The award winning Pea Porridge restaurant has bought in a new oven that will enable it to introduce new flavours while being eco-friendly.
Chef-owner Justin Sharp and his wife Jurga have invested £6,000 in a British-made Bertha charcoal oven for the Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant in Cannon Street, Bury St Edmunds.
Justin believes they are the first in the region to have one.
He has spent six weeks experimenting with it and is amazed at the opportunities it offers.
“It allows you to cook over almost anything, but we’re using charcoal with pine cones, birch, beech and oak,” he said.
“We can open and close the vents so we can use it for smoking, we can use it for high heat cooking, such as steaks, or even for braising and slow cooking.”
It looks like a cast iron safe and the food cooks directly over the charcoal, so it gains flavour from the smoke.
But Justin said: “We’re cooking primarily on it, but not everything will be done on it – we don’t want to become a smokehouse.
“It gives us another dimension for some of our dishes.”
It is kinder to the environment because it saves on fossil fuels, as well as costing about half as much to run as the gas chargrill Justin used to use.
Charcoal usually comes from woodland which is coppiced. That enhances the habitat for most woodland wildlife.
Justin would like to source locally produced eco-friendly charcoal to run it on.