Let me start with a disclaimer: I am a fully paid up, passionate carnivore. The very idea of vegan, dairy-free cuisine leaves me with a slightly perplexed eye-squint and a strain on my face that begs just one question: Why?
But where celebs lead, the rest of us must inevitably follow. So when Nama opened its celestially white doors to reveal pared-back insides, counters groaning with things that just exude health, and the likes of Annie Lennox and Naomi Campbell supping at its Scandi-chic tables, it promised not just healthy grub but that all-important thing: a lifestyle. It was time to expand the rims of my cured smoky glasses and venture onto the other side of the protein coin – that of artisan vegan dairy-free cuisine.
Looking at the menu, it is immediately obvious why this place blends so seamlessly into Notting Hill’s already health-focused culture, which ranks nutritional food, yoga and exercise high in its pecking order. The simplistic white interior reflects the food; refreshing, organic, well-crafted and clean with a menu that reads like a Who’s Who of superfood gold. Natural boosters, detoxifying properties, vitamins, minerals and enzymes are all retained as a result of not processing or cooking any food above 115F. Health fiends, eat your (super healthy) hearts out.
We kick off proceedings with a non-dairy chai latte; five different milk options, which, by the god of all that’s frothy, are the creamiest non-dairy alternatives, we’ve ever laid taste buds on. Choose from almond, soya, hemp, rice or coconut milk, complete with coconut cream to add delicious thickness.
Food-wise – or should I say organic-local-raw-unprocessed-dairy-free-gluten-free-vegan-wise (and breathe) – we opt for the lasagne verdure, Thai coconut curry and sushi platter. The lasagne, made up of pomodoro sauce, herbed nut, seed and yellow pepper cheese, pesto, marinated spinach and courgette layers, is the absolute cream of the crop. Which is saying something, given I am comparing this to mum’s homemade meaty and rich lasagne standard. Unexpectedly hearty and packed with flavour, I am so impressed that I full-on zone out right there at the table.
But there’s no time to be a flake here – there are still two more virtuous courses to go. When the waiter brings us the coconut curry, the stunning presentation alone makes me want to say ‘you had me at coconut’. Filled with cauliflower, courgette, red pepper, leek, coconut curry, fennel and kohlrabi rice, it’s creamy, flavoursome and makes you full but not bloated. The rice is even made out of the vegetable Kohlrabi, so there’s not a cereal grain in sight.
The third round of sushi is as fresh as a farmer’s morning face, with delicious touches of roasted Asian mushrooms, accompanied by a refreshing Savoy salad. And to end, the fermented blueberry cheesecake tops it all off, with a sweet and nutty flavour, thick texture and hints of pro-biotic ingredients that make this a dessert that just doesn’t do guilt.
We leave feeling full yet smug; we’ve managed to chow down on ingenious dishes that are as hearty as the real thing but as healthy as any nutritionist’s cookbook.
The innovation in re-inventing classic dishes with locally sourced organic vegetables, and making them delicious if not better than the real thing, is what makes them a real catch, and me grill my own ignorance like a top side of freshly cut prime beef.
See the full menu of artisan dishes and drink range from vegetable, fruit smoothies, to dairy-free coffees here: namafoods.com
NAMA Artisan Raw Foods; 110 Talbot Road, W11 1JR; Mon-Wed 09:00-17:00, Thurs-Fri 09:00-22:00; Sat 10:00-22:00; Sun 10:00-18:00; namafoods.com