Watch your dinner be cooked over a live fire at this restaurant
PUBLISHED: 19:00 10 May 2019
Chris Betts Photography
The new chef at Number 29 Burnham Market is giving an Argentinian vibe to the menu.
Cooking trends come and go…but some are here to stay. And one that isn't showing any signs of disappearing is cooking over a 'live fire'. Now that sounds a bit pretentious, because all fires are live. But in a commercial kitchen it's about cooking over real flames. Be it a trendy Big Green Egg, or an all-singing, all-dancing pit with a cooking surface that can be moved and lifted at the chef's will.
Why the hype? One of the leading figures behind the movement back to fire foods is Argentina's Francis Mallmann. Using wild, natural and foraged ingredients, the chef pieces together rustic but astounding dishes with a back-to-the-wilderness vibe which has seen his dining experiences become some of the most sought-after in the world.
He really has set the bar.
Now, while it can't claim to have the raw, almost caveman-like ethos of Mallmann's outdoor kitchen, one restaurant in north Norfolk is replicating the energy and theatre of the Argentinian style of cooking with its very own live fire pit and the new executive chef is relishing it.
Jeremy Parkes, formerly of Season in Wells, has just made the move to Number 29 Burnham Market where he's heading up the kitchens, while wife Rachael puts her expertise into practise in the dining room.
The couple were approached earlier this year by owner Tim, and have just reinvented the menu with at least one element of every single dish being cooked over flames. Be that a seasoning, garnish or the main element itself.
"It's pretty unique," Rachael says. "Because it's open plan it's really exciting - the customers get to see everything happening. We have at least two or three chefs on the fire section demonstrating all the different elements being used. That was our first objective when we planned the menu - to use the fire to its best capacity."
Jeremy is working with trusted Norfolk suppliers he already knows and others local to the Burnham Market area to ensure quality, and has even had specialist equipment made at Holkham Forge to further expand what he can do with the fire. This includes a cone shape which is filled with beef dripping to drizzle over Brancaster oysters, cooking them to perfection, and a disc to create Cambridge burnt creams - essentially branding the sugar on top of set custard.
The kitchen has its own butchery. And a plot of garden has been set aside for the chefs to grow some of their own produce.
Talking about what's on offer, Racheal says Jeremy has taken inspiration not just from Argentina but from around the world - there's everything from Swannington Farm to Fork steak with chimichurri dressing, to Lebanese flatbreads with Norfolk quail.
"Lobster wasn't on the menu before and that's proving especially popular. Customers can see it being cooked over the grill and we get those delivered fresh every day. Then there's hay baked cod, cooked in a wrought iron pan, which gives it a smoky flavour.
"A starter we're doing is slow-cooked fired lamb with a bulghur wheat and fresh herb salad. And for a vegan option there's cauliflower marinated with pomegranate, tahini and pine nuts charred over the grill.
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"There's a smoker within the grill so where we can we're using the residue smoke which comes naturally from the fire to enhance certain things, like belly of pork or salmon, before we cook it. And we're using residual heat for slow-cooking too."
What about the desserts?
"Recently we've done a spit roasted pineapple, slowing roasted above the heat. And there's a smoked egg custard tart. But a favourite of mine is the lemon panna cotta with homemade ginger ice cream and ginger crumb," says Rachel.
Alongside the food is an in-depth wine list and collection of over 100 rums. Owner Tim also has a restaurant in the Caribbean and is keen to broaden the spirit's appeal back here in Norfolk.
And, from June 16, there will be new, luxurious bedrooms to stay in as the next phase of the business's development comes to fruition. Rachael is really excited about those. "They are gorgeous. With luxury branded bathrobes and toiletries, and wrought iron beds and roll top baths. They're designed in a horse shoe overlooking the landscaped gardens and each room has a patio area so you can enjoy drinks or afternoon tea before going out for dinner. Three of them are dog-friendly too, with nice dog beds, blankets and bowls!"
Number 29 is open for breakfast from 8.30am, for lunch from 12noon, and runs its full menu from 12noon to 9pm.
A taste of the menu
Scallops cooked in the shell over hot embers with butter, garlic, hazelnut and bacon
Ginger, lemongrass, soy and garlic marinated salmon hot smoked with Asian salad
Hot smoked pork belly with dirty onions, dauphinoise potatoes, broad beans, peas and bacon
Flambadou halibut with mushrooms, salsify and citrus
Baked chocolate mousse with salted caramel, chocolate crumb and salted caramel ice cream
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