Scattered with edible flowers and drizzled with infused oils: Stepney City Farm’s locally-loved cafe serves restaurant-quality farm-to-fork dishes.
If you’re familiar with the East End, you probably know Whitechapel for its bustling roadside food market and lively curry houses. Or your mind might jump to the pulsating energy of Whitechapel Road, one of the major arteries connecting East London with the heart of the city.
But our neighbourhood is also home to tranquil places of quiet reflection. Perhaps none as treasured as the Allotment Kitchen in Stepney City Farm.
Just a short walk from Whitechapel Road, the farm is sandwiched between Stepney Green Park and St Dunstan’s Churchyard: a trinity of greenspaces where traffic noises are replaced by church bells and the stirrings of nearby goats and geese.
Within the farm grounds, you will find the Allotment Kitchen, a family-run, independent café which uses produce and livestock grown and reared on its doorstep.
A particular favourite spot for mothers to catch up after taking their children to the farm, the Allotment Kitchen also draws foodies from far afield. Its charming culinary creations have even caught the attention of gastronomes at The Guardian on numerous occasions.
If you scroll through the Allotment Kitchen’s colourful Instagram page, it’s easy to see why. From pork pappardelle to Delicia pumpkin, the rustic seasonal dishes are adorned with culinary flare and artfully curated for the camera.
You won’t find many city farm cafés where dishes are garnished with edible flowers and flatbreads are topped with bavette steak and hispi cabbage.
The café’s location in a predominantly residential area makes it accessible for professionals working from home. On a crisp Thursday lunchtime, it is alive with customers.
The bright autumn sun casts a speckled light on the large outside seating area, covered by a canopy of vines and bunting.
One local couple who come in are just two dishes away from sampling every item on the chalkboard menu (an impressive feat, considering it regularly changes based on the availability of produce).
Eavesdropping on their recommendations, I opt for the roasted Jerusalem artichokes with chicory, truffled crème fraîche, Cornish Yarg and crispy farm sage.
The cool crème fraîche and bright lemon oil lift the sweet and nutty flavour of the artichokes, finished with a scattering of hazelnuts which lend a crunchy texture to the plentiful dish.
The artfully assembled mains range from £10 – £15, with every gluten-free, vegan or carnivorous dish treated with such attention to detail that no diner will feel short-changed.
Upon returning, I’ve got my sights set on the braised white bean stew with thyme-roasted chicken and salsa verde.
A bountiful display of freshly baked goods from pear and cardamom cake to banana-caramel muffins add to the café’s comforting feel, though the sophisticated bakes and delicate flavour combinations wouldn’t be found in many home kitchens.
A chewy Earl Grey-infused white chocolate chip cookie and an Americano sourced from East London Climpson’s coffee make a simple but wonderful end to the meal.
On your way out of the café, make sure to stop by the vegetable patches and animal enclosures. The particularly affable goats have a gift for transporting you away from the humdrum of city living and you’re bound to leave feeling rejuvenated by the harmony of the food and its surroundings.
For more places to eat in the local area, read our review of Lanterna in Fish Island.
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