Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Saf Restaurant

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I’ve wanted to try restaurant raw food for a while, so I went to Saf Restaurant in Old Street on Friday. Billing itself as a “Botanical Fine-Dining Restaurant”, Saf promises “a delicious combination of flavours” – an ambitious promise for a vegan restaurant that cooks most of its dishes under 48°C to preserve nutrition. But, from the moment we stepped into the light, chic restaurant, the whole experience was wonderful. It’s a whole universe away from the usual worthy feel of a wholesome restaurant, with funky lighting and a super-stylish steel bar where you can sit and drink divine organic cocktails.

The menus are a great mix of international dishes. I had Pesto au Poivre followed by Pad Thai and then Coconut Cheesecake. The Pesto au Poivre featured cashew nut cheese (a triumph of techniques in itself), flavoured with a sage pesto inside and a crust of pink peppercorns, and came with a rocket salad (with a beautiful balsamic reduction) and dehydrated flaxseed crackers and tomato. I’d have liked a little more sage pesto filling as I thought it was delicious and also, I must admit, I found the cashew cheese very slightly bland. But the fact that I was eating an exciting dairy-free cheese, with dairy-free pesto, in a beautifully-constructed dish was brilliant.

Then onto the Pad Thai (although, after a long, long wait.) The noodles were made out of courgettes and carrots, and the knife work was stunning. Biting into the strips of veggies you felt that the chef was showing real admiration for the raw ingredients. Mixed with enoki mushrooms, mung shoots, chipotle chillies and nori triangles, and covered with a smooth almond dressing, this was a real alternative to the traditional Pad Thai. It was at this point that I realised just how much work and skill goes into creating these dishes.

I finished with a Coconut Cheesecake which confirmed everything I was thinking about Saf. The combination of the sweet, chunky base, the fruit layer, the coconut cheese and the berry coulis was truly heavenly. And the coconut shavings and nasturtium leaf finished the gorgeous dish. This really is fine dining – and I can’t wait to go back!

Saf is at 152-154 Curtain Road in Shoreditch.

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