Arguably, London is the best city in the world for the sheer variety and class of its restaurants. But, with a few exceptions, the city's vegetarian and vegan foodie scene has lagged behind the likes of LA or San Francisco.
That is, until now. Situated on the city fringes of trendy Hoxton, new vegan and fine dining restaurant Saf goes some way towards plugging that gap.
The Raw Chef
The cooking is fronted by 'Raw Chef' Chad Samon, recently described by GQ magazine as 'the king of uncooked and vegan cuisine' and who counts Helen Hunt and Woody Harrelson as among his followers.
Vegan and raw food still have a reputation - outside LA, at least - as the reserve of sandle-wearing hippies.
The crowd eating at Saf at the same night as the Yoga Abode team couldn't have been further from the stereotype: diners were young and old, casual and smart, and as 'normal' a selection of people as you'll see in any other London restaurant.
They'd all come to try what has to be one of the most unusual menus in town: despite (or because of) its vegan and mostly raw credentials, the food at Saf manages to be delicious, imaginative, beautifully well presented and, of course, exceptionally healthy.
The menu is described as 100% 'botanical', with no animal products, dairy, refined or processed ingredients. Instead, Saf uses only the purest seasonal plant ingredients, locally sourced and organic where possible.
Most dishes, apart from four, are cooked below 48 degrees Celsius, to preserve their goodness - making this almost exclusively a raw restaurant. Even the tap water, which is brought to the table automatically (hallelujah!) is ionised.
As the restaurant's marketing literature gushes, eating out has never been so good for you. And it all comes without compromising the rather important factor of taste. I chose the Maki Roll (£5): a splendid concoction of parsnip rice, avocado, mushrooms, shiso and wasabi, lovingly presented and tasty to boot.
Then came the cheese course: we shared a Macadamia Caprese, comprising semi-dried tomato, macadamia cheese, rocket, balsamic vinegar, virgin olive oil and rocket. The strong nutty flavour of the cheese was too powerful for my taste, but the dish scored full marks for presentation and texture.
I broke with the raw tradition for the main course: the Buddha Bowl (priced at £8.50) was a scrumptious mix of green tea glazed smoked tofu, organic jasmine rice, garlic greens, kimchee, gomasio and sambal. I could have chosen the courgette Lasagne, Sushi Plate, Ravioli or Mushrooms.
Dessert was a highlight: the Superfood (£5.50) - made from maca ice cream, goji syrup and lucuma cookie - was distinctive and delicious.
Also on the menu was an apple cheesecake, Pineapple Rose, Ganache Tart and Brownie Sundae. We rounded off the meal with steaming fresh mint tea.
Worth the money?
Although some will argue that Saf is expensive, I was pleasantly surprised at the prices: in central London, an evening main course - especially one of this standard - for under £10 is a steal.
Granted - a drink or two at the bar beforehand (recommended, for a great range of organic alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails) and a bottle of organic wine may well nudge the bill upwards of £100 for two people.
I hope Saf thrives: it was certainly buzzy and busy when we went in early June. Vegetarians and vegans will love the range and vision of the food, while eco fanatics and trend-setters will rejoice at its squeaky-clean environmental credentials and trendy but unpretentious environment.
For everyone else, this is delicious, innovative cooking that won't be forgotten in a hurry.
Review by Lucia Cockcroft, editor