The Wild Food Café is a vegan/vegetarian eatery with a slight hippy-esque vibe, hidden away in Covent Garden’s charming Neal’s Yard. This tiny little square is home to the first Neal’s Yard Remedies, and a range of eateries, from the porridge hotspot 26 Grains and the salad spot SaladPride, through to Homeslice and The Barbary. As the name hints, the Wild Food Café is all about wild, fresh and colourful gourmet ingredients. The café promotes aliveness and embodies the world in which plant-passionate, nutrient-packed food is prepared and served with natural style. Deliciously Ella even recommends the restaurant as one of the first healthy eatieres she ever went to; their blog recipes, including their Orange, Turmeric and Goji Berry Smoothie and the Raw Banoffee Pie, sound delicious.
Although very busy on a Saturday afternoon, the atmosphere at the café is calming, helped by its airy first-floor location overlooking Neal’s Yard and the Himalayan sea salt crystal lamps! Luckily, I luncheoned here on a sunny day, with light streaming through the wall of windows onto the big pine table where I was sitting. Packed out with a mixture of people with shawls and dreadlocks, as well as some trendier folk, I squeezed onto the end of one of the communal eight-seater tables. Other diners, meanwhile, were perched at a central bar that surrounds the open kitchen. I loved the open-space kitchen and next time I hope to nab a seat around on the kitchen balcony to secure a view of the delicious foods they prepare. The staff were also lovely, happily bringing me an extra side of their delicious pesto – on which more of later…
The philosophy here is one of “vitality” and “wellbeing”, fed to customers through a menu of smoothies, salads, soups and sandwiches which are made mostly from raw ingredients not heated above body temperature. Cooking, research has shown, can kill the nutrients and flavour of food. The ingredients also seemed to be sourced from local independent suppliers and organic producers, with the specials of the week even featuring wild foraged foods.
Struck by the range of influences on the menu, I opted for their Ayurvedic Super Salad (£12.50), made up of a rainbow of colours: lambs lettuce, wild rocket, amaranth, courgetti spaghetti, hijiki seaweed, sliced artichoke hearts, avocado, cucumber, red pepper…Yes the list of goodness goes on – coriander, rocket and parsley pesto, mango salsa, and marinate shiitake mushrooms. For me, the highlights were the olives and of course, the pesto. The dish was refreshingly vibrant, delicious, and fresh. Although hearty, varied, and full of energy food, the preparation was delicate with plenty of raw salad leaves to complement the tasty vegetables. Indeed, one of the founders of the Wild Food Café has explored Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, and tonic herbalism – perhaps why I chose this Ayurvedic dish.
Although pricey, I’ll have to return to sample what they describe as the “best raw veggie burger in town” (£12.80), made using nutrient-dense but gluten and soya-free ingredients. Although attracted by their Wild Falafel (£13.50), made up of pistachio, olive and coriander falafel, a kale and parsley tabouleh, and a red pepper and tahini dressing served in a dehydrated raw coconut wrap, I wondered whether it could possibly beat my favourite and not so raw Pilpel – although probably a much healthier version! Their deserts also appeared stunning: raw cheesecake galore all of which looked drooling. And even their coffee – which I’m sure are served with a pouring of their tasty nut “mylks” – is Monmouth sourced.
Wild Food Café, 1st Floor, 14 Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden, WC2H 9DP