[Edit: Mudchute Kitchen has changed hands since this post and apparently this is not a good thing. I haven’t been recently and so I can no longer recommend it. Please see comment from Hana below].
I think I was more excited than my mates’ 4 year old daughter at the prospect of visiting Mudchute Farm. Promises of llamas, goats and ‘giant rabbits’ drew me in almost as much as whispers I’d heard about the decent kitchen. Mudchute is London’s largest inner city farm, apparently. 32 acres sit slap bang in the middle of the Isle of Dogs; sheep graze to the backdrop of towering skyscrapers in Canary Wharf. It’s a striking juxtaposition and it’s also extremely quiet; if it weren’t for the concrete and glass peeking through trees and over hills, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were out in the sticks.
What at first looked like it might be an exercise in familiarity with different types of mud, soon brightened up into a peaceful day of ambling around the farm pausing occasionally to watch chickens either fighting or mating, stroke billy goats’ beards or laugh hysterically at a woman taking llama spit to the face at point blank range. Apparently the smell is quite overpowering.
There’s nothing like the combination of a mild hangover, a couple of hours walking and the responsibility of entertaining a small child to work up an appetite and we raced towards the Mudchute Kitchen with a mixture of ravenous zeal and nagging concern that it would be the usual tourist-trap café, defined by the attitude that people have nowhere else to go so they can jolly well be grateful for a lump of dry, over-priced cake. Thankfully, it wasn’t.
The menu was short and dominated by hearty, no-fuss dishes. Both the boys chose pot-roast beef with mash, sharp red cabbage and wilted spinach (about £8 I think), which arrived in a monstrous portion and looked like it had been dished up by my mates’ daughter but tasted fantastic. An outrageously tender, juniper scented hunk weaved with strands of melty fat. The boys almost beat their chests with manly excitement.
My ‘Mexican eggs’ (£6-ish) was served by the same generous hand. Properly soaked and cooked black beans came poured over 2 gooey fried eggs on a piece of home made bread. A lengthy cooking had bubbled away any risk of a bland, watery result, leaving rich, meaty beans. A parsley flecked yoghurt brought sharp contrast.
The real stars of the show though, were the cakes. My pistachio and lemon was dense, squidgy and speckled green with nut chippings. Lemon perfumed butter-cream icing was spread to just the right thickness to deliver ultimate satisfaction. The boys’ cookie and chocolate and hazelnut options seemed to be going down well at the one point I came up for air.
There are definitely things that could be improved at The Mudchute Kitchen – the mash for example had the odd lump and the bread under my eggs would be much more enjoyable toasted. The presentation of the food is carefree to say the least and the service a little scatty. These things were all forgiven however because the food is so tasty. Most of the ingredients come from the farm and the freshness shines through. Let’s also not forget that the portions are huge.
The best way of describing the food would be as ‘good home cooking’; a bit like going round to your keen cook mates’ house for dinner. There are no frills, no pretension and it’s not trying to be anything it shouldn’t. After a couple of hours walking on a crisp spring day you just want a damn good feed, and Mudchute Kitchen is there to give it to you.
Mudchute Park and Farm (and Kitchen)
Isle of Dogs
Tel: 020 7515 5901 (Park and Farm)
Tel: 020 7515 5901 (Kitchen)