Eat Here: Amber, Aldgate EastBy Alicia Grimshaw
Aldgate East is on the up. Not a statement I thought I’d ever say, but true nonetheless. The area has seen some vast regeneration in recent times, and there’s now a Curzon Cinema (ooh, fancy), independent eateries, decent bars that don’t smell of stale cigarette smoke, and Amber – a new casual, all-day Middle Eastern restaurant.
Amber has stayed true to the philosophy of eating around the Middle East, where dining is an experience to be shared with friends, family, lovers, something that brings you closer together and reminds us of the real meaning of breaking bread. Here’s what you need to know:
Amber: The Lowdown
Taking the ancient amber trade route as inspiration, the new opening offers an authentic, yet modern take on Middle Eastern fare. Amber serves food throughout the day, but if you’re coming, come for dinner.
The restaurant is tucked behind the Curzon (simply ditch Citymapper and follow the signs). With natural light flooding through the floor to ceiling windows, and a warm, low-lit ambience, the large restaurant felt wonderfully intimate. The decor has been inspired by a midsummer garden – natural materials have been used throughout; from the wooden chairs to the wooden lampshades, and an array of succulents and potted plants – the vibe here is unpretentious.
Each dish is an absolute winner; full of flavour, skill, global-inspiration and just a touch of intrigue that keeps you on your toes. The concept is one of sharing plates, where 5 or 6 dishes are ordered to share amongst the table. In the name of research, we ordered the entire menu.
Amber: The Food
Like any good Middle Eastern feast should, we started with their homemade hummus topped with a salsa comprising of tomatoes, olives and cucumber, which was rich, bursting with flavour and the perfect thing with their freshly-baked pitta bread, straight out the oven.
The menu is divided into sections: fish, meat, vegetables, sides and pide. Easy to navigate, the next stop on our Middle Eastern journey was a one-way ticket to carb town. We ordered the pide filled with chorizo, caramelised onions, land cress, cherry tomato, and smoked apple wood. The pide was crisp and chewy all in one mouthful, and the combo of smokey chorizo and nubbins of melted cheese was exquisite.
For something on the heartier side, the lamb shoulder was supersonic; slow-cooked, moist and tender. The lamb is from the ‘feast’ section of the menu, and is more than enough for two hungry diners. The lamb came served with labneh, chilli butter pita croutons, and smokey aubergine which added a lovely earthy flavour to the dish. The dish could’ve benefited from a dollop more labneh, but that may be down to my unhealthy obsession with strained yogurt.
Whatever you do – don’t miss the cauliflower. Not the most exciting vegetable, it has to be said. But the fried cauliflower at Amber was next level. The cauliflower came with lovely little touches – crispy shallots, green tahini, pomegranate and dukkah – and really is Amber’s secret weapon.
The menu is veggie-friendly – and the menu showcases inventive veg-led dishes that are both enchanting and tasty. Try the stuffed gem lettuce with lentil kofte with pomegranate gremolata for a twist on a Middle Eastern classic, or the deliciously different burnt truffle goat’s cheese mousse with roasted and pickled beetroot, toasted chilli peanuts and zatar cracker.
Amber: The Verdict
We didn’t managed to sample any of the dessert, because we made our way through practically the whole menu. But that’s a good reason to visit again and order the baklava. The menu is well executed, with every dish an exciting and vibrant medley of fresh ingredients and spices.
The kitchen team really know their stuff; a little bit of dressing here and a touch of spice there. Just make sure you wash your Middle Eastern banquet down with one of their Espresso Martinis.
For more information on Amber, visit their website here.
Goodman’s Fields, 21 Piazza Walk, London E1 8QH