Essence Cuisine Shoreditch

Club culture meets clean cuisine at Bart Roman’s new plant-based venture in Shoreditch

If, like me, you’re veggie/vegan curious or already committed to a plant -based diet, celebrity chef Matthew Kenney is likely to be on your radar.  On a mission to change the way we think about food and make plant-based cuisine the ultimate food experience, he consults with entrepreneurs who share his vision, as well as doing his own thing.

Essence Cuisine in London’s Shoreditch is the latest venture to receive Kenney’s helping hand, as well as a couple of his signature dishes.  If you’re an avid foodie, that might be reason enough for you to visit, but something else piqued my interest. Or more specifically, someone.   Owner, Bart Roman is perhaps better known in club and music circles.  As a festival organiser, he’s no stranger to giving people a good time and with Essence Cuisine, his intention is to do this in a super healthy way.

I’m interested to see what happens when club culture meets clean cuisine so I book in for breakfast.

The first thing that strikes me when I arrive, is that Essence Cuisine doesn’t look like a restaurant.  As I step up into the space, designed by Swedish Architect, Andreas Bozarth-Fornell who also designed Acne Studio’s stores, I feel as though I’m boarding a beautifully designed space shuttle. Apart from a geometrically shaped table at the front of the space, seating is side-by-side and arranged down each wall, with aluminium fold-out tables.

Aluminium continues up the walls and onto the ceiling where bright lighting is set between aluminium fins.

Further ceiling treatments resemble galactic skies – one completely black and the other, with colourful spangles.

The temperature of the design is decidedly cool, rather like the menu, where nothing is heated above 50 degrees centigrade. A palette of aluminium, concrete and black glass is only slightly softened by pale wood. I’ve been told that Roman likes to innovate with cutting edge techniques and I get the feeling that this is his lab, as well as place for us to enjoy his chefs’ creations.  The food brings colour to the scene and I fall in love with the vibrant colours of the natural powders behind the bar.  These are used to boost the nutritional quality of the drinks on offer.

Music is central to the experience and  it very much sets the mood in the space.  When I visit at 9.30 am, it’s a gentle rhythm played loud.  I notice that there are four Funktion One speakers and I’m informed that this sound system is designed for use at festivals. So this is where Roman’s twin passions meet.

Having perused the clip board menu I order Garbanzo Scramble (scrambled chickpeas, greens and anchovies) and sit back to contemplate my surroundings in more detail.  Although the place is hard rather than soft, there’s a lightness of touch which speaks of care and delicacy.  Unlike the music, the design is quietly spoken.  The identity is feather light and all furniture and fittings are refined in their form.  I get the feeling that Roman wants us to join him on a voyage of discovery into plant-based foods rather star as a leading light in this gastronomic movement.  I feel welcome and comfortable being here.

When my Garbanzo Scramble arrives, it looks beautiful and tastes delicious.  I think even my husband, a committed meat eater, would enjoy this dish. I ponder whether I’d bring him back here and I think I would.  The side-by-side seating makes for an intimate dining experience, despite the absence of discreet booths and soft lights.  Having finished my food, I get ready to go. I resist the temptation of a Pine Pollen Latte and I don’t feel I want to get my laptop out to work here.  The hard surfaces aren’t conducive to long stays and more to the point, what’s going on there feels too special to be a backdrop for something else.  The carefully prepared dishes are worthy of my full attention and uninterrupted enjoyment.

As I leave, I notice the beautifully packaged take-away delights.  Some are own label and others are chosen brands that share the Essence Cuisine philosophy. Beauty, innovation and pleasure are apparent in everything I’ve experienced here.

Social Fabric’s Verdict

Look: Welcome to the future of food

Welcome:  Warm in cool surroundings 

Weekday atmosphere: Set by the music 

Best for :  Everyday special taste experiences with a friend / Hiring out for a private party

Highlight: The vibrant, natural food colours against neutral hi-tech materials

Essence Cuisine
94 Leonard Street, London EC2A 4RH