288 Cambridge Heath Rd, Cambridge Heath, London E2 9DA
‘A temple of careful, conscious and creative eating’
The world is on fire, the times are a-changing and amongst this madness, I am doing a re-review. But nothing is repetitive when it comes to Sarah and Rich and their crusade for sustainable and surprising pizza. It’s certainly a flaming torch I will warm myself by.
Popping up throughout the pandemic, Flat Earth Pizza is a rare lockdown success story.
Starting at their current venue, they ranged nomadic across London with a pizza oven in the place of a yurt. They ended up at the Plough pub in Homerton, where yours truly was charmed in July of last year.
Now they have returned to 288 Cambridge Heath Road, triumphant and staying put.
The space is theirs – cue maniacal laughter – and with that freedom, they have hit the ground running. Occupying a trendy corner of a very trendy part of the road, their never-ending floor-to- ceiling windows gaze out onto the Last Tuesday Society (think if the Mighty Bosch made a bar),
Regent’s Canal (behind a wall), and a live music pub. What fitting neighbours.
The place is lovingly kitted out. Tables cluster outside in the failing light. Flashes of red and blue paintings light up the space – these have been brought from the owner’s home, apparently leaving behind many an empty wall. Reclaimed scaffolding planks wrap the bar in the centre.
One of my grandmother’s pearls of wisdom was “judge a restaurant by its toilet”, and in this respect the duo delights. The loo is on brand, with giant vegetable murals from local artist Alice, who also worked on the overall aesthetic. The space is consistently pleasing.
On the back wall closest to us, the booze rack in a deep dark blue (made by Sarah herself) showcases their partnership with Sustainable Wine Solutions, Graft, Renegade and East London Spirits. Most fascinating is their team-up with Flavour Fred (George Fredenham), who forages the wild botanicals used in the cocktails. Now that’s booze that cares. Being the sauced old drunk I am, nothing brings a tear to my eye like a wall of curated alcohol. I will do my best to make a dent in it for you, dear reader.
Stem my gushing, now is time for the food. But first, classically, a cocktail. A fig leaf and sweet woodruff martini glides down – a twist on the famous Appletini with a pleasing medicinal complexity provided by the anise liqueur.
Up next, a face-melting (in a good way) woodland negroni with a surprise in the form of bay leaf liqueur.
Now it’s time for food. The first change on the menu since I last perused it is the addition of starters, and how wonderful they are.
Forty Hall Farm roasted beetroot, warmed as if by the midday sun. Globules of goat’s curd, cradled in a nest of reddened cabbage leaves and dusted in Pangrattato crumbs (made from leftover bread to avoid food waste). Forty Hall Farm is an organic farm run by Capel Manor College.
Heirloom tomatoes the size of my fist, with Hampshire mozzarella, pickled veg and a delicate pink strawberry vinaigrette is our second dish. A crisp taste of summer. The tomatoes are paired with dense homemade focaccia – moist, heavy and built for thrusting into the pool of smoky hummus. The addition of kimchi doesn’t quite work but is entertaining when kept separate on the third plate.
Garlic bread is also an option for those craving some carbs before their flattened circular carbs, or there’s carrot lox for those missing the taste of fish.
A carafe of natural orange wine settles down quietly by our side. Hilarity ensues when my Scottish dinner guest mentions its visual similarity to a famous heritage brew – or bru – from his hometown.
Orange wine is certainly different. This one is 25 years old, hand-harvested, organic, with no agrochemicals, and natural fertilisers. With age and pedigree like that, a bit of bitterness can be born.
The second carafe arriving later is a little more hazily remembered. It is from a sustainable vineyard that has been run by the same family for almost 150 years. By having wine on tap and reusing bottles, the restaurant drastically reduces its carbon footprint. You can even take the wines away in refillable bottles.
The Quince Charming is sampled and finishes off the selected cocktail menu. Sadly of the three, this is the least impressive, rather browbeaten by the lemon flavour.
‘What about the pizzas?!’ I hear you call, rattling your imaginary knives and forks. Settle down. All in good time.
That time is now! These pizzas are birthed from dough that is a mix of Gilchester’s Organic heritage grain flour and wild-farmed. This is healthier and avoids the post-pizza puff.
Fans of my food ramblings (I’m talking to you, mum) will be interested to know that Supa Ya Ramen (a winsome ramen place I reviewed a couple of months ago) uses the same flour for their noodles.
I plump for pizzas that are new on the menu, and the Hackney Hot seems appropriate. Bright pink and begging to be Instagrammed, the sweet pickled beetroot returns with fermented hot salsa and three Somerset grated cheeses. What a circle of pleasure.
The roasted tomato and caramelised onion version across from me is a gooey mix of (slightly too large) sliced tomatoes, sweet obliterated ribbons of onion, and passata. A tangled wonder with soft vegetable bodies swirled into a pile of steaming flavour.
There is also the four cheese, fennel and new potato for those needing some spud action. And there’s the courgette and radicchio, or a classic margherita if you feel like playing it safe.
Everything can be made vegan by swapping the cheeses.
The food bursts with colour, and is thick and glistening with flavour. If you get Sarah or Rich (or their carefully picked team) chatting, they will dazzle you with their passion for food and the planet.
The dessert options are salaciously rich brownies from Cake Or Death, and ice cream, but we are treated to the first off-menu surprise.
The dish is a perfectly sinful end to an evening remarkably lacking in geoclimatic sin – daily unsold croissants from Bread Station down the road are stuffed with salted caramel ice cream and lightly dusted with cocoa. Diabolical sweetness. Even when you’re bad in this venue, you’re doing good, which is almost frustrating.
Vegan, carbon neutral and green are all losing their meaning slightly as big brands capitalise on our growing worries about the deterioration of the planet. But here you can trust that these two restaurateurs care as much about the planet as they claim to on the menu.
The second off-menu treat, an espresso martini, is rustled up, and I bravely suggest it be named after myself, a petition that I am reiterating here, in print. Sipping my “Gabriel”, I look around at the temple of careful, conscious and creative eating.
As the menu follows the seasons and changes every eight weeks, I look forward to returning again and again to see what fresh magic has been conjured up.
We sit, bathing in the sunset, picking at delicious vegetables, and celebrating one of the few good things (within the restaurant industry) to come from the last two years.
Hurry yourself down to Flat Earth pizza for an evening overflowing with personal friendliness and culinary fairness, and while you’re down there, put in a good word about the Gabriel cocktail. Ta!
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