A dining room in a restaurant
Photography, Johnny C.Y. Lam

The design of Flame + Smith restaurant is as enticing as its menu

Enjoy a wood-fired dinner at this Prince Edward County, Ont., eatery designed to feel like home.

While many of us wish to recreate the feeling of a restaurant kitchen in our home, farm-to-table eatery Flame + Smith turns the tables by creating the feeling of a home kitchen in its professional space. The husband-and-wife owners, chef Hidde Zomer and Sarah Soetens, have conjured a work area in their Bloomfield, Ont., restaurant that entices with a warm come-in-and-get-comfy quality – and that’s before the always seasonal and faithfully local fare (they have 40 different suppliers within 100 kilometres of the restaurant) is presented. 

room interior with wood-burning stove and chairs and table
Photography, Johnny C.Y. Lam

A toasty wood stove that’s impervious to chilly nights, an old-world herringbone brick floor and twinkly lights strung from beams invite guests to settle in and may even fool them into thinking the room has always been this way. “Years before we rented the building, there was a fire in it, and when Sarah and I went to look at it, there wasn’t even a floor,” says Zomer. “But there were old beams charred with smoke, and they felt perfect. We even put some spotlights on the ceiling to show off the charring.”

A view of shelves and a table in a restaurant
Photography, Johnny C.Y. Lam

The effect is an appropriate complement to Flame + Smith’s USP: Since opening in 2018, it’s been preparing its hearty meat, fish and vegetable dishes (like this roasted cauliflower steak) over a wood fire in an open kitchen. And not just any wood fire. Zomer, who was born in Holland, has worked at some of the world’s best fine-dining restaurants (including Amsterdam’s Michelin-starred De Kas and Toronto’s now-closed Nota Bene). He admits to being “a bit nerdy” when it comes to his knowledge of wood, and his passion for it is literally on display beside the kitchen, where metal shelves hold stacks of local hardwood labelled by type and location. The tomahawk steak, for instance, might be cooked over hickory from Consecon, Ont., or oak from another nearby town (and Zomer promises it will be the best steak you ever taste), while birchwood is better suited to creating the insanely delicious vegetables on offer. 

Tomahawk steak in cast iron pan
Photography, Johnny C.Y. Lam

This detailed exactitude extends to the hearth and wood-burning oven, which were handcrafted by a mason, as well as the plancha (griddle), fire poker, log grabbers, hooks, shovels and brushes, all of which were handmade by a local blacksmith. Even some of the oyster knives were made by hand along the Acadian coast. It’s an all-inclusive approach that Zomer embraces. “Running a restaurant requires a lot of expertise – and not just from the chef,” he says. “When Sarah and I were designing the restaurant, we often spoke of the artisans, or ‘smiths,’ who were helping us, and that idea resonated. A smith is someone who specializes in their craft, and we have so many of them: our bread smith (the baker, who works with the wood-burning oven), wine smith (sommelier), shellfish smith (oyster shucker), bar smith (bartender) and more. We knew we needed both ‘the flame’ and ‘the smith’ to build this restaurant.”  

A person taking bread out of an oven
Photography, Johnny C.Y. Lam

This thoughtful approach has allowed Zomer and Sarah to create an environment that’s special – a space where coming to work feels as welcoming as coming home. The setting radiates farmhouse comfort, and, sitting by the wood stove, you might feel as though you’re at a good friend’s cozy cottage rather than a restaurant (albeit a friend who can prepare succulent ember-roasted cauliflower enlivened with licks of warm brown butter and dollops of umami-rich kimchi). Like a great house party, Flame + Smith has that feel-good ambience that invites one to stay a little longer.  

And why not stay longer? You can check in at Prince Edward County’s The Royal Hotel.

Recipes from Flame + Smith

Roasted Cauliflower Steaks
Prince Edward County's Flame + Smith restaurant shares their recipe for ember-roasted cauliflower steaks.
Get the recipe
A dish with a roasted cauliflower steak, greens and orange sauce

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