In 1996 I was going through a goth phase. I remember this because I played Nick Cave and Kylie’s “Where the wild roses grow” on repeat, wore a lot of black velvet, and explored the many uses for eyeliner. It was also around the time that I dated the most wholesome individual on the planet, who stubbornly refused to be anything but perfectly well-adjusted despite my best efforts.
When I arrived at CREAM in Shoreditch, it was 11am and fairly quiet. I really just fancied somewhere to catch up on my emails, abuse some wifi, maybe write a blog post. I could hear a little Nick Cave, a little Kylie. I could feel my 90s nostalgia kick in.
CREAM has an cafeteria-style aesthetic with painted white brick walls, natural wood surfaces and open metal shelving that lend to the warm industrial look. Along one wall there’s a row of sockets and workstations, where diners can sip and charge at the same time. The whole feel is airy, open and effortless.
Within half an hour the place was packed, with more folk wanting to plug in, trendy people way cooler than me, and a large group of ridiculously attractive women in yoga gear with adorably well-behaved babies.
There was at least one vegan cooked option, several cakes, and a trio of fabulously imaginative salads. Yes, salads. It was like they’d secretly asked what all my favourite things were to eat and then mixed them up in a bowl with some dressing.
I’ve never been someone who would choose salad as a meal. I love cooked food too much. For someone who’s been vegan for over two years, I’m a fairly consistent salad dodger. A plate full of leaves does not set my heart a-flutter, and I can’t imagine a more disappointing meal than a bowl of uncooked vegetables.
These guys have mastered the art of combining textures, flavours, and fruit with roasted and raw vegetables to make three completely unique salads, without a single rocket leaf to add volume in sight. I fucking hate rocket. It’s a garnish, not part of a meal goddamnit!
Sweetcorn, sweet potato, lemon-chilli oil & coriander. I enjoyed this for it’s subtle spiciness, and I love sweet potato in anything. It wasn’t my favourite, but mostly because my heart belongs to the humble aubergine.
Root veg and beetroot slaw, figs, almonds & balsamic dressing. I usually shudder at the mere mention of the word “slaw”, which conjures up horrible memories of school dinner coleslaw swimming in mayonnaise, with the occasional strand of *shudder* raw onion. This bore absolutely no resemblance to the ‘slaws of my nightmares. In fact can we take a moment to reflect on the fact that not one single one of these fabulous salads contained a single shred of raw onion in any form? Sweet perfectly ripe figs, toasted flaked almonds, and a crisp, fresh slaw stained purple with beetroot and sticky balsamic.
Green bean, aubergine, prunes, Marcona almonds. This one was, to my surprise, my favourite. I usually like the idea of green beans more than the actual bean in a dish, and it’s something I’ll occasionally buy way too much of thinking I love the damned things. I can never resist a roasted aubergine it any form, and the addition of sweet, sticky prunes was just genius. Spanish Marcona almonds are rounder and sweeter than the traditional Californian variety with more of a distinct crunch. They’re more delicate. Dare I say it, they’re just better. I’ve tried them before at my local deli, but never bought any because I had a worry I would just devour an entire tub in a frenzy.
Who knew I’d ever find myself craving salad? CREAM can be found at 31 New Inn Yard in Shoreditch, and the menu changes daily with fresh local and sustainably sourced produce. Try it. Who knows, you too may decide it *is* possible to love salad.