Table talk: Even meat eaters will love this vegan fine dining pop up
Plant based fine dining. That’s at the heart of Plates’ simple concept. Stripped back ingredients served with the kind of respect you’d find at newspaper bothering chefs’ restaurants. This isn’t about beating yourself with a spiralizer style clean eating but an enjoyment of earth’s more simple pleasures.
Wed 25 Oct 2017
Plates’ sibling founders Kirk and Keeley Haworth are the children of Michelin-starred Nigel Haworth and have spent their lives around healthy, memorable food. They’ve combined a love of plant based food and conceptual design to create a nomadic restaurant that moves every three months. As you’d expect the menu changes with the season and the pop up approach allows the concept to serve a perfectly balanced set menu without being pestered by people’s preferences.
In truth there’s nothing wrong with a set menu when the chef has done all the hard work and all that remains is for you to be pleasantly surprised by both ingredients you love, and ones you don’t think you love - which is what happened to me.
I’ll come back to the amuse bouche in a minute, but Plates’ starter proper is the kind of thing I’d normally avoid at all cost. Beetroot. But this small diced pile of plant tartare was teamed with fermented berries, tiny dots of avocado puree and wispy fronds of fennel pollen. A truly autumnal dish, it wasn’t overpoweringly earthy like some beetroot dishes can be, and its presentation helped wash away any reticence. Plates live up to their moniker and really care about what your ingredients are presented on. Don’t worry there’s no wacky but impractical hipster flourish coming - but the half moon shaped hand thrown pottery plate was a great culinary ice breaker.
A wild mushroom broth with slow baked celeriac tasted like a long autumn walk in the woods, with the broth being poured from a glass jug in front of us to slightly poach the raw mushrooms, while the organic carrot and yuzu curry with ancient grains was the post-walk curl up by the fire kind of dish, with a lemon-y zing cutting through the comforting hearty vegan fare. Dessert is a coconut yoghurt piped affair with meadowsweet and sour apple and cacao nibs, which is refreshingly light and easy on the sugar.
Going back to the start, I can still taste the pan fried kale leaves with coconut flakes (which we washed down with a red berry slammer) and I needed no encouragement to scoop up the butterbean hummus laced with pesto with the rustic wedges of warm sourdough. Where Plates really stands out is in its smaller dishes. It’s the kind of food that non vegans won’t feel short changed with.
Image Plates' vegan bits and dips are memorable - for all the right reasons
Autumn Yard handily has a bar, which serves seasonal cocktails, local beers from 40FT, a Dalston micro-brewery and it has a compact, wine list. Plates introduced a couple of organic wines to the menu - two whites, two reds - both from Italy.
It’s Hackney so expect a hidden away location, industrial meets minimalist style, bare bulbs and concrete walls but Autumn Yard is a big space with just the right amount of tables and a charming organic fruit and veg shop in the front. It’s easy to while away an evening, especially when you’re being presented regularly with bright, gorgeous spots of food. Plates has teamed up with Yorkshire photographer Tom Dewhirst to capture the bracing scenery of his home county which is exhibited around the space.
The sustainability bit
As befits the Plates’ owners' background in both nutrition and Michelin star kitchens, the quality of the ingredients is everything - and it's what really shines through. The pair work with the best organic farms in the UK to source the plant based raw materials. Everything else is made on site, including the brand’s own teas and bread.
When to go
Where is Plates
Find Plates popping up at Autumn Yard, Hackney Downs (behind the Hand of Glory pub) in London.