When it comes to high praise people tend to use unfamiliar terms to describe a good experience. A holiday was ‘out of this world’. A bowl of pasta, ‘unreal’. But although these descriptions are passionate, they’re also useless. Tell someone your trip was ‘similar to The Beach, but more chill’ and the spag bol was ‘like school dinners, only with flavour’, and they’ll get you. That’s because sometimes bringing things back to reality can be a good thing, and Earth Kitchen proves that.
This all-day Dalston restaurant - attached to Hackney’s latest arts venue - serves familiar British food in a familiar feeling space, and is all the better for it. The bar area - all strip lighting, sofas, and droopy ferns - feels a bit like The Conran Shop, but with decks, and a kitchen serving up fresh soup and pasta throughout the day. It’s really quite nice. If you come here to work in the morning (it opens at 10am), or at lunchtime, you’ll likely still find yourself in one of their booths come late-afternoon. Whether or not you have a rarebit and bacon toastie for company is your choice. But if you don’t, well, that sucks for you.
Ideally you want to go to Earth Kitchen for dinner. The menu is bigger and the atmosphere is better. The food is from the St. John school of cookery: familiar, tasty, and unapologetically hearty. Dishes like braised squid with fennel and aioli, or ginger pudding with butterscotch sauce, are probably like things you’ve had before. They’re also probably better. Food-wise, nothing here is trying to be all-singing, all-dancing, because that’s what Earth’s arts space is for. Just remember that if your wild garlic soup starts rippling from the reverberation next door, that you’re still only in Dalston, not Jurassic Park.
If you really want to, you can use this place to be peak #freelancer and nurse a coffee and some avocado on toast over a six hour period. Or, you can do it like us: stay throughout every meal - like an unwanted (and increasingly relaxed) plus one at a friend of a friend’s wedding - segwaying from croissant to lentils with goat’s curd to lemon sorbet, before being politely asked to leave. We’re not sure we recommend doing this. Though there is something comforting about a restaurant you can spend the whole day in.
The most unfamiliar thing about Earth Kitchen is that it’s part of a venue, and that doesn’t tend to spell great-place-to-eat. But don’t let that, the shabby-ish exterior, or the queue of tinnies and smoke snaking around it put you off. Earth Kitchen is somewhere you want to get familiar with day and night.
Ask us what our favourite season is and we’d be extremely tempted to go with wild garlic. This soup is very tasty.
Nothing quite says I’m ill and/or procrastinating with Bargain Hunt like a toastie and soup combo. This bacon and rarebit one is lovely on its own, and even better when dunked.
This reads simple, but we suspect it would end in us sobbing into a tea towel if we tried to recreate it at home. It’s some of the best cooked squid we’ve had in recent memory.
A whole smoked mackerel is a lovely thing and this one is no different.
We love us a bit of shrimp, but these ones get a little lost in a jungle of kohlrabi. It’s still nice and fresh tasting though.
If you scan down a menu and see ‘pork chop’ you generally think: pork chop. Your heart doesn’t flutter and your mouth doesn’t uncontrollably salivate. But it should with this one. Earth Kitchen are pros at cooking chops, and meat in general.
This lamb is more soft and tender than an emotionally volatile teenager listening to Bon Iver on the way home from ‘having a chat’ with the current love of their life. Basically, it’s really really good.
The kind of dish that you might think of as strictly for the non-meat and fish eaters. No, no, no. If this was on an album, your annoying friend who’s into music would call it ‘a lowkey banger’.
Feed us this for breakfast. Feed us this for lunch. Feed us this for dinner. Please, just continue to feed us this.