Turning our boozers into Assets of Community Value
“There aren’t many careers where you get to play with knives and fire for a living.” If you had to guess who said this, it’s unlikely you’d point a finger at Brendan Eades, the chef behind Warehouse London, the restaurant in blue-walled underbelly of Covent Garden’s Conduit Club. Not because the food is boring (far from it), but because what’s exciting about this menu are the gentle surprises tucked into pretty much every plate and born from an obvious reverence for ingredients, rather than theatrics, as the main event.
The Off The Vine cocktail marks the beginning of Eades’ translation of the natural world onto our tongues. A riff on a Margarita, Casamigos tequila joins elderflower liqueur in a delicate dance around a cratered ice sphere. The glass is dusted with tomato powder: an aromatic sneeze made from the leftover skins peeled off the menu’s tomato salad, then dried.
If the most basic thing on the menu is still delicious, you’re probably in good hands. Running with this theory we ordered the Ancient Grains Sourdough, only to discover that Warehouse has some of the safest hands around. The bread came stacked in warm cushiony slabs that we slicked with butter from Estate Dairy.
The restaurant chooses its suppliers carefully, with a focus on a commitment to sustainable practices and quality produce. These thoughtfully curated ingredients are prepared using traditional culinary practices in a nod to the building’s origins as a fruit and vegetable warehouse in 19th Century Covent Garden. The selection of pickles, preserved using long-established techniques, are the most obvious manifestation of this: salty cucumbers that taste like they’ve just been plucked from the sea, carrots and golden beetroot sweet enough that even a small child might enjoy them.
The most memorable dish would have gone untasted had we not been guided by our attentive waiter. Foraged hen of the wood mushrooms arrived moments later, earthy frills starred with little white flowers sitting humbly on a molten sheen of fermented chilli and beetroot.
It’s rare, borderline unheard of, that my meat-eating partner (MEP) is at a loss for words, especially when presented with “vegan food”. The man couldn’t find a sarky quip for the life of him. I didn’t notice he hadn’t said anything because I too was lost in something surprisingly meaty but light, crispy yet succulent, unexpectedly peppery… “it’s like KFC had a facelift”, my muted companion finally managed. Coming from a lover of fried chicken, this is the pinnacle of praise for a plant-based dish.
According to Eades, becoming a chef wasn’t something he was particularly pursuing. “It just happened. I never left because I was hooked.” Inspired by his mum, a chef herself, he started off cleaning, washing up and prepping kitchens. Today a different life is hard to imagine, “cooking is embedded in me. I eat, sleep and drink it.”
Responding to the state of the world around him, the ex-Silo chef is keen to work with nature in an attempt to drive change in the industry. “We are in a world that needs attention,” he says. “From our kitchen, we want to make consumers more aware of plant-based lifestyles and the benefits of making more sustainable choices.” Warehouse is motivated by a desire to live in a world where the journey behind the ingredients is just as important as ingesting the end result. Eades looks to regenerative farming practices and eating more plant-based dishes as one way forward.
The mushrooms were a hard act to follow and I found the vegan dishes that came after slightly underwhelming. The beetroot tartare with sumac and biber chilli was somehow both too sweet and salty (imagine granny’s homemade jam in a bloody battle with miso paste), whilst the swede, wild mustard and buckwheat, though tasty enough and romantically presented with tiny purple allium flowers, didn’t make my tongue sing.
My MEP, however, was entirely delighted with his menu choices. The soft raw scallops with crunchy salted kohlrabi, fresh herbs and chilled bisque were a masterclass in texture, and he was practically teary-eyed over the spring lamb. Sourced from Ethical Butcher and slow roasted, the animal came dressed in the nettles it probably once frolicked amongst, balanced precariously on top in ornate crispy fans amidst a painting of pink and green. Accompanied by its own tongue and heart, this dish epitomises Eades’ desire to use whole ingredients to their full potential.
My slight menu envy was placated, almost entirely, by the triple cooked potatoes and smoked mustard mayonnaise. Some of the best chips I’ve ever eaten (believe me, I am experienced in this field), and potentially the best mayonnaise.
For pudding, hibiscus sorbet cased in a black sesame wafer, sprinkled with hemp and seaweed, and a chocolate tart with peppermint ice cream. The sorbet tasted a bit like I imagine licking a really spectacular garden would, if you could: fragrant, earthy, gritty, occasionally sweet. The chocolate tart was the true winner. Unbelievably fluffy and light, it gave even the butter a run for its money. Grated chocolate sank into our tongues, rich snowflakes cooled by After Eight’s sophisticated cousin costumed in an ice cream disguise.
Despite making a firm dent in the menu, my MEP and I felt light inside. When you can taste where everything comes from, and those places are natural, there’s bound to be a spring in your step. Eades gave us an education in the earth, letting ingredients tell the story and carving out a path towards treating our home more kindly.
“We need to reconnect with where our food comes from. I one day hope our food systems can exist happily, without damaging the environment but rather giving back to it through regenerative farming and healing our soil. Then I can finally sleep at night.” Selfishly, I hope Eades doesn’t sleep for a little while longer, just so I can eat those mushrooms again.
Turning our boozers into Assets of Community Value
The King’s Cross educational charity just keeps on growing
Our top 10 spots for lazy weekend brunching around Regent’s Park Rd for before/after a brisk walk up the hill
NW5’s loveliest coffee shop and community hub has some rare fixed desk space available – plus a programme of events you’ll want to try