Age: A couple of months. In fact, it opened a few weeks before Lockdown 2.0 in November.
Where exactly is it? On Hackney Road, in something of a prime foodie location, with corner landmark wine bar Sager & Wilde opposite and acclaimed tapas joint Morito next door. Just behind is the weekly Sunday madness of Columbia Road, where architect owners Elly Ward and Joe Morris had the original, smaller incarnation of Site.
OK. So what goes on there? All things vegan, but in an un-shouty way that lets the food and drink calmly speak for itself. There’s great O-Zone coffee, insane pastries and sweet stuff, and imaginative brunch options, from pancake stacks to vegan BLTs made using house-smoked carrot ‘bacon’. With ex-Fields Beneath chef Andy Barnes at the helm, this is undeniably next-level plant-based cooking.
What should I eat? The menu is seasonal so moves as the produce changes. In late October we shared lunch plates that were not only delicious but as eye-catching as paintings. The first we tried was toasted sourdough from nearby Clapton smeared with a vivid, earthy beetroot and tahini puree (see pic, above) and topped with charred fronds of fashionable spigarello broccoli – from southern Italy – in a caramelised onion vinaigrette. Quince chutney and beetroot crisps added tang and crunch, too. Wow.
What else? More than a snack, we advise nibbling on spiced fava bean crackers as you wait for the mains. Dunk them into the rich accompanying dips of lush green kale pesto and fava bean hummus, with little bowl of olives for that saline hit. And wash it down with a sriracha bloody mary, laced with home-made fermented chilli, celery pickle, spices – and, of course, plenty of vodka.
Best of all? An intricately constructed Middle Eastern dish. A sauerkraut and celeriac fritter came spiced with ras el hanout and topped with fermented chilli sauce, lemony sumac and mint oat yoghurt. It was served on a confit tomato and za’atar salad with lentils, rocket, pickled radish and smoked oil. The blend of flavours proved as multi-layered, many-textured and smoky as anything we’ve tried this year: in fact, what’s most impressive throughout the cooking is the sheer number of processes that go into every dishes, from pickles to reductions and sauces.
The interior: discuss. There’s a simple Scandi aesthetic in the blond wood tables and recycled plastic chairs, with seats scattered around, a palm-filled back courtyard – beautiful against a blue sky – and downstairs snug with comfier armchairs and sofas.
What’s the service like? As slick as you’d expect in this part of town. And you can do your groceries too: there’s fruit ‘n’ veg, as well as all manner of plant-based cupboard staples attractively displayed on the shelves as you enter.
Final words: By far the tastiest, and most creative, vegan cuisine we’ve had the good fortune to gobble down in 2020.
Gasholder ate as guests of Site London.