Tanya’s Café in Chelsea, located a short walk from Sloane Square and South Kensington, had been on my “to-go” list since it opened in August 2014. Run by Tanya Alekseeva, from the Better Raw website, the café promises organic, raw smoothies, tasty but healthy mains and raw cheesecakes. Along with the Good Life Eatery (which I’m also a great fan of), Tanya’s Café’s is one of Chelsea’s growing healthy eateries. Although the words city and retreat aren’t exactly the natural pairing, the right spot with the right food can be a retreat even in London.
The café is charming and modern at the same time. Mindfulness is the dominating factor at Tanya’s Café, in terms of both what you’re eating and what you’re thinking whilst doing so. Set in the conservatory of the trendy myhotel, the décor and space is bright and airy. It’s filled with a mix of bench-style seating and smaller tables and chairs, and the open counter space is busy but organised with shelves of brightly-filled Kilner jars and Tupperware containers. Industrial style lighting hangs from the glass ceiling, potted plants and hanging baskets climb along the wire-netted back wall, and hand-written chalkboard signs with messages like “You are beautiful” and “Everything is going to be okay” adorn the tables and walls. Today’s message of the day was: “I am in charge of how I feel today and I am choosing happiness!”. Very proactive.
The entire menu is gluten-free, raw and organic. Think, plenty of green juice, matcha lattes, raw breads and super-seeded granola bites. For breakfast/brunch, their “Grawnola”, crunch granola clusters with goji jam and almond milk, sounds delicious. They even serve a RawTella Untoast (£9) – a Tanya approved version of the Nutella real-deal classic, which was once my favourite packed lunch – a sweet school lunch! Later in the day, cocktails are a headlining feature, unheard of in your run of the mill health food havens. After 4pm, Tanya’s turns into a “Superfood’ cocktail bar, where cocktails are diffused with wonder ingredients: maca, cacao, goji and acai.
Unsurprisingly, none of their food is hot – even their soups are all “gazpachos”, so today’s winter comfort soup was cold pumpkin soup. A 100% raw food diet wouldn’t suit me; in the cold months, soup has to be hot. And naturally, most of the conversations that can be overheard at surrounding bench tables were based around healthy eating: “have you tried making your own almond butter?”…”I’m completely off dairy”…”my sister is eating actual whole snickers bars!”… “I must make you my breakfast smoothie”. This kind of chit chat wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
An entirely vegetarian-friendly menu is a bit of a double-edged sword (Hooray! I can eat everything and anything here! But oh, no… How will I ever choose? What if I pick the wrong thing? Am I going to get a serious case of food envy if my dining partner’s dish looks better than mine?!). I spent a long time browsing the menu, on which everything appealed. To share, we ordered the Cauliflower popcorn (£4), which was too raw for my companion and rather too bland for me – further seasoning would have been welcome.
For mains, I couldn’t resist the Beetroot risotto (£13.50) – a beetroot juice in a cauli “risotto”, green peas, mint, macadamia, feta and a chilli sauce. This is something I’d been wanting to recreate at home for a long time – particularly after hearing that the Urban Kitchen served up a (not-so-raw) beetroot risotto as part of their (pink) Breast Cancer Awareness dinner party. It was very unusual to have a cold “risotto” and the dish was more of a saucy salad. The “feta” was the highlight and added a welcome saltiness and peppery flavour to the dish, and it truly resembled the cheese itself. Although a true Italian would likely be horrified by this healthy take on the usual creamy and oozzy dish, for me, it’s an unusual and colourful alternative. And the dish was certainly a visual feast, with beetroot powder artfully designed on the rim of the bowl like an abstract work of art.
One companion chose the Thai curry “noodles” (£13.50), made from green curry kelp noodles (which are apparently shop-bought), marinated veggies and kale salad. The spiralised “noodles” had an unusual translucent appearance and she was pleasantly surprised by how Asian it tasted. My other companion, who bravely ventured to Tanya’s Café despite not being the usual raw-food type, chose Tanya’s “Green Pea Gnocchi” (£13.50) with wilted leeks, pea shoots, fennel, green mango salsa, truffle oil and cashew cream. He was very intrigued as to how non-potato gnocchi would fare and again, for me, the bowl was an attractive feast of attractively spiralised greens and interestingly textured dumplings.
When it came to afters, we were too full on raw veges for their delicious-looking raw deserts – even the Blueberry pie, the Banoffee pie and the raw cheesecakes. The dreary weather, however, made something cosy and warm appealing for my companion. And the only hot drink was My hot choc (£3.95). Made from cacao, date paste, almond butter, cinnamon and vanilla, this was just the type of raw hot cacao that I’d been whizzing up and enjoying to welcome in the Autumn days at home. I tasted a sip and loved the creaminess of the drink, provided by the addition of the nut butter, and the natural flavours of the almonds. It was sweet and spicy without being overly rich as some powder blends tend to be. For my companion, however, the drink was a confirmation that he’s not a fan of almonds! He’ll definitely stick to “His” hot choc in the future!
With hot drinks starting at £3.25, smoothies at £6.75, cakes from £4.50 each, and mains from £13.10, it’s not a café for the last weekend before pay-day. But given its location, the organically produced and ethically-sourced ingredients, and most importantly the taste of everything, it’s worth the price. This restaurant definitely defeats the claim that healthy eating is boring, particularly as the food looked just as good as it tastes. And our waitress was also incredibly insightful about the concept of Tanya’s and even offered me a taster glass of their homemade hazlenut mylk – which I wasn’t such a fan of as it hadn’t been sweetened with agave. It also caters to your needs at all times of the day: you can get your morning green juice or a pour over coffee with hazlenut milk, a satisfying delicious plant-based burger for lunch, a decadent raw chocolate cake for afternoon tea, and a share a vibrant cashew cheese platter and superfood packed cocktails, that are made with only top quality, vegan and ethically sourced alcohol, in the evening. If you’re in need of a health and mind detox, stop by the wonderful world of Tanya.
Tanya’s Café, 35 Ixworth Place, London, SW3 3QX