Early on, after moving to London in September, one of my new Londoner friends recommended that I check out the Hackney City Farm. My blank look said it all. A farm? In Hackney? As in, a part of London? And still pretty much the centre of London, at that? Yes, yes, yes, and yes, was the answer. Always looking for interesting adventures, I was obviously intrigued at the idea of a farm (and apparently there are others, too! in the middle of one of the largest cities in the world, but I didn’t make it over there until last weekend.
I now know that urban farming isn’t nearly as rare as I thought it was, appearing in cities all over the world. However, the term generally is used to refer to innovative vertical growing spaces, such as roof top gardens. This is emphatically not what the Hackney City Farm is. It is exactly what one would expect from a farm, from the sturdy-rickety wooden fence, to chickens running underfoot in the yard, from the green pastures, to the tilled earth with rows of fresh greens and other plants, from indignant ducks strutting around the pond like they own the place despite what may be considered a stronger claim by the chickens, to the smell of manure undoubtedly linked to the extra-large pigs and goat (of a normal size) present. As I entered the yard, carefully manoeuvring the gate behind me so as not to let any of the many chickens escape in the process, I felt as though London were worlds away. The only sign that I was not on a remote farm in the middle of England came as I looked skyward and was brought back to reality by the tall, grey needles piercing the blue sky.
Not only can you enjoy all the stress-relieving benefits of petting a goat, but in an adjoining café, in what I am guessing is a converted barn, you can enjoy the edible fruits of labour of the farm as well. On this particularly Sunday, E and I enjoyed a delicious Sunday brunch. Eschewing the usual foodie rule #1 – never order the same dish as your partner in crime – we both went for the scrambled eggs with smoked salmon on a thick slice of toasted spelt bread. It definitely hit the spot. The eggs were perfectly done, neither too runny, nor too rubbery. The salmon reminded me of the fresh stock in Scotland and had none of the white fatty bits that, through the removal process, can turn what was a beautiful pink piece of salmon into a jig-saw puzzle with missing pieces. There was a dash of crème fraîche on top, with cilantro, that added just a touch of creaminess, reminding me of bagel, lox, and cream cheese. The bread was perfect. It didn’t get soggy from the eggs, but it also wasn’t tough from toasting or being stale. The crumb was of a good consistency, soft on the inside, while the crust has a nice crunch. I was inspired to create a similar breakfast later in the week, with the major departure being a slice of Poilane’s rye and current bread. I love all of Poilane’s breads, but their traditional sourdough load would have been a better match to this dish. Oh well, next time!
After a heavenly brunch and soothing wander through the farm, E and I hit the Columbia Road Flower Market, where we both picked up flowers to bring some life and colour into our flats. I continued with the Scottish theme by picking up a bouquet of thistles. J Clearly my subconscious is telling me something…
What a wonderful adventure and a wonderful break from the city, without ever even leaving it!