 16-cover, communal table, tasting menu-only, dinner-only operation regularly had a waitlist of over 100 per service. It’s therefore no surprise that Cycene has expanded its footprint, introducing a ground floor bar that will only be open to diners and will anchor the start of a meal that will move through the building, by now a common practice in ambitious restaurants with the square footage to pull it off. The price of admission will be £160 per person, with a single seating per night but staggered tables, in order to manage the flow.

A woman sits on a windowsill, with a man standing next to her; a second man sits in the doorway to the right.
Christie and James Brown, with chef Theo Clench to the right.
Blue Mountain School

Following snacks in the bar, diners will be served their second course literally in the kitchen, living up to the restaurant’s name: cycene means “kitchen” in Old English. That kitchen, too, like Cycene itself and a very famous online egg, is bigger than before, with “fermentation lockers” joining dry-aging fridges for both meat and seafood: one of Clench’s most favoured preparations is a slow-cooked, aged turbot served with changing accompaniments and caviar, a dish he adapted at both Akoko and Portland and will be bringing to the table here, alongside mackerel with plum, shiso, and dashi; and oysters with cucumber and more caviar.

In the dining room, the rest of a 10-course menu will include a bread course with three butters, because of what the chef “considers as the often under-appreciated craftsmanship of producing the perfect loaf.” With much of that under-appreciation coming from bad restaurant bread, he will be keen to ensure his own is a corrective. There will not be a fully open kitchen, but instead the design will offer “glimpses” through “new openings” introduced in the refurbishment.

With wines put together by James Brown, and a range of kombuchas and “elixirs” making up a soft pairing, it feels uncontroversial to say there are once again stars in the eyes on Redchurch and Chance Street.