Think of Hackney, and clucking hens and blissed out pigs aren’t the first things to spring to mind. But Hackney City Farm offers a real slice of farmyard life, fringed by cherry trees and thick foliage which screen out the surrounding buildings. An essential stop on a Hackney farmyard visit is the excellent Frizzante Café. With its colourful decor, whirlwind of kiddie craft workshops and toddlers under foot, Frizzante can feel more like a creche than a café. Despite appearances though, there’s a serious attitude to food here: chef Eddy who trained in Verona set up the café with two fellow Italians, and the emphasis on fresh produce has always been central.
Their daytime menu might include pappardelle with pork ragù, roast guinea fowl and seasonal salads. Chef Hoel from Brittany has been cooking alongside Eddy for three years: he’s a fan of British food, and buys up cookbooks in charity shops to find inspiration for pies, Scotch Eggs and Yorkshire puds. On Thursdays the café stays open and lights are dimmed for the agriturismo evening, with a limited but impeccable three-course menu of seasonal Italian food: ravioli with butternut squash, pot roast rabbit and apple and plum crumble to share.
If you wander the farmyard before your meal, it may be a relief to know that the farm animals are kept as pets, and won’t be winding up on your plate. But the fruit trees and abundant veg garden, maintained by a crew of volunteers, supply the café with some of its produce: broad beans, rhubarb, chard, raspberries and cherries. And as well as providing a mini rustic retreat, the farm is a good place for aspiring gardeners and craftspeople to learn new skills: there are courses on bee keeping, straw-bale building, clay-oven constructing and general low impact living. The painted blue lockers are a pick up point for the Growing Communities not-for-profit veg box scheme. It’s a good one to consider if you’re out during the day and can’t have food delivered – and Eddy and Hoel at the café provide plenty of inspiration for getting the very best from local seasonal ingredients.
These recipes reflect the French and Italian influences on Frizzante’s menu. Try the farm shop for olive oil and vinegar for the mozzarella salad – they also sell their own garden produce. Frizzante use mozzarella from Ginger Pig in Victoria Park and stone-baked sour dough from the E5 bakehouse.