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Brunch at the Retreat Kitchen and pizza at Fed by Water

 I don't often get out to Richmond, and I don't know why. I think I once contracted a violent and inexplicable dislike to Richmond park, and the crowds of people hanging around the river, and had to avoid the region for a number of years. Clearly, I've been a bit unfair to Richmond.

In the spell of good weather not so long ago, I allowed myself to be persuaded to a return visit to the park.

Maybe it was the rush of vitamin D, maybe it was the joy of leaving my revision prison and getting out of my own little corner of London, but I loved walking through the park. I even saw a kestrel mantling its catch on the grass and heard a woodpecker at work, and saw bunny poop and deer footprints. I don't get much chance to see wildlife in the capital (unless you count the foxes that eat the nappies out of my neighbours bins or the dismembered pigeons the local cats like to leave on the lawn), so even the odd glimpse of it makes me happy.

Not only was my irrational dislike of Richmond Park overturned, there's a new vegan cafe that's set up -- and what better reason than that do you need to check out the neighbourhood?

The cafe in question is the Retreat Kitchen, which has a tiny-but-perfectly formed menu. On Saturday and Sunday, you get brunch served 11am to 3pm, and you can choose a brunch plate, pancakes, avo on toast, or chia pots.

It would be morally wrong not to choose a brunch plate when it offers scrambled tofu, hash browns, tomatoes, beans, toast, and rocket. Yep, that's basically an evolved full English -- some sort of advanced breakfast life form.

And if all that hot breakfast action wasn't enough for you, there's some cake for pudding too. I can't thoroughly express how much I love coffee and walnut cake. Why isn't it on every cake menu in the country? Has it been driven out by other species of cake, hounded out by brownies like red squirrels ousted by their grey cousins? I have no explanation. It's a travesty.

Can you guess how excited I was to see coffee and walnut cake on the menu? I flounced past the brownies, mini victoria sponges, and chocolate cake, and made off with the last slice. No regrets there. Seriously, vegan cake makers of the world, can you remedy the shortage of coffee and walnut cake? Now I've tasted its joys once again, I can't face another drought.

This is a really friendly set-up with lovely staff and simple, home cooked food. I'll definitely be back. (Also - check out the interesting story behind the cafe here.)

As well as my first good feed in Richmond, I managed to get myself down to Fed by Water for the first time too. 

Fed by Water used to be a non-vegan eatery that was known for its solid vegan options, now it's an entirely herbivorous gaff. Being as Mr Flicking the Vs is a pizzaphile, he didn't take much persuading to get down to Hackney and fill his face.

Fed by Water's in a weird location - smack dab on the front of a functional shopping mall - and inside it's a bit dark and oddly laid out. There's a tiny toilet just next to the counter with a lock that wasn't working when we went, and a mezzanine that appears to be used for storage - the staff kept shimmying up the ladder to get to it and fetch down another box of something. 

So, that's the downsides. The upsides: the food!

As you'll spot from the pic below, I got a planet sized calzone, himself got a pizza that's bigger than some of the moons of Uranus.

Inside that duvet of pizza dough was meant to be tomato sauce, home-made cashew mozzarella style cheese, portobello mushrooms, soy ham, artichokes, olives, and scrambled tofu. If the latter was in there, I missed it, but other than that, it was one gorgeous pizza. Mr FtVs was equally complementary about his Hot Heaven, despite the fact he things olives are a cruel trick played by the plant kingdom on humans. The vegan cheese and meat on both was gorgeous, and I'm a hard woman to please on both fronts, but opening up the calzone was a rich, gooey, salty treat.

So, big fan of the pizzas, not a big fan of this little note on the menu: PLEASE NOTE: due to our kitchen space and cross contamination issues we are very sorry to inform you but we DO NOT serve celiacs.  It's a sentence that I find a bit confusing given the preponderance of gluten free options that follow on the menu. I do get they can't guarantee any cross-contamination, and they should be applauded for being clear about that, but saying they 'DO NOT' serve coeliacs seems a bit aggy. What will they do if a coeliac comes in - frogmarch them out the door under pain of gluten?

Oh alright, there's another gripe - the pizzas are just too big. I know, it's sacrilegious to say, but there really was too much food (and I say that as someone that believes there's a direct correlation between the amount of food on my plate and how happy I am). Mr Flicking the Vs is a big strapping chap, and I have a big strapping appetite, and neither of us got near finishing our pizza. The food waste and/or doggy bags this place must generate must be eyepopping.

So, not a full score for Fed by Water, but some great food to be had. Just remember not to turn up anything but starving. Or coeliac.

The Retreat Kitchen
16 Hill Rise
TW10 6UA
020 8127 0700

Fed by Water
Unit 1b Dalston Cross Shopping Centre
64 Kingsland High Street
E8 2LX
020 7249 6242

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  1. It makes me so happy to hear of places like Retreat springing up. Coffee and walnut is my favourite too. When I was a kid in the seventies my sister and I used to have our long hair washed on a Sunday night. We would sit in front of the electric bar fire to dry it as we had no hairdrier and we would watch as a family whatever serialisation was on the BBC. My mum would make a coffee and walnut cake and a jug of hot chocolate.

  2. I really love the term Evolved English Breakfast and hope it takes off. And I love the sound of the retreat kitchen's brekky (though not the cake because I would have to have the chocolate but it just shows we could share the cakes just fine). Fed by water sounds interesting - though not always in the right way - but sounds like there is potential - I know celiacs who would still eat in that kitchen even if they can't guarantee no cross contamination and I wonder if Fed by WAter is protecting them or just not letting them make their own choices. I can imagine them going in and saying to friends "don't mention I am celiac"

  3. Interesting review of Fed By Water, it's nice to hear some little details about the set up and the strong anti-celiac stance! The pizzas do look good. The breakfast also looks delicious! New vegan establishments are basically the only thing that prompt me to explore different parts of a city too - they can be a great motivation!

  4. I still need to get down to Fed By Water! Haha, very strange little note about coeliacs. I hope they read your review and consider rewriting it!


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