Saf Kensington restaurant review
I've been to vegan and raw food restaurant Saf more than once. I used to go to the Shoreditch branch before it closed, where I've had some of the best meals of my life, and some major disappointments, too.
But I don't need to mourn the Shoreditch branch too much, though - here's a second branch of Saf in London, in Whole Foods in Kensington. When a Groupon came up for a meal for two there, I thought it was time to give the West London branch of Saf a go.
For the set menu us Grouponers got, there was a choice of three mains and three starters, as well as a glass of red, white or rose wine.
Starters were either dolmades, Saf's (excellent) cashew cheese and crackers, or soup.
The soup called out to my other half: he was in the market for something hot (yeah, potentially a challenge in a raw food restaurant). The soup that landed in front of him was a large bowl of steaming lentilly liquid - a thinner, smokier type than the dish normally calls to mind, and something more like a sambhar than the lumpy, thick Heinz stuff.
I chose dolmades - traditionally vine leaves wrapped around rice, held together with olive oil, lemon and herbs or spices.
Saf's rice however was made from cauliflower, but I defy you to have spotted that if you hadn't been told in advance.
The toothsome rice was clever stuff, but the real star here was the sauce - dill in a vegan yoghurt. Fresh and cooling, it held the whole thing together.
Minor gripe - why the chopsticks? Not sure they're common in Greece and Cyprus, where dolmades hail from, and the dolmades were too large to handle gracefully with two wooden sticks!
The main event on the set menu was a toss up between asparagus farinata, pasta of the day (creamy mushroom when we visited) and a Saf take on pad thai.
The farinata was just gorgeous. Sure, the house salad was just a few leaves, and sure, a few woody ends made it into the asparagus, but it was still a winner - a light yet substantial pancake, a pile of well cooked spears, and a heap of delicious lemon and tarragon aioli. Yet again, it was the dairy sub that held everything together - Saf's got that shiz down pat.
It's one of Saf's raw dishes and, according to their website, is "julienne strips of carrot, courgette, and mange tout with sprouted lentils, mung beans, enoki mushrooms and spicy cashews, tossed in our chipotle almond sauce topped with fresh coriander, red chilies and nori".
Or, in other words, a bit plate of salad in awesome dressing. Mr Flicking the Vs doesn't like salad, or almonds, or indeed thai food. Clearly, this dish persuaded him to make an exception.
The food was great, the service was lovely, but for all that, I'm pained to say I'm not sure if I'd rush back without a Groupon in my hand. Without one, the soup would have set us back over £5, the farinata another £11, and the pad thai almost £13. It's good, interesting cooking, but at that price, it feels like a lot - especially for a restaurant that's essentially in a supermarket food court (albeit a high-end one).
But with that golden-ticket-like Groupon and the fact that our visit coincided with happy hour on the cocktails, and we both went home happy (and a little squiffy).
It's one to save for when you're feeling flush, or when you've got a Groupon or similar. Or, if you want a cheaper taste of Saf, just pop into the Whole Foods itself - their cakes and cashew cheese are on sale in the shop for a less wallet-busting price.
Whole Foods Market 1st Floor
The Barkers Building
63 Kensington High Street
020 7368 4555