When I asked my usual dining partners in crime if they fancied trying a raw food restaurant for an adventurous dining experience, I got the following responses:
“I’m sorry but RAW FOOD? Absolutely not. Nope”
“You’re on your own, lady”
So that would be a pretty emphatic no, then. Still, never normally deterred by anything I decided to take a table for one at Saf Shoreditch.
There’s something quite pleasing about eating alone in a restaurant. Although I wouldn’t want to eat out by myself in restaurants all the time, I do find it a release to take time over your food by yourself. On that particular day I had a very busy mind and my “I vant to be alone” Greta Garbo-esque lunch was exactly what I needed.
I’d heard about Saf from a friend who did a raw food course earlier this year. Saf stands for “simple authentic food” and also means “pure” in Turkish. Since I know she reads this blog, a big thank you to her for introducing me to it! The theory behind the raw food movement is that raw foods are more nutritious than those which have been cooked and consequently lost their nutrients. Raw foodists believe that the digestive enzymes in raw food aid digestion. Heating food is OK as long as the temperature stays below around 46C although the specific upper temperature varied in the research I made on raw foods. On the Saf menu all items heated to over 48C are marked.
The décor of Saf Shoreditch is clean and modern. I was particularly taken with the light fittings, not something I would perhaps ever notice if I was chatting away with friends but I guess dining alone forces you to take in your surroundings a little more. The restaurant extended back some way and I could see a pleasant looking courtyard garden out at the rear. I bet this is exactly the kind of place Gwyneth Paltrow would try to eat out incognito.
The waiter advised a new menu had been introduced the day before my visit. In 2010 Saf Shoreditch won the Evening Standard award for best vegetarian restaurant in London. They do not use any animal products, dairy, refined or processed ingredients in their cooking. There was a good range of starters, salads, sandwiches and main courses and the gluten free items (of which there were many) were clearly noted on the menu.
Four of the six main courses were gluten free and these ranged in price from £10.50 to £14.50. At the lower cost scale of the menu, all of the salads (which came in medium or main course size, all gluten free) and a wrap under the sandwiches menu was made with a rice wrap and gluten free. The main size salads each cost £8.10 and the rice wrap was £7.90.
I chose the Thai red curry which included butternut squash, aubergine, okra and tofu in a spiced coconut curry sauce served with black rice on the side.
The coconut sauce tasted deliciously clean and zingily lime fresh. It was a chilly day and the sauce was quite spicy and certainly warmed me up. But I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed. Not at the taste because it was genuinely delicious. But I just didn’t find it very filling, it was more of a spicy soup with a few veggies and some rice. At £14.45 I thought this was pretty pricey, especially considering its lack of many vegetables or much protein.
Would I go back? Yes, the food was delicious. The atmosphere was friendly and relaxed; I felt totally at ease dining there alone. However next time I would choose something more filling and not go on a day when I needed fuel for a high impact aerobics class later that evening!
Saf Shoreditch, 152-154 Curtain Road, London EC2A 3AT
Saf Kensington, 63 Kensington High Street, London W8 5SE