The Tv showgirls and “feel-good food” cookbook authors Hemsley + Hemsley disrupt with their first cafe at Selfridges. Tucked behind sexy lingerie, bikinis and pyjamas, powerfully signals what one should eat to proudly slip into one of these revealing pieces. Here, in the Body department, ladies relish in their chocolate brownies and high-fat coconut bars convinced of their good, even transformative, refined-sugar and gluten-free magic whip to beauty. Such a dream, when indulgence equals health is now marketed to all fans of gluten-free, paleo, plant-based, vegan, and above all no calories counting happiness seekers. Hemsley + Hemsley at Selfridges do not subscribe to just one of these dietary lifestyles, but offer diversified, naturally delectable pleasures that pepper up shopping around the Oxford street.
GRAIN & REFINED SUGAR FREE SUSTAINABLE SEASONAL
No hydrogenated vegetable oils are used in the cooking, your digestion is being boosted, and our Planet is spared of an unnecessary waste at Hemsley + Hemsley. Probiotics like kimchi, pre-biotics like fibre in whole vegetables, plus encouraging you to chew like cows mulching grass to stimulate saliva and digestive enzymes before the food gets into your gut, were all scientifically proven to aid digestion. In a win-win state of mutual merriment, nose-to-tail (think bone broth, dripping/animal fat) and root-to-frond recipes encourage consumption of the entire produce, as our ancestors did it. Ayurveda guides many dietary principles for the Hemsley sisters, and their trip to India sealed their interest in the millennia-old holistic health system.
To prevent any spikes and ravines in your blood sugar levels, and thus preventing fatigue, Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley minimise even the natural sugars in all the recipes. Yet their most famous desserts like the bounty bar taste very sweet. My palate as a judge ruled that there is no way that the total sugar content (natural of course) is not quite high. So is the fat, be it from plants. If the desserts is all you are after at Hemsley + Hemsley. In the paleo/vegan ethos the “transformed” sisters claim: “We don’t believe in using calories as a means of measuring optimal dietary needs”. Their belief, not the facts measured by scientists. If you do not move and eat high calorie diet, you will become obese and that is not healthy. After a run or workout, savour them without any guilt, the gluten-free carrot cake (carrots, nuts and raisins) topped with lush, full-fat Greek yogurt cream in particular is ravishing! The cakes can be boxed to go, and the famous bounty bar (generous oil-oozing coconut enrobed in dark chocolate) is worth the occasional sin even for the staunch dieters.
I see more problems with their lay health claims though. The amateur home cooks and self-taught nutrition geeks even legally protect themselves on their website, and their quest for better digestion will not fit all. For example their use of chickpeas and beans may irritate many people’s bellies. Activating, or soaking foods in water “mimics germination and reduces the phytates, making them easier to digest and increasing the nutrients available”, but can still wreak a havoc in your tummy. Thus, follow your own gut for health, the rest is impeccably sourced.
No refined sugar, all dairy and eggs are organic, meat is pasture-raised, hormone and antibiotic free, wild-caught fish, and the seasonal vegetables if not certified organic, no pesticides were used on them.
For lunch, choose from any three salads on the menu for a large bowl. Recently, a Puy lentil and beetroot salad with cranberries, walnuts and mustard maple vinaigrette and the popular squash and spiralized beetroot noodle salad topped with spiced cashews impressed me. Complimentary house cultured ketchup and siracha hot sauce are brought to each table.
On a chilly day, the concentrated bone broth with miso will keep the cold away. Served in a mug it feels very hygge. Their house kimchi, while more sour kraut European style than the hot Korean original, joins the fight against the bad microbes in your gut.
On the trend Bulletproof coffee blend with coconut oil (a ghee option at Hemsley + Hemsley) will kick your pre-workout mind, but I prefer the locally-based Rare Tea Company drinkable produce. Turmeric, activated charcoal, beetroot “love”, matcha or a classic coffee latte can be sweetened with low GI coconut sugar and your choice of full-fat dairy or a plant milk. Ucha bottled kombucha boosts your microflora.
The Hemsley sisters rule the British young food media with their California-style, wholesome, grain-free recipe books. Their recipes and sustainable sourcing values were brought to life inside Selfridges in their well-integrated café. The Hemsley + Hemsley Cafè is open for a late breakfast, lunch and a healthier version of afternoon tea (gluten-free quinoa scones). Dining here initiates into the healthful and trendy Londoners’ lifestyle. Sit at the small bar, a communal table or at the spare tables along the walls.
MUST HAVE: Bone and miso broth, trio of salads, Bounty bar. Skip the dry crab cakes, plus their really not a kimchi (it’s not spicy enough and fermented for long).
3F The Selfridges, 400 Oxford St, Marylebone, London W1A 1AB