You'd think the concept of eating plants wouldn't be all that exciting for vegans given that it's what most of us do every day, but if you'd seen me and Serena at Herb Lab's herbalicous supperclub you'd think we were kids in a sweet shop. Which wasn't far off - just excited vegans in a gorgeous green sweet shop!
Created by cook and herb-lover Sepideh Ardalani, who is assisted by knowledgable herbalist, forager and all round plant enthusiast Benjamin Smith, this is much more than just a dinner. This is an informative, fun and friendly dining experience. From the personal welcome on arrival from Sepi to the detailed menus and information booklets, attention to detail is key. The food comes across as simple - it's just grass and weeds, right...? But when you read about the ingredients (95 on the night we visited!) and then taste the flavours, you know that consideration and understanding is behind every dish, as well as very important medicinal properties.
Each event is slightly different and when we visited the focus was 'roll your own' wraps. Before this though we were presented with several flavoured waters starting with one with elderflower infused ice cubes which accompanied the amouse-bouche of dehydrated rhubarb and chard.
The chard was so moreish I could have eaten a plateful! If you like kale crisps, you'll LOVE this. The rhubarb was perhaps too sweet for me but complemented the sharp salty tang of the chard perfectly. With our bouches well and truly amused we were placated with even more herbal infusions to cleanse our palates before the astonishing 'non-conformist' raw salad. It was so pretty we didn't want to eat it but as soon as we tasted it we couldn't eat it fast enough! Although I did keep stopping to comment on how I didn't want this dish to end. What many would have seen as a pile of, albeit pretty, leaves and flowers, was to us a mouthwatering, clever dish that combined mallow leaves, elderflower fritters, fried thistles, golden oregano and wild flowers amongst the 20 ingredients in this dish. Perhaps the best salad I've ever tasted. Which is a rather bold statement for a plant-loving vegan.
After a reasonable wait where we got to know the other guests a bit more - another highlight of this intimate event - our mains arrived. Nori leaves and vegetable leaves for the wrappers, a tray of herbs and veggies for toppings including chevril, coriander, rose petals and lemon balm, as well as cashew ricotta stuffed courgette flowers for the vegans (by far the most epic of all the items on offer) and either wild rice or raw cauliflower and cashew rice, guests were free to create their own combination of wraps. Every single one I made was packed full of flavour and goodness. Who would have thought such simple ingredients could be so pleasurable?! Plant power to the vegans was all we could think!
After some more herby waters, dessert was upon us. Not just one, but two which complemented each other perfectly. The first, an elderflower popsicle on an oak twig (which you chew on after to clean your teeth!), the other a creamy coconut milk infused with berries which was probably my second favourite thing of the evening after the courgettes flowers.
The meal ended with some dreamy tea (not vegan unfortunately due to including honey) however I knew I was going to face happy plant-based dreams no matter what!
Sepi has created something unique with her supperclubs and something that whilst not strictly vegan really celebrates the importance of and use of plants, which is something that I'm sure all vegans of London will appreciate.
The Herb Lab is at Pond Dalston, east London. Unit G2, Stamford Works, 3 Gillett Street, London N16 8JH.
The Herb Lab's supper club is priced at £34 and we think it's more than worth the ticket price. The evening is a mixture of lovingly created & unique dishes, some herbal education and great conversation.
The Herb Lab's next supper club is on Thursday 21st July. You can find them at:
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