As January nears its end and the cold weather seems to set in for another week there’s no wonder that by now most people’s healthy resolutions begin to dissolve into their quinoa porridge. Determined to stick to it, for at least a little longer than a month, I resolved to find a few healthier lunch spots, allowing some sense of luxury whilst still feeling wonderfully guilt free. Now I don’t advocate unhealthy food guilt and if you want to eat a huge bowl of cheesy chips or a deep fried Mars bar then go ahead, ‘everything in moderation’ has always been a favourite motto of mine, but just as one unhealthy meal doesn’t make you fat and one salad won’t make you thin, sometimes we have to be mindful and choose a fresh and more nutritious option.
Down a high walled passageway just off Portobello Road, you find yourself immersed in the hygge embrace of Farm Girl. It would be easy to walk straight past, from the outside it looks unassuming and a little bland, especially in the winter when the leaves have all fallen from the creeping plant above the archway. There is outside seating, set back off the road, a little escape from the crowds on market day. The white wash walls and sheepskin throws beneath a cute canopy of garlands made sitting outside on a freezing January day almost seem tempting.
The cozy atmosphere continued within, the brightly tiled walls, green leaves, and fresh cut flowers made what is quite a small space appear to be bright yet homely. A compact mezzanine overlooks the coffee bar, a long communal table providing additional seating. The decoration was busy yet uncluttered, a wire rack hung on the wall laden with fresh fruit and veg, the coffee bar was strewn with cakes and pastries, two large Kilner style water dispensers were infusing with cucumber and orange, abstract figures filled the white space to the ceiling and everywhere you looked there was something interesting for the eye to see.
Once seated a fresh carafe of infused water is brought to the table. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I really like this touch, it not only encourages you to drink more water but also removes the feeling that you need to order a drink as soon as you’ve sat down.
The proprietor Rose Mann takes a lot of influence from her Australian background and so in hindsight perhaps I should have tried the coffee. Instead on this occasion, I opted for a Matcha Latte, a bit behind trend this was my first experience of this green frothy tea based drink and I have to say that I quite enjoyed it. My boyfriend and I have a joke that London cafes will serve your hot drinks in anything but a traditionally handled mug so I had a little smile to myself when my matcha latte arrived in a little glass cup.
It was great to see another example of good allergen labeling on the menu, it really does make a huge difference to the customer experience when you feel safe that your meal will not make you sick. Additionally, there was a good choice of gluten free, dairy free and vegan options that spanned across each section of the menu. My only criticism would have been that you pay an additional 40p for a non-dairy milk when the drink already costs £3.70 that brings the total to an excessive £4.10 for a single, small cup.
I was completely torn when ordering food, I was dying to try the coconut bacon BLT, having seen many amazing Instagram snaps of this doorstop sandwich, however despite there being an option of gluten free bread I just didn’t think it would be the same without the fresh sourdough. Instead, I opted for something that was already labeled as gluten free, the vitelotte potato and green bean salad served with a socca wrap. A quick glance at Google revealed that a socca wrap is essentially a chickpea flour crepe, I do love a pancake and so was hopeful that this would be right up my street. Because I am greedy and unable to order sensibly I also ordered sweet potato wedges and was only just shy of ordering some coconut bacon, in the end, I resisted.
The vitelotte potato salad was beautiful. Fresh, vibrant and tasty it was one of the nicest salads that I have had in a long time (in part because there wasn’t a leaf in sight). The green beans were still slightly crunchy, the potatoes were soft but firm enough not to turn to a mush when mixed together. Tangy cherry tomatoes and slices of red onion completed the rainbow and it was all coated in a zingy dressing. The wrap seemed a bit out of place, it wasn’t a dish that you could pick up and eat like a burrito, never the less I was surprised at the bready texture and made a note to try making socca wraps at home, perhaps a sweet version for Shrove Tuesday.
A mix up in the kitchen meant that my sweet potato wedges came after I’d finished the main dish, not that this turned out to be an issue. The wedges were unlike any that I’d had before, they had been roasted with rosemary and glazed (in what I’ve assumed was maple syrup) until they had become sweet and gooey and then dusted with cinnamon. They were delicious, but sickly and more than filled the gap i’d reserved for dessert.
On this occasion, I had absolutely no space to try any of the beautiful cakes that adorned the front counter and so it is inevitable that I have to return. A gluten and dairy free selection such as this cannot go unsampled!
Whether you have dietary requirements, are health conscious, or simply just a foodie there’s something for you to try at this little cafe off Portobello Road.
Farm Girl Cafe – 59A Portobello Rd, London W11 3DB