Tag Archives: SAF

raw restaurant review: SAF Wholefoods Kensington

14 Aug

My birthday SAF special raw cashew nut cheese au poivre pour moi

I am very, very lucky. My birthday celebrations have stretched for over four months and my lovely super dooper generous friend Gabrielle decided to humour me with a birthday lunch treat of my choice. Following my fast I naturally gravitated to a raw option and since SAF has opened up in Wholefoods only 10mins away – it was a no brainer.

SAF’s menu is not 100% raw but it is 100% natural, gluten free and healthy and because Gabs is not only Italian but also, like everyone I know and love, as raw as a traditional cheesey meaty pasta lasagne, we were both cleverly and well catered for.

I hate to criticise any raw endeavour but I was a tad disappointed that quite few menu options were not available and as we were the only ones in the restaurant, the atmosphere was, well, let’s say, not as great as its mother restaurant in Old Street.

While Gabs tucked into the bulgar wheat wrap, I chose a SAF raw cheese signature dish of Pesto Au Poivre;  a sage pesto sandwiched between two layers of cashew cheese with pink peppercorn and chive crust served with dehydrated flaxseed and balsamic reduction.

It was delicious and incredible to believe that it was made of raw cashew nuts…I’ve just ordered the muslin online – so will try making it for myself any day now…Thank you Gab!

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Sincere apology: The hypocrite hit Jay Rayner’s raw nerve

8 Jul

Dear Jay Rayner,

Thank you for your email this morning.  I am so sorry to have offended you by calling you unhealthy and implying that the dark circles under your eyes are related to a liver condition. There are lots of reasons for dark circles under the eyes, one of which is genetics.  So therefore your dark circles under your handsome eyes may have nothing to do with your liver. Not even if it has recently eaten foie gras on at least four continents. I also have dark circles under my eyes but it’s not a genetic condition that affects the colour of my skin, it’s a genetic predisposition affecting the way my liver processes fats… But this is not about me – I now see that I was utterly and completely wrong.  You, however, are 100% right that in the 36 seconds we met, it is completely unfeasible that I could assess your health accurately. I also apologise for the endless profuse and embarrassingly obsequious list of compliments I wrote in my piece about you.  Perhaps it’s disturbing to hear nice things?  I’d love it!  I apologise from the bottom of my heart for that and for, as you pointed out, wasting your time on my bizarre question. I actually found you inspiring… Are we raw food people nuts or what! I hope you can forgive me at some time in the near future and that should other ‘fans’ bother you with their questions covering topics as bizarre as nutritious food, you will be just as polite.

And oh – among the many personal and professional defects you kindly pointed out to me in your email, I can safely say I am absolutely comfortable with my status as a hypocrite, a hack, a quack and a waste of time, but I find most offence and nearly choked to death on my alfalfa sprout and coconut water smoothy (recipe to follow) at your implication that I may be a Daily Mail writer.  That’s not nice Jay!

Thanks though for your invitation to a gym challenge and sorry I can’t make it.  The only challenge I would propose to you is to eat raw fruit and vegetables for a month.  Only 28 days!!!  Just think about it – we can get the best raw chefs in the UK to feed you (although SAF may not want to be involved…) and the best nutritionists to monitor your health inside out.  It’ll be a kind of reverse Super Size Me.  Come on!!!  YOU can do it!!!  You know you want to… You’ll feel a lot less angry at us lovely, happy, healthy, bouncy vegans…

Kindest regards

The RF Hypocrite

PS: Thanks for reminding me about the democracy of the Web.

Jay Rayner doesn’t give a toss about raw food

7 Jul
Jay Rayner's taste buds could with a lot more raw/vegan cruelty

Jay Rayner's taste buds could with a lot more cruelty from vegan food

While at Hay Festival, like the great big nerd I am, I unashamedly queued to have my books signed by both Jay Rayner and Heston Blumenthal (note unashamed name dropping).  In my small moment basking in their celebrity aura, I asked them both the same question; ‘what do you think about raw food?’  While Heston was ‘onto it’, Jay Rayner was, well, less enthusiastic; ‘I don’t give a toss.  If food doesn’t taste nice, it shouldn’t be eaten.’ 

Ignoring the question of ‘what exactly does nice tasting mean?’ – he’s right and I don’t think it’s just because I agree with him.  Raw fruit and vegetable combinations of all sorts are often difficult to swallow, literally.  But I didn’t need to meet him to hear his point of view.  Having read his review of SAF (which I whole-heartedly disagreed with in my own review), he made his point against raw food loudly and clearly in the headline: ‘It’s grim down Saf; vegan cuisine is a non-starter if it’s kind to animals but cruel to the taste buds.’

Jay Rayner is blatantly anti-vegan, anti-vegetarian, anti-raw and having read his recent book; ‘The man who ate the world; In search of the perfect dinner’, which is a kind of Michelin starred, international Super Size Me, he is also clearly anti-healthy food. 

However, I do think he is truly great, not just because he took the time to answer my question honestly, but because he represents the voice from the stomach of just about everyone I know, including the hypocrite in me. He is also really hilarious, completely decadent, down to earth and I happen to know he is extremely generous with his time with charities such as Summer Uni London’s Nang magazine.

Despite the large black rings (swollen liver?) under his bloodshot eyes (adrenal exhaustion?), a sweaty pallor (high blood pressure?) and swollen belly (candida?), Jay’s energy and wit defy a body under nutritional stress. My instinct following my 36 second ‘meeting’ with him was that he is a genuinely happy and successful man and also a genuinely unhealthy one.

But at what point do we let go of our emotional conditioning around the food we eat and prioritise our health?  And when do we allow ourselves to make choices that are not centred around what our mothers allowed or didn’t allow us to eat? Jay constantly referred to his famous Mother, Clare Rayner, in his book and he’s not alone in making the connection to food and mothering.  We all do it all the time, although mostly subconsciously.  But does eating something  that triggers happy (or sad) memories of childhood, maternal approval or feelings of success taste ‘nicer’ than the real clear-headed-living-in the-present-moment experience of eating fresh, natural, local, ripe,  nutrient-rich, absolutely 100% raw food?

I love Jay’s column and his books and don’t want him to change but I also, selfishly, want him to keep writing about food for a very long time.  I also, as a personal aim, want him to, one day, write about a raw meal in the same way he writes about the ‘Arpege tomato’.

There simply must be a way to embed the same ecstatic ‘nice tasting’ triggers in the experience of eating raw fruit and vegetables in our children, that Jay gets from buttery, garlicky escargots and foie gras and I get from cheddar cheese and gherkins on a freshly baked baguette.

SAF is a culinary haven

30 Mar
fine slices of beetroot stuffed with ricotta nut cheese

Delicious slivers of raw beetroot and ricotta nut cheese ravioli

According to the critics, SAF is THE raw food restaurant to go to in London. Well – to be fair – there are only three but that doesn’t mean it isn’t sensational and doesn’t give every mainstream restaurant in town a run for its money. It’s not raw food as you know it and if I can’t ‘turn’ you raw, their macadamia feta cheese will.

As soon as I walked in from hectic, rainy Old St and sat down, I noticed three distinct things:

1.  SAF, so named after the Turkish word for pure and authentic, is a totally chilled out sanctuary of culinary calm. I usually only breathe properly in a yoga class but here I breathed in and breathed out…sipped my biodynamic, organic vegan red wine and breathed in again;

2.  The menu is actually only 50% raw but what is raw is made up of 100% delectable and ingenious combinations of fruits, nuts, seeds and vegetables; and

3.  For a Monday night, it was packed, and this, our smiley, knowledgeable waitress told me, was a slow night.

Kindly joining me on my raw adventure was my friend Vivian, who also generously agreed to share absolutely everything, hence the broad spectrum of dishes we powered through. We had raw beetroot ravioli, a pesto au poivre (raw nut cheese), raw vegetable maki, raw pad thai and a raw root vegetable tart, all followed by a raw chocolate granache tart with pear sorbet, spiced rum and pear compote. Yum, yum, yum. Every dish was delicious and filling, made even more rewarding because all those natural nutrients would be heading straight for my blood stream and I wouldn’t be stressing out my poor digestive system to get to them. I won’t spoil your own experience and critique every dish to death but here are the highlights:

For starters, the beetroot ravioli looked and tasted amazing. Extremely fine slices of raw beetroot were stuffed with a cashew nut ricotta and surrounded by carrot, pumpkin seed oil and the most incredible balsamic fig I have ever smacked my chops around.

The pesto au poivre course was a cheese feast deluxe. This was a tough one as I was (am) a cheese obsessive freak and had very high hopes. I purposely avoid making nut cheese as it goes against my fundamental philosophy that delicious raw food meals shouldn’t rely on crazy equipment, weird ingredients and lengthy time frames. However, I couldn’t wait to try it here. According to our waitress, the cheese with sage pesto and peppercorn crust, was made from fermented cashew nuts by one (or all) of the twelve chefs on staff. That’s amazing! Twelve raw food chefs!!

The raw pad thai was spicey but not too spicey, on courgette noodles that were more noodley than noodles and a chipotle almond sauce that was nothing like almonds or chipotle and everything like a traditional pad thai. Only raw.

With surgical precision only acquired by someone with lots of competitive, food loving siblings, Vivian divided the Granache tart in perfect halves. I tried to trick the waitress into telling us the ingredients but only gleaned cacao and coconut oil, which I had guessed anyway. Needless to say it was luscious, even if I was ‘forced’ to share it.

Whether y0u are herbivore or carnivore, I strongly recommend you go and try out the menu for yourself.  The menu apparently changes frequently so I will certainly go back very soon. I don’t want to miss out on the cucumber black peppercorn sorbet and I am determined to figure out the rest of the ingredients in my own full slice of granache!