“ Address: Whole Foods Market 1st Floor / The Barkers Building, 63 / Kensington High St / London W8 5SE / United Kingdom „
SAF stands for simple, authentic food which is the ethos of this vegan restaurant in Kensington, West London. They also do a good range of raw dishes. I had been to their restaurant in Shoreditch before and loved it, but sadly it had closed down before I could make a return visit. Kensington is a bit of a hike from where I live but when I spotted a Groupon deal offering three courses for £12.50 per person I snapped it up for two people. My friends took a bit of persuading (I probably shouldn't have led with "There is a vegan and raw food restaurant I want to try...") but eventually I managed to persuade someone to come with me. I phoned the restaurant to make a booking for the following week and the process was quick, polite and efficient.
The restaurant is situated upstairs of the Whole Foods Market in the Barker Building on the main street. There are a number of other establishments up here, and it is set out like a posh, and more spacious, food court but with waiter service. Upon arrival we were greeted promptly and seated straight away. There are stairs, escalators and lifts to help you access this floor. Lavatories are at the end of the floor and were a good size with all the necessary requirements. I thought they were a strange layout as the sinks were situated behind a high wall, so when you came out of the cubicle, you couldn't see them and had to walk around the wall. It meant that people ended up using the same few sinks, as they tended to walk towards to door end of the area in their hunt for the sinks, when most of the sinks were in the other end. There seemed to be just one hand drier. I should add that these facilities are maintained by the Whole Foods Market, not by Saf.
Part of the deal was a three course set menu, with drinks extra, the food available from a 'special' menu rather than their regular menu. We were given the drinks and food menus and immediately offered tap water why we waited. I like this, as some places request your drinks order before you have had chance to look at the menu. They offer wine, beer and juices but we decided to have a cocktail or two (£7.50 each). I chose the vanilla and grape mojito, which was a lovely purpley-pink colour, and whilst not particularly vanilla flavoured, or mojito liked, it was a lovely refreshing drink garnished with an iced black grape on the top of the ice cubes in the glass. My friend had the Gin-Ger Mule which was juniper gin and ginger and was more reminiscent of a typical mojito with mint. Other delights include a Beetroot Margarita and Blackberry Mint Julep to name just two and I thought their cocktail selection to be original and inspiring. Some original cocktail menus can be off-putting if they try to be too clever, but they got the balance right here. If I'm going to spend this amount on one drink, I want to be sure I'm going to like it!
To start with, my friend went for the spinach and sorrel gyoza, which are Asian style dumplings filled with spinach, courgette and sorrel in a sesame type dressing. She really liked them, and I had a taste and thought them good too. I loved my Raw Taco Trio with guacamole. The nachos (they looked more like nachos than tacos) were made of potato and courgette (not that you could tell, they tasted like tortilla chips, just chunkier) and it was served with a light salsa dressing, homemade guacamole and vegan sour cream. I thought they were very tasty and whipped through my serving in no time. The starters are not large, so you will not ruin too much of your main meal by sampling one, but I thought the selection looked very interesting. Other starter options on the main menu include maki rolls and soup and typical prices started at £3.80 for the nibbleier end of the scale, and were between £6-7 for the more substantial starters.
As a main we both went for the same thing - crepe with grilled asparagus and courgettes in a dressing and served with salad and vegan aioli. The crepe was made with chickpea flour and we found it very filling. The other option in the special menu was lasagne. We passed as we thought it something that is too often easily available in vegetarian restaurants anyway, and wanted to try something a bit different. In fact there was a small mix up and my friend was brought the lasagne by mistake. It did look good - well presented, and a decent size - but it was taken back and replaced as soon as possible with their apologies. We both agreed that whilst we liked our main courses, we preferred our respective starters, finding the crepe filling, and the seasoning the vegetables were cooked in on the bland side. Other dishes on the full menu include curries, risotto and tostada and typically they are about £12.
For dessert my friend went for the Victoria Sponge trifle which she adored. I wanted the Lemon tarte Trio but sadly it was unavailable, so I had a berry cheesecake tart with a coconut base. It looked stunning, a lovely pinky plum shade, and tasted great. That comes from someone who doesn't really like coconut. The flavour of the base was fairly subtle compared to the zing of the berries. Desserts are priced between £5.50-£6.
In addition to the items mentioned other options, if you are dining without a deal, include salads, burgers and wraps at £8.70. I found our service to be friendly and polite, and whilst the restaurant was quite busy, they had enough staff on to manage without rushing and could give the customers the attention they require. Obviously with the voucher we just had a drinks bill and the tip. £12.50 is a great price for three courses, when some of the main courses were that amount, so we saved 50% approximately I think. The vegan menu may not be too all tastes (much like a steakhouse isn't to mine) but if you want to try something different then this is a good place to do it. Care is taken in food presentation and the use of original ingredients to make tasty dishes.
Sadly, the next day, my friend was very ill and didn't make it into work. She doesn't know what it was, whether it was something she ate here or the ham sandwich from lunchtime, or just some bug she picked up off the tube so we cannot say for certain it was something from here (I am a bit baffled as to what, as most common causes of food poisoning are not present in a vegan restaurant, nor eaten by us).