In three words: Tranquil, Wholesome, Assured
The Lowdown: There seems to be a big boom for healthy options in restaurants these days – people are realising the appeal of heading out to eat without sacrificing their good intentions, or end up feeling like a butter-basted cousin of Henry VIII when they arrive home. From raw cafes to juice bars and vegetarian restaurants, the opportunity to stay pure is blooming, and personally I’m a fan. Vegetables, herbs and spices have so much potential to be turning into exciting meals.
Which was why I’ve been keen to head to RAW for a while. This vegan restaurant, nestled within La Suite West Hotel, is headed by Nik Heartland – a man with a passion for changing people’s preconceptions of ‘health food’. He is taking the assumptions of what gluten free, raw and vegetarian fare might be like, and is delivering beautiful, tasty and innovative dishes, all served with a variety of ‘Mocktails’ and juices. We headed over one afternoon for a spot of nourishment.
Location: Inside the chic designer hotel La Suite West, which lies along a wide boulevard of elegant pale buildings near to Kensington Park and Bayswater Station.
The Occasion: Head here when you want to eat out but don’t want to compromise the diet, or simply want to leave feeling light and fresh. It’s the ideal place to bring vegetarians, and also any carnivores you’re hoping to sway towards meat-free munching.
Decor: Beautiful oriental style done to a T. The neutral colour scheme of pale walls with striking black panelling and furniture, together with sliding walls, give the impression of being in a traditional Japanese home, while pops of colour come from vibrant magenta orchids. The springy chairs are some of the most comfortable we’ve ever sat on, and the crockery was gorgeous.
Atmosphere: An air of zen-like serenity pervades, thanks in part to the decor, and also due to the competent and assured staff that calmly assist with all needs.
Culinary Concept: The restaurant does serve a ‘normal’ menu, but we were here for the RAW specialities – vegetarian choices, many of which are classed a ‘raw’ (not heated above 42 C/118 F degrees) and Gluten Free.
What we tried: If, like me, you like alternative and healthy food served in interesting fashions, then the menu will cause much excitement. We decided to share a number of the small ‘Tasting Plates’, the selection of which sparkled with asian touches and innovative twists. The Kale and Orange Salad was a mix of crunchy leaves and crisp kale, given a ray of sunshine-flavour from the fruit and livened up with creole mustard mayo and hemp vinaigrette – it managed to be fresh, zesty and slightly sweet all at once. Chunks of Peppered Tofu lay on a drizzle of tartar sauce and came accompanied with delicious pickled vegetables – definitely an memorable combination, where the textures won out. The Aubergine Sweet Miso was the star of the show – plump, luscious chunks with a wonderful fleshy texture, coated in a thick sauce that zinged with umami taste. Oh, and everything was presented simply beautifully.
For the main course we were tempted by the Thai Red Curry, but instead decided to go for a raw option of Maki Sushi Rolls, made with julienne vegetables. Once dipped in tamarind sauce and accompanied by a kick of ginger then they were just as good as the real thing. Then for dessert we were treated to a board of delights, which included raw cacao brownies and a faux ‘cheesecake’.
For next time: I want to come back and try it all! The Cauliflower ‘Cheese’ with kimchi cream and herb breadcrumbs sounds delicious, and we saw two very happy gentleman tucking into the Portobello Mushroom Burgers.
Veggie delights: Everything! The perfect place to bring your flesh-forsaking friends.
Best of the booze: No booze here – the RAW body is a temple, for sure. However, a wonderful range of mocktails should excite you – how about the Hickory Virgin Mary, or non-alcoholic versions of a frozen margarita, strawberry daiquiri or mojito? Plus there is a phenomenal list of juices and smoothies to up your vitamin intake. We had a Kale Smoothie and felt the goodness flowing through our veins.
Overall: We predict that the enthusiasm for healthy food is only going to increase in 2015- particularly now the sun is coming out and people are starting to become even more health conscious. And with places like RAW, we can see why diners might eschew meat. It’s delicious, inventive, and there is never, not once, the sense that ‘this dish is missing something’ or ‘if only there was chicken/beef’. It is fresh, packed full of flavour, leaves you feeling satisfied but not bloated – and basically ticks all the boxes of what a good meal should be. We’d eat here every single lunchtime if we could.