Friday 31 July 2009

Review: Mudchute Kitchen, Isle of Dogs

Mudchute park farm docklandsI recently had a trip to Greenwich and decided to make a day of it by going on the Thames Clipper. Even though it may not be as quick as the tube I just love cruising down the Thames, listening to an audiobook so I can keep my head up and enjoy the sights. But I always find Greenwich a bit of a disappointment when it comes to food: I'm sure there are good restaurants there but I can never seem to find them. So as it was a nice day I suggested we go under the foot tunnel to the Mudchute Kitchen cafe in the city farm there: I'd heard good things about their cakes and figured the lunch was probably pretty good too.

After a nice walk through the park and past the horse paddock we arrived at the cafe, itself located at the edge of the stable block. On arrival there were mixed blessings: lunch had finished (it was just after 3pm) which seemed a bit ridiculous as they shut at 5pm and we were only wanting soup; but, they could offer us a cake. After a moment of crossness I decided, stuff it, we'll just have to skip lunch and have afternoon tea instead. Every cloud...

Mudchute Kitchen exterior outdoor seatingThe cafe itself feels about as far away from a chichi London afternoon tea as you're likely to get. In fact, it's all rustic charm: heavy wooden tables; benches; jars of wild flowers; blackboards; and the kind of old fashioned toys you haven't seen since you were a kid yourself. Unsurprisingly, it was pretty full of toddlers with their parents, so we decided to sit inside and leave the screeching tots to rampage out in the courtyard while we sat inside listening to the early Elvis that was on the stereo.

Yet again I was impressed to find a selection of loose leaf teas on offer, and being somewhat parched after our walk I decided to avoid caffeine and go for a rooibos. I really love rooibos - or redbush - tea, and I like to drink it with milk like a black tea. It may sound odd but its really refreshing. And to gladden my heart further, it came served in a Brown Betty teapot. I can't explain why, but as far as I'm concerned Brown Bettys are the queen of teapots and nothing brews the prefect cuppa in quite the same way. My other half, whom I will henceforth refer to as Coffee Boy as he keeps ordering lattes on our afternoon tea trips, ordered a cinnamon cake with a cream and pomegranate topping and I couldn't resist the chocolate fudge cake. Both had that lovely homemade quality and they tasted as good as they looked so we decided to share so neither one of us would miss out. The flavours were rich and the kitchen's philosophy of using seasonal ingredients and avoiding anything artificial meant they tasted exactly like the kind of cakes that your grandma used to make.

Mudchute Kitchen afternoon tea latte cakeThe service was a little bit chaotic but very friendly, and the overall vibe was hippy and laid back. The other really nice thing about both the kitchen and the farm generally is the mix of people there, from Guardian reading yummy mummies, to east end locals out for a bit of a walk. So after our tea we decided to join them. There is something heartwarming about watching city children feeding goats and learning about pigs and sheep in the shadow of Canary Wharf and in that sense Mudchute Farm and Kitchen represent the best of London: people from all cultures and backgrounds coming together to have fun, learn new things and drink tea. And what, I wonder, could be better than that?

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