Through a discreet entrance on Stoke Newington Road we head up a slightly dingy set of what seem like back stairs along with hordes of excitable gig-goers.
EartH, Dalston’s recently opened arts venue in a former art deco cinema, plays on this rough-around-the-edges, warehouse feel.
Behind the double doors into EartH Kitchen however, it’s a different story.
A sleek bar runs most of the length of a huge, light space which is peppered with navy and mink table tops.
The sloping roof is the only reminder of the theatre above.
You can sense the newness – and smell the fresh paint – and this works with the modern design.
Having said that, it’s very much a work in progress when we visit on opening week, with some decorating yet to be finished in the lounge area towards the back.
Auro Foxcroft, the owner who also founded Village Underground in Shoreditch, tells me with a grin that a burst water pipe almost ruined the friends and family opening.
Music will be an important part of the restaurant, Foxcroft says. He hopes to have label takeovers and a regular jazz night.
In his eyes, the Kitchen is an evolving thing with bags of potential to try out new ideas. This is what makes it part of the wider EartH project, despite its outwardly contrasting look.
Head chef Chris Gillard, previously of St John, was attracted by these possibilities.
He wants to do twists on brasserie classics, focusing on quality, seasonal ingredients.
So griddled ox heart and chips, crispy polenta with fennel, and roast pork shoulder with chard and mustard are all coming out of the open kitchen.
We opt for a salad with butter beans and Romanesco, some braised squid and a potato and chorizo broth for starters.
The salad showcases Gillard’s inventiveness when it comes to veg, the huge butter beans infused with citrusy undertones and leeks to add a bit of crunch alongside the Romanesco.
Unusually styled as the star of what is almost a stew, the squid is complemented by sweet onions and fennel.
But it’s the broth that’s the real standout dish. It’s hearty and substantial with an impressive depth of flavour from the smokiness of the chorizo. It is, as Foxcroft put it, “like a cuddle”.
This focus on putting just a few ingredients on a plate but ensuring they all sing, individually and in unison, is continued in the mains.
The roast brill comes off the bone like butter, and is paired perfectly with a honey flavour coming through from the celeriac.
The braised lamb is everything you’d want it to be, juicy and tender, with turnip that cuts through the richness and a wonderful jus which my friend declares is “definitely better than mum’s Bisto”.
I want to eat everything on the intriguingly creative dessert menu but my stomach thinks otherwise. I sceptically order the trifle.
Of course, there was no need for me to sneer at the inclusion of this 70s classic – there are no reminders of granny’s disasters here, with fluffy sherry cream, a refreshing layer of rhubarb and, importantly, an absence of jelly.
Ginger stem pudding with butterscotch sauce is accompanied by some delicious ginger stem ice cream and is an appropriately indulgent end to the evening.
Special mention must also go the brilliantly playful cocktails.
Jaffa orange is added to my espresso martini while the polemo is punchy and spicy. And the avocado-based cocktail on will surely be a people pleaser.
The ambition of EartH Kitchen is matched only by the excitement that it engenders.
It will be an all-day space – “it’s too good not to use constantly”, Foxcroft says – with long opening hours and brunch on the weekends.
He is animated as he recounts an idea for having Sunday roasts where friends can sit around tables and help themselves.
The buzz is infectious. Brimming with potential, we can look forward to whatever it has in store.