The father-and-son team behind Amelie tell us about their business and share some favourite recipes
Since opening in the summer of 2018, Amelie has established itself as a firm favourite for foodies across Cambridge. Part of the Grafton’s ‘Food Social’ concept, this cheerful café specialises in flammekueche, a rectangular, pizza-like delicacy with a thin and crispy base that comes with all kinds delicious toppings.
“It’s the speciality dish of the Alsace region of France”, explains owner and chef Regis Crepy, who runs Amelie with his son Alex. “It dates back to the 14th century, when the bakers used to test the temperature of their ovens with a thinly stretched piece of dough: if the temperature was right, the dough would bake in a few minutes leaving the edges crisp and slightly charred. Today, this light dough is spread with crème fraiche and topped with sliced onions, smoked bacon and gruyere cheese. At Amelie, we put our own, modern take on this classic, with topping combinations of quality ingredients that are cooked quickly at a high heat for just 90 seconds retaining the freshness of the produce.”
Remarkably, Amelie was the very first restaurant in the whole of the UK to focus on flammekueche, though it’s a different story on the continent where it’s a hugely popular dish. “It’s still to really arrive and take-off here and it will,” says Regis. “It’s a light dish, very versatile, caters for all diets, it’s delicious and one that won’t go out of fashion, after all it has been around for 600 years!”
Quality ingredients that are cooked quickly at a high heat, retaining the freshness
Before introducing this indulgent delicacy to hungry shoppers at the Grafton, Regis had been a chef for nearly 40 years and run top-end restaurants including The Great House at Lavenham. The idea behind Amelie was to step away from fine dining and bring something completely fresh and forward-looking to Cambridge. “It was time to do something different and create a business that will relate to the future”, he explains. “Yes, I had to give up everything and start again but so strongly do I believe this new concept is the fast food of the future. Happily, the timing fitted in with my son Alex who also was looking to make his mark on the industry, and we’re both relishing the challenge of promoting something quite new.”
When it came to choosing a location, The Grafton appealed due to its wide demographic and high footfall, which would allow the team to introduce flammekueche to as many ages, nationalities, occupations as possible.
“Initially, we had no idea whether the concept would be accepted. We knew the food is good but it’s a not a name that trips off the tongue and people think they are going to eat pizza. It was an instant hit – way beyond our expectations, customers love it and we’re proud to have won national awards entry and been in the top three Trip Advisor places to eat in Cambridgeshire since we opened. We’re optimistic!”
Hummus (serves 6-10)
This popular dish on Amelie’s Side Bite menu is served with the flammekueche flatbread.
200ml water saved from the chickpeas tin/or plain water
2 garlic cloves peeled and crushed
Juice of 1 lemon
35g virgin olive oil
30g preserved lemon
- Put all the ingredients in the bowl of a mixer and mix until smooth.
- Season to taste.
- Serve with warm pitta bread or crunchy raw vegetables
Onion tart with radicchio salad (serves 6-8)
500g onions, finely sliced
50g unsalted butter
Salt and black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
15g plain flour
30g Parmesan cheese, grated
300ml whipping cream
3 eggs plus 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
Pinch of salt
125g unsalted butter, diced
1 egg, beaten, plus one egg yolk
50ml cold water
10g ground almonds
2 heads of radicchio leave torn into bite-sized pieces
8 mint leaves, finely chopped
2 coriander stalks, finely chopped
Pinch of salt
½ tbsp Dijon mustard
1 egg yolk
Juice of ½ lemon
4 tsp olive oil
2 tbsp cream
- Make the pastry: put the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips, until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Mix in the beaten egg and water until the mixture combines. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill in the refrigerator for 10–15 minutes.
- On a lightly floured board, roll out the dough, about 2mm thick, and use to line a 30cm buttered loose-bottomed tart tin. Trim the edges, prick the dough all over with a fork and then place a sheet of greaseproof paper inside and fill with baking beans.
- Bake ‘blind’ in a preheated oven at 160°C, gas mark 3 for 30 minutes – Allow to cool and remove the baking beans and greaseproof paper. Mix the egg yolk and ground almonds to a paste and brush over the inside of the cooked pastry shell. Pop it back in the oven for 5–6 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and cooked.
- Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, cook the onions in the butter over medium heat for 20–30 minutes until softened and almost caramelised. Reduce the heat if necessary to prevent burning. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then stir in the cayenne pepper, flour and Parmesan. Slowly stir in the cream and bring to a simmer before adding the beaten eggs and yolks.
- Stir again and pour the mixture into the pastry shell. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until the filling is cooked and feels firm when pushed gently with a finger.
- While the tart is cooking, make the radicchio salad. Put the radicchio, mint and coriander in a bowl. Mix the salt, mustard and egg yolk to a paste, then stir in the lemon juice, olive oil and cream to make a vinaigrette. Toss the radicchio in the dressing and sprinkle with parsley. Serve the tart hot, warm or even cold with the radicchio salad.
Pan-Fried wild sea bass fillet with Coco de Paimpol beans, bacon and butter sauce (serves 4)
100g fresh Coco de Paimpol beans (or black-eyed peas)
2 tsps olive oil, plus extra for sprinkling
4 x 150g wild sea bass fillets, skin on and pin boned
salt and pepper
100g smoked streaky bacon, diced
One knob unsalted butter
200g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
60g shallots, finely sliced
50ml white wine
50ml white wine vinegar
- Heat a little of the diced butter in a non-stick pan over medium heat. When it melts, add the shallots and cook for 2–3 minutes, until softened but not coloured. Add the white wine and wine vinegar and bring to the boil. Continue boiling until most of the liquid has evaporated and the shallots are plump with liquid.
- Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the chilled butter, one dice at a time, until it is all incorporated into the mixture and the sauce is thick and glossy — season to taste.
- Boil the Coco de Paimpol beans in a deep saucepan for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, drain the beans, then cover them with cold water and set aside until cool. Drain and rinse the beans.
- Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat and fry the sea bass, skin-side down, for 2 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Place the fish, skin-side up, on a lightly oiled baking tray with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast, uncovered, in a preheated oven at 180⁰C for 10 minutes, until the skin is crisp and the flesh is white.
- Cook the bacon in a non-stick pan over medium heat, occasionally stirring, until it is crisp and browned around the edges with most of the fat rendered. Transfer the bacon to a plate, lined with kitchen paper, and wipe out the pan.
- Add the knob of butter to the pan, lower the heat, and when it melts, add the Coco de Paimpol beans. Stir until they are shiny and golden, then turn up the heat and add the bacon. Toss gently together for 1 minute.
- To serve, place the sea bass fillets on four warmed serving plates. Pour the butter sauce around the fish and garnish with the Coco de Paimpol beans and bacon.
Roasted aubergines with tomato and parmesan (serves 4)
2 aubergines cut in half
8 garlic cloves, each sliced into four pieces
40ml olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
100g Parmesan cheese, grated
4 ripe tomatoes, skinned
Sea salt crystals
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra olive oil, for drizzling
½ bunch of basil, finely chopped
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4. Slash the flesh of the aubergines diagonally with a knife, 2cm deep. Put the sliced garlic cloves in the cuts, distributing them equally between the aubergine halves. You should have eight garlic slices in each one. Mix the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and use to brush the flesh side of each aubergine. Put them in a baking dish and roast in the preheated oven, flesh side up, for about 30 minutes.
- Cut each skinned tomato into quarters. Remove the pulp and seeds and then cut the tomato flesh into small cubes. Scatter the tomato over the roasted aubergines and sprinkle each one with Parmesan. Pop them back into the oven for another 3 minutes, until golden brown.
- Arrange the aubergines on four serving plates and drizzle a little olive oil over the top. Sprinkle sea salt crystals and freshly ground black pepper on top with chopped basil and serve immediately.
Brownies (serves 8)
250g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
250g dark good-quality chocolate
190g caster sugar
30g flour self-raising
60g pistachio nuts, crushed
- Preheat the oven to 160°C. Butter a 25cm round mould.
- Melt the butter and the chocolate in a Bain Marie or a basin suspended over a pan of simmering water. Stir until they are blended and thoroughly melted.
- In a bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar until white and foamy, and then add the flour, a little at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon. Pour into the melted chocolate and stir gently but thoroughly off the heat.
- Pour the chocolate mixture into the prepared mould and sprinkle the crushed pistachio nuts over the top. Cook in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, until firm on the top but soft in the middle. Leave to cool before serving.
- Serve this as a dessert with fruit and crème fraîche or as petits fours cut it into squares.
Rich dark chocolate tartlets (serves 10)
135g caster sugar
115g butter softened
Zest of ½ orange, grated
135g good-quality dark chocolate, melted
3 tbsp Grand Marnier
3 small eggs
100g roasted hazelnuts, roughly crushed
125g plain flour
60g butter, diced
1 small egg whisked
1 tbsp water
- Make the pastry: sift the flour into a bowl and add the salt. Rub in the butter with your fingertips to obtain small flakes or until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre and add the egg and water. Mix well with your fingers until the dough forms a ball and leaves your hands clean. Wrap it in cling film and leave to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- In the bowl of a food mixer, beat the sugar and butter until white and creamy. Add the flour, a little at a time, and then mix in the orange zest, melted chocolate and Grand Marnier.
- In a separate bowl, beat the eggs up to the stage at which, when you lift the whisk, there is a continuous ‘ribbon’ and add them, in 2 or 3 batches, to the chocolate mixture and fold them in. Finally, add the crushed hazelnuts.
- Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 3mm thickness and use to line 10 small 8cm tart tins. Cover it with waxed paper or baking parchment and fill with pie weights or baking beans right up to the top.
- Bake ‘blind’ in a preheated oven at 150°C, gas mark 2 for about 15 minutes – Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Carefully remove the pie weights and waxed paper and then pop the tartlets back in the oven for 5–6 minutes to finish cooking evenly and colour. Let it cool down before using.
- Turn up the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4. Fill the precooked tartlets with the chocolate mixture and cook for 5 minutes in the oven. Remove each tartlet from the tin and serve on a plate with a little whipped cream.
For more of Regis’ delicious recipes, check out his book, Bon Appetit!, which is available from Amelie. The restaurant is located upstairs at The Grafton, just opposite the Vue Cambridge cinema. amelierestaurants.co.uk