Beyond the stomach-turning fish and chips, bloating Indian curries and animal flesh or cheese on every plate, Londoners now also have healthier options when dining out. Thriving ethnic diversity flew in new flavours and dietary habits to the metropolitan London. There is even a vegetable butcher in the Harrods Food Halls now! He is not a lone wolf in the room of hedonistic excess though. The liquid bar of NO1 waters charged with botanical extracts, in 10 flavours so far ranging from rosemary, through lemon verbena to olive leaf, hydrate with their inherent added benefits without preservatives, sugar and other rogue health spoilers. Produced locally, no plastic, bottled in glass.
The current healthy eating front streams insistently from multiple directions, yet particularly the global elite residing in the pricy city centre supports high-quality and healthy cooking in a nicely designed environment. The plant-based eating trends from California, New York and Japan landed timely. Although organic produce is still hard to come by in the UK’s capital, some cold-pressed juice bars, raw diet cafés, and most of the plant-based food eateries source organic, even biodynamic and locally.
As the majority of real nutritional experts and scientists would agree, healthy means no hormones, potentially harmful additives (carcinogenic, inflammatory) and eating balanced meals with vegetables, legumes and whole-grains as the foundation, excluding red meat, high-fat dairy, saturated (except for the ‘magic’ coconut oil) and trans-fats. Eating local often means that the nutrients and vitamins were not diminished by long-haul travel, but that further depends on transport, storage and the quality of the soil, hence biodynamic and organic foods tend to score better. I wrote about science-based healthy eating previously, so check for details or read Marion Nestlé’s book What to Eat. Teaching at NYU, she is one of the most respected nutritionists in the US.
Pseudo-healthy or bland: healthy dining in London that puts you down
Finding the best of healthy dining in London was not a smooth ride, and some “healthy”cafés or restaurants did not convince me taste-wise or for other reasons:
Grace Spa in Belgravia – while beautiful on the plate, the food was not sourced from the most vibrant-tasting ingredients. To cut it short, our lunch was very bland, old-school healthy in a hodgepodge brunch style.
Gauthier in Soho – by far the most delicious, refined gastronomic vegan offering in town, but as it is not purely plant-based, the oversupply of bread with butter and extra creamy snacks and desserts can spoil the healthy resolve. You get the calories printed on the menu, but who counts these extras? Desserts are decadent, sweet, obviously.
The vegetarian restaurant Vanilla Black falls into the same high-calories and sugar trap. The plates should include more vegetables than being so carb-centric. It’s a nice place for dinner though.
Vantra, the plant-eatery of back then was great in the early 2000s when there was not much vegetable-focused eating out in London, but it is as rustic as the Wild Food Café, while the food is ok. Vantra is the proof that the vegan eating out has got so much better!
Weighhouse Deli of the popular local plant-based recipe creator behind the food blog Deliciously Ella is more a fast good food. The limited seating discriminates slow eaters and socialising. I would rather turn to Ottolenghi for superb salads to go. True, his cookies are sweetened with sugar, while hers with low GI coconut sap or “natural” maple syrup, but the calories are often higher in the high-nut and chocolate vegan sweets, and if you are not a diabetic, no stress, since worrying is as unhealthy as sugar!
I investigated what are the best, consistent, healthy nutrition-focused eateries across London for over a decade. Some of my choices are basic cafés with fun, local community feel, but they also attract curious globetrotting foodies who blend in.
My east to west selections of the best of healthy dining in London that follow are fit for a mindful sit-down breakfast, energising lunch and most also for a dinner date. If the other half truly likes you, a healthy meal out should not be a turn off, but a green light for a long, healthy life together. Most also offer wine and cocktails next to tea, juices and other healthy drinks, signalling that a spritz of alcohol is not necessarily bad for you. Consuming anything in moderation is key to a good health. Cold-pressed juices that retain maximum of nutrients are squeezed at most of these healthy-minded dine-ins and -outs.
Numerous highly-viewed scientific studies have proven that a balanced, mostly plant-based organic diet with a mindful addition of minimally processed, hormone-free and grass-fed animal flesh and seafood is healthy for us. These cafés and restaurants support that:
VEGETARIAN GLUTEN-FREE AMBIANCE
MUST HAVE: Warm chilli corn bread. Guacamole & blue corn nachos. Pan-fried gyoza. Rose petal and pomegranate cauliflower. Yellow Curry with green peas, string beans and cashews. A superb side of grilled aubergine with pomegranate and turmeric sauce. While the croquettes are too oily, the ultra-thin crust pizzetta with porcini mushrooms is delicious, but there is some cheese on it, beware.
45 Lexington St, Soho, London W1F 9AN
MINDFUL MEDITATION BRUNCH FARM PRODUCE
MUST HAVE: Golden latte with raw sweetener on side and more black pepper to boost the anti-inflammatory effect on your table. Whatever your mood suggests named bowl. Mezze to share. Go down to zen out inside the meditation pod before or after your meal.
42 Chiltern St, Marylebone, London W1U 7QT
COCKTAILS ORGANIC RAW TRENDY VEGAN
MUST HAVE: ‘Grawnola’ with raw goji jam and fresh almond milk. Avo Un-Toast on sunflower seed onion ‘bread’. Thai Curry Noodles. Taco with oyster mushroom and walnut ‘meat’. Blueberry Tart. My Fresh Start and My Vision juice.
35 Ixworth Place, Chelsea, London SW3 3QX
ORGANIC BRUNCH FARM PRODUCE WILD SEAFOOD
MUST HAVE: Seasonality is taken seriously at Daylesford. Choose three or four seasonal salads for a bowl. For breakfast try the plain organic yoghurt, kefir, orchard fruits, the British honey.
208-212 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill London W11 2RH & many other locations.
VEGETARIAN SELF-SERVICE CONTEMPORARY
MUST HAVE: Seitan (high-gluten, low-starch wheat log) BBQ sauce marinated ribs. String bean salad. The luscious hummus.
48 Eastcastle St, London W1W 8DX
Hemsley + Hemsley at Selfridges
GRAIN & REFINED SUGAR FREE SUSTAINABLE SEASONAL
MUST HAVE: Bone and miso broth. A trio of hand-picked salads. Bounty bar for dessert. Skip the dry crab cakes, plus their kimchi is not at par with the proper spicy and fermented cabbage available elsewhere.
3F The Selfridges, 400 Oxford St, Marylebone, London W1A 1AB
BAR COCKTAILS ORGANIC TRENDY VEGAN
MUST HAVE: Mezze for two to share (kale chips, chestnut humus, crispy flatbread and wow the cauliflower popcorn!). The falafel. Kimchi Bowl with soba. Farmacy salad laced with red beet dressing. Beet and cinnamon infusion to cleanse your body.
Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill
Wild Food Café
ORGANIC RAW RUSTIC VEGETARIAN
MUST HAVE: Fresh coconut water served in its shell (rare in London). Super salad. Grilled halloumi cheese (sheep’s milk is easier to digest, lower in lactose and has less fat than the hard and triple-cream cheese).
First Floor, 14 Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9DP
ORGANIC, VEGAN, NO ALCOHOL
MUST HAVE: Drinks. Going booze-free at Redemption is about savouring creative flavours in house-made infusions; fragrant, low-calorie sparkling rose water and other fruit and herb cordials. ‘Californication’. The raw desserts with superfoods like chocolate or açai.
320 Old St, London EC1V 9DR, UK
For more details on some of the venues above, check my reviews linked individually inside this article.