‘It’s not just a restaurant, it’s a cult!’
That’s the slogan on the wall that greeted me on my way to the toilet. I asked my waiter what it meant, to which they said: ‘You’ll know when you try the menu. This is barbecue food, but not dude food. Don’t expect any burgers and bangers.’
This new live-fire restaurant is the brainchild of chefs Andrew Clarke and Daniel Watkins, who both used to work at St Leonards. Together, they’ve opened their first permanent site at 40FT Brewery in Dalston after a series of successful pop-ups.
Acme Fire Cult has created a vibey hangout out of a dusty car park next to the brewery and Dusty Knuckle bakery. The live-fire concept idea is a simple, sustainable and collaborative one. The brewery and the restaurant work together to use beer by-products like yeast and grain that go into ferments and hot sauces, while leftover spices are used in the drinks.
I visited on a gloriously sunny Saturday in May (the perfect weather for a barbecue) with two friends and sat outside on the terrace under a string of lights and heat lamps on a folding picnic table strategically in full view of the impressive tiered barbecue set up. Paradoxically, there’s actually not that much meat on the seasonal changing menu. Vegetables are the stars of this show.
Leeks! Sexy! Who would’ve thought?
Take the sharing plate of leeks, for example, a smart and sexy dish that demands your full attention. Charred just enough until the layers softly fall apart and covered with a vibrant green pistachio romesco sauce it was a creamy and smoky match made in heaven. Leeks! Sexy! Who would’ve thought? I could’ve easily eaten a plate to myself.
Meanwhile, a grilled cauliflower with a blackened char edge intoxicated the palate, while the toppings shocked: plenty of pickled red onion, chopped mint leaves and jalapeños. Things were swiftly followed by Dorset crab on toast with bone marrow, salted cabbage and jalapeño verde and a seven day-aged red mullet with crab caramel and wild garlic – both beautifully balanced, fresh and divine.
Alongside the food, there are ten beer taps and a special-edition ale brewed each month by 40FT to pair with the menu. It’s not just brews: there’s also wine and cocktails featuring classic Negronis and Margaritas.
Acme Fire Cult is performing a valiant public service in east London to provide a strong barbecue option. I finally see what this ‘cult’ stuff is all about: fire always excites and draws you in. Consider this my application to join.
What is it? A barbecue restaurant in a Dalston car park.
Why go? For an ingeniously creative and thrilling veg-heavy charred menu.
The vibe? Barbecue, smoke, beers, terrace, sun and fun. Need we say more?
The food? A smoky, smart and fun veg-centric barbecue menu.
The drink? A crafty selection of beers from neighbours 40FT Brewery, a succinct wine list from wine expert Holly Willcocks (ex-Noble Rot) and a concise cocktail menu.
Time Out tip? Wait for good weather, sit outside on the terrace and order the leeks if you know what’s good for you.