As the vegetable hater you all know me to be, the concept of attending Saf was more than a little disturbing. Though I like trying new things, expensive raw vegetables don't have quite the same allure as a nice wedge of focaccia or slice of lemon cake; especially vegetables I actively dislike.
I'm pleased to say however that I was pleasantly surprised by Saf - it was one of the best restaurant visits I've ever had. We each ate 3 raw courses and were buzzing for hours afterwards.
Saf is located outside the centre of London (on the edge of Zone 1) in a building with high ceilings, good decor and comfortable seating (choose a table at the rear for better seats than at the front). We arrived at 7.30 on Friday evening and by 8.30 it was almost full.
Service was excellent (for once it was worth the 12.5% 'optional' charge): we were well looked after by people who knew about and could explain components of the dishes they were serving.
We ordered a couple of cocktails whilst choosing what to eat, which whilst took a while to come were very well presented. A little on the expensive side, but interesting and unusual flavours that had had more work put into them than mixing the contents of store bought bottles together. Mine (a Rhubarb Triangle) contained balsamic vinegar and basil, which unfortunately didn't quite work for me. I'm glad to have tried it and it was drinkable. I've not considered balsamic to be a cocktail ingredient before, but as someone who sometimes drinks it neat from the bottle I'll be doing some experimentation with it.
We were a bit in the dark when it came to food, as the menu we were presented with was different from that on their website and from which we'd received recommendations. More disappointingly there was no cheese board (which we'd been particularly looking forward to) or taster plate.
For starters I chose Cannelloni (raw courgette slices, rolled with cream cheese, served with salsa and some kind of oil), Becky chose Pesto au Poivre (cashew cheese, tortilla chips, dehydrated tomato).
Mine was a little on the small side, but really tasty (coming from someone who doesn't like courgettes this is praise indeed), the cheese extremely good and generously portioned.
For mains we chose Salsify Fettucine and Lasagne. We ate half each and surreptitiously swapped mid way through.
I've always been somewhat sceptical of the whole fake pasta thing, but this really worked. It was quite obviously not your normal sort of pasta, but it was a good compromise between soft and crunchy, without the weird taste I'd expect. I've not had the pleasure of salsify before, nor for that matter knew what it was until I googled. It was (if wikipedia is to be believed) very popular in the UK a few hundred years ago.
I was more a fan of the lasagne. Again it bore very little to the lasagne we cooked earlier in the week, but was full of olivey goodness.
Disappointed by the lack of cheese platter, the manager agreed to let me order a macadamia cheese dish from the lunch menu, whilst Becky had the raw chocolate torte.
As others have mentioned the dessert sizes are small, but it was by far and away the best raw chocolate thing I've tried (I had a slice of disgusting raw 'chocolate cake' at a vegan festival a few years ago). The cheese was also good, though came with an insufficient amount of tortilla chips and think I preferred the cashew.
The lemonade we ordered to come with dessert arrived several minutes after we'd finished, so we had an odd (over sweet) lemonade course.
All in all Saf was the introduction to raw food I've been looking for. It was good, tasty, healthy food I could imagine eating more of without feeling like I'm punishing myself. I'm not looking to turn 100% raw over night (if ever), but we both agreed to trialling a (mostly) raw day once a week.
They have an unpolished iPhone recipe app (ingredients don't tally up with instructions) and various of their recipes can be found online. I'll certainly try making their nut cheeses.
The bill came to £88, which whilst on the more expensive side was worth it for the experience and is justifiable given the amount of prep that goes into their dishes. We'll definitely return.
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