18 May 2015

Nama - Raw Food in Notting Hill

Let's be raw for a second. I mean real. But at Nama, Notting Hill's answer to a healthy vegan cafe (and gluten free!), raw and real are one and the same thing. After all Nama strives to serve food in as natural a state as possible, with all their food being raw none of it is cooked and all of the food is served below 42°C. I'll be honest this stumped me, I like to think I eat a mostly vegetarian diet, but when faced with an almost entirely plant-based meal with no roasted, sautéed or poached vegetables in sight, it took a great deal of strength not to run from Nama with my hands outstretched to Ottolenghi nearby.

However, digging deep I found the courage to resist Ottolenghi and dragged my friend Louie away from their doors to the completely misted, almost run down shop front of Nama. In fact, we almost ran back to Ottolenghi thinking Nama had been closed down long ago, when we witnessed someone sneaking in. The giveaway it was open would have been the chairs and tables outside, but we don't go for obvious.

Anyway, Nama was open and we crept in, hoping we weren't going to get a paint bucket thrown at our heads and asked to leave. Luckily we spied a table and sat down, pretty proud of ourselves as the place was heaving with people. Honestly for somewhere which looked like no one had been there for months on the outside it was a shock.

Louie was still unsure about the whole raw food deal and the prices didn't do much to settle his uncertainty (Nama is not cheap!). I'll be honest, the fact that we were absolutely starving persuaded him to stay, that alongside Louie being a self-declared foodie and he probably wouldn't have been able to cope with me knowing about the time that he walked away from a restaurant because the menu was too challenging. I'll leave mine and Louie's competitive relationship out of this post for now, because this isn't about me and Louie, this post is about the raw food trend sweeping the nation. Or at least London, Liverpool and Leamington Spa, all places I've seen raw restaurants this year and all beginning with the letter 'L'...possible correlation, I think so.

Back to Nama. Although it was bitterly cold outside, inside it was sweltering. The mist had condensed on the windows, adding to the humid vibe which led to all thoughts of a cup of tea going out of my mind as I ordered a Tropical Bliss. A juice of pineapple, cucumber and kale it was really refreshing at first but then the metallic taste built up and I couldn't stomach it. Me and green juices just do not mix, hopefully I've learnt my lesson and won't be tempted by any more even if they throw elderflower and mint at them. Louie on the other hand went for Chocolate Heaven, a smoothie packed with cacao, almond milk, cinnamon and other goodies, it was delicious, thick and creamy. Everything a smoothie should be!

We decided to share a salad and a main, as we'd already spied some cakes elsewhere at Portobello Road Market. We went for the Italian 'Pizza' and the Caesar Salad. The caperberries sold me on the Caesar Salad, as my absolute favourite pickled accompaniment. This salad definitely embodied the creaminess of a Caesar Salad's dressing with avocado and almond cheese, which is more like soft nutty tofu than cheese. Yummy as it was it could have done with an extra bit of crunch, the sunflower seeds alone not providing enough for me. The flavour of the pizza was excellent, black olives, rich tomato sauce and pickled mushrooms made this such an interesting dish. In a turn around reaction, Louie had wolfed most of it down before I even got a look in. Given the option I'd rather have had the toppings on a real pizza base or a cauliflower crust because that was the real let down of the pizza. The courgette and nut base was just a bit soft and chewy, and personally I like a thin and crispy base.

But Nama is not trying to make raw vegan equivalents, they're using the flavours of some of our favourite foods in dishes of their own creating and in that way they're getting the flavours spot on. Not one for avid carnivores but for those veggies and vegans out there Nama should definitely be on your radar; Louie and I managed to polish everything off, bar the dreaded green juice!

Let me know what you think about raw food, is it not for you or are you a raw convert? If anyone has any vegan or vegetarian restaurant recommendations in London or the world outside drop me a comment. I'm always looking for my next restaurant to visit!