Spend enough time in The Hornbeam and you might just purge yourself of all the ailments of modern life - the place is solar powered for Christ’s sake. These good people are all about community, local produce, and keeping you green as a grasshopper. The seasonal menu (spelled out in fridge magnets) is primarily vegan and always tasty - come in the week for something simple like their pumpkin and kale tart, or on the weekend for their full English brekkie. Food aside, the music is straight-up soulful and they even host classes. Pop in for a Jamming class (jam making) or a Jammin’ class (guitar skills). Or both. Heck, we’re community converts.
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** permanently closed - unpublished 16th august** This warm and friendly coffee shop in Forest Gate has a bit of a split personality - the daytime menu is fully vegetarian, while the nighttime selection brings meatier offerings from the local market. Coffee comes from fellow Eastenders All Press, who roast down the road in Dalston. Get involved in the 'suspended coffee' scheme if you’ve got an extra quid or two knocking about - buy one, pay for two, and someone less fortunate can claim it. That’s some good coffee karma there. You’ll find all manner of tasty homemade baked goods here - the coffee cake and vegan choc number are all the rage amongst regulars. Cocktails and beers are available in the eve if you’re after something stiffer, while you can also catch music and poetry nights once the sun’s gone down.
Housed in a residential Primrose Hill enclave perfect for celeb safari, L’Absinthe is a classic French Bistro characterized by red check tablecloths, local art on the walls and a “Bonjour!” welcome for all. By day, it’s a cafe serving warm pastries (only an hour old we were promised), croque monsieurs and crepes to a crowd of local regulars but come evening, it becomes more ‘intimate bistro’, making it a nice place for a date. On the menu are all the classics and really this is what you should stick to - chicken liver parfait, thick onion soup (winter only), duck confit and steak frites are all winners. In true French style, vegetarians are not welcome.
Vegetarian options can be a pretty grim afterthought at a lot of places, but Kin Café properly readdresses the balance. As a vegetarian and vegan cafe, their menus are always changing, and are never short on colour. They love to experiment here, so some of the creations might not be to everyone's tastes, but you should definitely get involved and try them out. The vibe is chilled too, so it's a good spot for just a coffee and gluten-free sweet boost as well.
We know, we know, the name is misleading, but you could probably grow an elephant here if you really wanted to - though you'd need to have very little respect for nature, animals, the environment, the world, and we know you're not that kind of person. Instead, the people of Elephant and Castle have come together to grow fresh veg and summery flowers in movable raised beds, so those green fingers can run wild when you're not busy enjoying a warm cuppa from the on-site caff. They also host regular events throughout summer - like workshops, live gigs, outdoor film screenings, yoga classes and poetry nights - and keep a small part of the garden sectioned off for volunteers to grow their own veg and relax. Just don't forget to bring some tweezers, pallet seating can get annoying. There's at least one volunteering session per week, just email Paul to find out when.