Do you struggle to enjoy a meal that isn’t doused in butter or wrapped in prosciutto? Does a tasting menu free of fish, meat, dairy or refined sugar sound like a vibe sniper’s paradise? Enter Plates, a Saturday-only restaurant offering a seasonal five-course menu aiming to redefine plant-based dining.
Plates co-founders are Lancashire-born siblings, Kirk and Keeley Haworth. Recognise the name? Their dad is the Michelin-starred celeb chef Nigel Haworth. Kirk has spent his career in many a Michelin kitchen, and Plates is a very personal culmination of this culinary journey. After suffering with Lyme disease, his experience with illness made him entirely rethink his approach to food. Kirk’s dishes aim to be exceptionally nutritious whilst leaving you feeling satisfied, something plant-based food can often fail to achieve.
Venue and Atmosphere
Plates is an airy oasis of calm amidst the chaos of Kingsland Road. It’s small and intimate and we were well looked after — cliché it may be, but you can’t beat a bit of Northern charm. The space functions as a food studio during the week and is transformed into a high-end restaurant every Saturday. Keeley’s background is in creative direction and she had fused a stripped-back gallery with an open-plan kitchen, citing “art and nature” as the inspiration. Top marks for lovely touches like the marbled clay crockery from E8’s gorgeous ceramics studio, Kana London.
Pretty, humble and cruelty free.
Food and Drink
Food-wise, Plates reminded me a little of Pidgin, a dinky Hackney gem which also offers a tasting-menu-only option. Like Pidgin, Plates’ menu is experimental and as with anything adventurous, it’s not going to please every palate. Drinks are masterminded by ex-Clove Club’s Jack Dobbie. We opted for wine pairings (obvs), which was a stonking journey through natural Italian wines from importers Passione Vino.
The first round opened with a signature slammer, basically three very pretty amuse-bouches with ingredients including beetroot, pickled shallots and nori. Next up was young leeks, land cress and green grapes which hit the textural mark, but was the one dish where dairy was missing: the acidic tang of some crumbled feta would have elevated it to an A+.
The house bread with liquorice seed took us into another another dimension. Calling it bread is doing it a disservice; served with a zingy carrot concoction, it was both incredibly moreish and satisfyingly reminiscent of a Yorkshire pud. Gluten-free? Vegan? Really? Kirk, you smashed it out of the park. The complex flavours of that dreamy ‘bread’ paired magnificently with a bolshy white from one of Italy’s pioneering natural winemakers, Aurora, with a savoury edge and hints of liquorice on the nose.
Heirloom tomato, strawberry and wild herb consommé was summer incarnate on a plate. It was definitely lovely and bright and elegant, but serving a cold consommé can be bit risky in Blighty, and it would have worked better when it wasn’t a mediocre 17°C outside. We rounded off the mains with pot-roast hispi cabbage, asparagus and crispy potato (a very grown up icantbelieveitsnotbutter rösti). The dish was hearty but light and the organic vegetables were so fresh they’ll have you swearing to never to shop at Tesco's again. I’d ditch the parsley sauce for something a bit more popping.
Onto the pud. The Moscato dessert wine was a honey-dripping delight which tasted like angels’ tears. One of life’s great joys is discovering a secret layer of liquid chocolate at the bottom of your dessert but I won’t ruin the surprise by telling you about that beforehand.
Plates do vegan dining justice.
The DesignMyNight Digest
Yoga baes instantly will love Plates, but even your most carnivorous friends will leave feeling surprised. Kirk and Keeley are so down to earth and there was none of the self-satisfied smugness that vegan food can often get tarnished with. Except for a smidgen of avocado and passionfruit here and there, the dishes were a glorious celebration of British seasonality — the cream of the plant-based crop.