Regenerative is a word that’s up there with sustainability in being at risk of overuse — but as with anything that is essentially purporting to be about positive impact, we need to think carefully about the language we use. Edit’s arrival is certainly helping regenerate this urban main road near London Fields thanks to Elly Ward’s project with plant-savvy chefs Fabrice Jacquet and Beth Olivier. As for the regenerative growers in its ecosystem, Edit’s minimalist menu shines a light on the good guys, delivering the highest-quality plant-forward dishes that let you graze with confidence your meal has a climate-friendly ‘foodprint’.
The dishes change daily – not entirely – but enough to signal this establishment’s integrity and that their cooks are at the mercy of whatever their small-scale independent producers have available. The ambitious spins on less-well-known veg varieties mean you won’t find much of what you’re eating in the supermarket. (Although extreme weather and broken supply chains have made even common-or-garden varieties a challenge this winter.) Chemical-free and endemic, the fruit and vegetables presented have been grown with minimal intervention and messed around with as little as possible in the kitchen, elevated enough for many reviewers of this restaurant to have labelled it fine dining. I’d say it’s a little more relaxed and low-key than that – and that’s a good thing.
Since agriculture and construction are two of the biggest influences on global warming (these sectors being responsible for more than half of all global emissions when combined) it’s a destination for those conscious about living a lower-carbon life. And those who think more deeply about the businesses they patron. As we know, the energy intensity of building materials, cement foundations, and operations spews out about 39 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Add to that ‘big ag’, and its livestock production, use of fossil-fuel-generated fertilisers, deforestation for monocrops and grazing and storage mean that’s a sector with a lot to atone for. So when an eco-conscious architect opens a vegan restaurant in Hackney — just like the practice of high-quality design — you can be sure her kitchen and hospitality style will be approached in a way that makes sense when it comes to the bigger picture. Venturing out of the dining room to pop to the WC is a welcome mini detour into what feels like a gallery. Passing model buildings and maquettes speaks to your host’s wider mission of shaping a better world through a more sustainable built environment as well as challenging the food-systems status quo.
Judging by the ambience and the Monocle-vibe East London clientele, this is a place more suited to monochrome tailoring than hairshirts. Hedonists too are welcome since they’ll delight in the inventive cocktail list and down-to-earth wine list. A huge salute to having London winemakers Renegade on tap. The warm charcoal focaccia, fresh from E5 Bakehouse under the arches, felt positively luxurious, a welcome counter to a virtue-honouring root vegetable main course. An inconceivably dairy-free chocolate confection gave hope it’s possible to kick old-fashioned animal-product-addicted ways in future. We certainly left feeling nourished — I just would have loved more storytelling about their suppliers. They’ll happily tackle all interrogations about provenance, but most people won’t ask. And it’s the behind-the-scenes passion and attention to detail that really sets this spot apart from other stylish new restaurants.
Address: 217 Mare Street, Hackney E8 3QE