A breath of fresh air at the Skip Garden kitchen in King’s Cross
Café offshoot of trailblazing community project uses ingredients picked from adapted skips - and the result is creative, cheap food
05 May, 2017 — By Tom Moggach
Signature dish: the Skip Garden Kitchen’s salad
A GARDEN in a skip? It was a surreal stroke of genius – an idea that’s survived almost a decade of upheaval in King’s Cross.
Skip Garden Kitchen is the café offshoot of this trailblazing community project, open every lunchtime from Tuesday to Saturday. It’s a truly unique place to eat out, offering wholesome respite from this stark new urban landscape.
The Skip Garden, like its surroundings, has evolved fast over the years.
These mobile gardens have been uprooted several times by the big developers, who work in a friendly symbiosis.
Commercial catering is a relatively new venture for them. But the charity does it well, relying on a roster of chefs to cook up creative, vegetarian and highly seasonal food.
When I popped in, specials included fennel soup with chilli oil, a goat’s cheese quiche, and open sandwiches with red pepper and beetroot hummus.
Ingredients, where possible, are picked from the adapted skips. Each upcycled metal container has its own character and role in the garden ecosystem.
There’s a Potager, Orchard and Grow House skip, the latter a polytunnel for growing tomatoes and peppers.
The Green Engine skip is a marvel of cunning design: the roof collects rainwater; the composter makes humus (organic matter, not the chickpea dish); wormeries produce fertiliser for the garden.
Back in the café, I enjoyed a signature super salad – their own kale, chard and salad leaves mixed with rice, roasted parsnip, peppers, sprouts, (optional) feta and a yoghurt dressing.
The cooking is high-calibre, creative and cheap. You can eat well for around a fiver and leave zero food waste – all is composted for use in the garden.
Coffee and cakes are also on hand, such as cinnamon swirl scones or flapjacks – perfect fuel for the many informal business meetings that sprout up around the garden.
Make sure to soak up the fine detail: the jar of bubbling sourdough starter; the donation box collecting clothing for refugees; the box of postcards featuring their local photography.
The rough wooden shelves of the café are lined with pickles and artisanal jams made by local teenagers. (Global Generation, the charity that runs the project, specialises in working with young people).
Most customers carry their lunch out into the garden itself. There are even a few coveted chairs inside the skips, among the bees and apple blossom.
This incarnation of the Skip Garden was designed with help from students at the Bartlett School of Architecture.
Ninety per cent of the materials used were waste from the original site.
Admire the 100 Hands Wall, a dining and growing hall with one wall made of rammed earth. Or the lofty Glass House, painstakingly constructed from reclaimed sash windows.
Much as I love the new King’s Cross, it can feel a little sterile at times. The Skip Garden is an organic antidote.
Lunch from noon-2pm