I’m in love, I’m in love, and I don’t care who knows it!
I won’t be apologising for the random and totally unseasonal Elf reference there (real ones will know). In fact I’m going to take it even further: I feel for Plant Club how I imagine Buddy felt when he discovered “candy” on a New York sidewalk. Complete joy and an irresistible desire to keep going back for more. The main difference here being that the food at Plant Club hadn’t been chewed up and spat out by anyone else before me.
Am I proud of that article intro? Not really. Am I going to edit it out? Absolutely not.
If you’ve stuck around, thank you. I promise to make it worth your while. Let me introduce you to my favourite eatery in London: vegan and gluten free Italian restaurant, Plant Club (formerly known as Plant Hub, if you ever stumbled across their original Hackney edition).
The atmosphere and service
My mum and I made a particularly early booking because I’m a stickler for a 9pm bed time and, honestly? The vibes weren’t quite ‘it’ for the first 45 minutes. But that’s on me. The restaurant is housed within a greenhouse at the back of Nomadis Cafe, so the space truly comes to life when it’s dark outside, the heaters, lanterns and fairy lights are lit, and the tables are bustling. So, if you’re reserving a table, 7pm onwards is when you’ll really get the best of this place.
The interiors are far from pristine, with somewhat of a DIY-feel, but it all adds to the charm. Being a greenhouse, it really brought the outside in, and the place was brimming with greenery and fresh flowers on the tables. There was also a little bookshelf in the corner offering free books, which was a lovely touch.
A moment of appreciation for the staff, too—particularly co-owner, Daniele—who made us feel totally at home. What a pleasure it was to be in his company, seriously. Everyone was attentive, more than happy to recommend their favourite dishes (they all said the Sud by the way, but more on that later), and you could tell that they were all just as excited to be there as their guests.
The food at Plant Club
Gluten free nor vegan food doesn’t come any better than this, I’m certain of it. I can’t speak for vegans, but I can speak for gluten intolerants, and it’s certainly some of the best I’ve had.
We started with their Indulgent Garlic Bread, piled with Sicilian datterini tomatoes, superstraccia (a vegan stracciatella) and oregano. I presumed it could only be down hill from there, but I could not have been more wrong.
Of course, since we’d taken a figurative trip over to Italy for this meal, we had to indulge in the pasta course. This was when we tried the true show stopper, limelight hogger and plate of my dreams: the Gnocchi Cacio e Pepe. As cheesy as a vegan dish can get, this has officially made it onto my death row menu.
The pizzas, too, were fantastic. I was recommended the Sud by two different waiters, and who am I to ignore the experts? Topped with PDO Vesuvio tomato (tomatoes grown on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius), superstraccia, olives, capers and chopped pistachio, this dish was also battling it out for centre stage. I wouldn’t have chosen it if left to my own devices, but I’m very glad I did. Mum opted for the Ciao Bella with tomato sauce, cashew mozzarella, chestnut mushrooms, artichoke and oregano, and it was also very good, though probably more of a chorus member than a main character.
My one regret was not coming to Plant Club with an emptier stomach, because it pained me to turn down dessert. But in the end we compromised and left with a Pizza Vicki in a takeaway box – a pizza bread topped with lashings of sweet, pistachio cream. I ate it the next day and, while nice, I had to imagine it would have been even nicer if I’d eaten it straight from the oven. I was also desperate to try the tiramisu, so I’ll just have to come back. Which, as I’m sure I’ve made very clear in this review, is a real bummer for me.
Ultimately, besides the toilet being a little too bright (and, to be fair to them, this is entirely out of their hands), I have nothing bad to say about my experience at Plant Club. From start to finish, we were greeted with such warmth—and that mixed with the shabby chic vibe of the space really made it feel like we were visiting a friend’s house for tea. A friend who is a top Italian chef, I might add.
Would I go back? Ha! The question is when will I be back? And the answer is: not soon enough. See you all there.
Also published on Medium.