Sunday, September 14, 2008

Saf, London

152-154 Curtain Road,
Shoreditch EC2A 3AT Map

Saf is a relatively new restaurant in Shoreditch, about a five minute walk from Old Street tube. Its advertising, menus and website are quite clever and never mention that the food is vegan, they all refer to "Botanical Cuisine". To many diners this will hopefully remove the preconceptions of boring and bland unimaginative food that seems to dog the "vegan" description as Saf blows these ideas completely out of the water and if you decide not to go because of the "vegan" label, you will have missed out on some great food. In addition to being vegan, most of the food on the menu is raw and I was extremely interested to see what they offered.

We were seated at a large table that overlooked the kitchen which, at times, was quite interesting. We started with a round of cocktails and then moved onto the food.

I started with Beetroot Ravioli, which was very thin slices of beetroot served around cashew herb ricotta with balsamic figs and a side salad. It was very tasty, the beetroot was crisp and the balsamic figs were great. One of the others at our table had a dish described as Caviar. This consisted of "chive pearls" which were tiny little bubbles of chive. I've no idea how they did it, but they were quite impressive, reminding me of the kind of thing that Ferran Adria of El Bulli is famous for.

Next up we shared a "cheese" course between us. A cheese course? I hear you cry. In a vegan restaurant? Well, the"cheeses" are made from nuts and have a "cream cheese" consistency. The cheese plate consisted of a macadamia "cheese" an almond "cheese" and a cashew "boursin".

They were served with olives and some rather nice crackers. It was something a bit different and novel and, it was quite tasty.

For my main course I had Mixed Wild Mushroom Croquette, Truffle Alfredo and Baby Vegetables. This was presented nicely with a cylindrical tower of mushroom croquette alongside a large "teardrop" of truffle sauce. This was served on a slate slab and some carrots and baby turnips finished it of. As you know I'm a big fungus fan so any dish with mushrooms and truffles is a no-brainer. However, I wasn't sure what a raw mushroom dish would be like. Happily, it was great. It tasted cooked and it was served slightly warmed, so I wasn't sure how raw it was. However the menu marks any dish that has been heated over 48 degrees, and this wasn't one of them, so however it was done, it worked.

The desserts all sounded great and we tried a few different ones around the table. The apple sorbet was very strong and the vegan ice cream was a bit grainy. However, the peaches with courgette cake and "cream" was really nice and I had good reports of the chocolate tart too.

The service was extremely friendly and the waiting staff were very knowledgeable about all of the dishes and made some good recommendations, especially for their cocktail list.

Saf, as a concept, is great. I had to keep reminding myself that this was vegan food, it was so tasty. All the food was presented really well and arrived on a variety of different plates and dishes.

If you're looking for a tasty meal and something a little bit different then get yourself down to Shoreditch and give Saf a try.

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