The last few years have seen London’s healthy eating scene go wild, in every sense of the word. As the city’s residents have become increasingly aware of how food can impact their health and wellbeing, more and more restaurants have landed, frying pans in hand, ready and waiting to serve up nourishing dishes that not only taste utterly divine, but that pack a serious nutrient punch too. So, whether you’re visiting on vacation, business or you’re a London local, it’s time to leave the guilt at the door at one of these must-try healthy cafes in London.
Zoe Louise Cronk | Cover Image © Petrina Tinslay
Healthy Cafes in London
Redemption had been all over my social media feeds for weeks. Everywhere I went, people were talking about how good the food was (“despite being 100% vegan”) so it was only a matter of time before I went to see what all the fuss was about. Let me tell you, I was not disappointed. In fact, my high expectations were far exceeded. Nestled in an unobtrusive corner of Notting Hill (with another location in Shoreditch), the motto at Redemption is ‘spoil yourself without spoiling yourself’.
It’s the brainchild of two female entrepreneurs and is often deemed London’s healthiest restaurant, widely renowned for serving up utterly delicious vegan, sugar-free and wheat-free dishes, as well as alcohol-free wine and cocktails. I took along a fellow non-vegan foodie to sample their delights on a very sunny Tuesday evening, and it had an enticingly quiet and relaxed atmosphere.
With the waiter’s guidance we ordered a selection of dishes to share, of which the standouts were undoubtedly the grilled aubergine with a tahini and tangy miso glaze sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, and the pulled barbecue jackfruit burger that still has me salivating. Having never tasted jackfruit before, I was unsure what to expect but my oh my – it was an absolute explosion of flavour that has to be tasted to be believed. Our meal also included the protein and fibre-packed ‘buff burger’ and the kale Caesar side salad – little did we know how huge the portions would be. Of course we couldn’t leave without sampling the irresistible-looking banoffee pie made with sticky medjool dates and topped with coconut yoghurt. Let’s just say we were extremely pleased that our sweet tooth took hold and ordered dessert of its own accord, as it was truly delectable.
All in all, when it comes to healthy cafes in London, Redemption is a fantastic pick. It’s casual and inviting with a reasonably priced and well thought-through menu that will make you consider going vegan from the very first bite.
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The best thing about eating healthily in this day and age is that it no longer means being restricted to a lettuce leaf without dressing and plain chicken on the side. Today, a balanced diet can be as much a treat for the taste buds as it is for your waistline – and that’s where Picky Wops comes in. This award-winning 100% vegan pizza place is the answer to all your plant-based prayers.
Their secret is in the bases. They hand-mix their own speciality flour combinations such as turmeric, Spirulina or burned wheat, and the staff do a great job at explaining the differences in taste, texture and nutrients. For example, we’re told the Kamut option is made with an ancient grain called Khorasan wheat that’s high in protein, very light and easily digestible. Then comes the time to pick your toppings which is, after all, the most important bit. When I visited with my meat-loving companion (the best taste tester for a vegan restaurant!) we went for one with aubergine, tomatoes, cashew nut ‘camembert-style cheese’ and rocket leaves, and another with a ‘soft cheese-style’ stuffed crust plus jalapenos, mushrooms, smoky coconut ‘cheese’ and Seitan ‘sausage’. Hand on heart, they were both absolutely delicious. Neither of us missed the meat and we loved the lightness of the bases that didn’t leave us feeling heavy or overly full. Unlike other free-from pizzas, this one isn’t trying to masquerade as traditional. They have put a healthy and vegan spin on a much-loved classic and come up with something that is equally as (if not more) enjoyable to devour, without the guilt.
The Fulham branch is very small and intimate and they also do takeaway for those sunny afternoons in the park or to take back to your hotel room. Alternatively, head south-east to their slightly larger branch in the trendy Peckham Levels. Both locations are BYO so don’t forget to pick up a beer or two en route.
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Your mind may not automatically spring to lush and affluent Hampstead for gourmet Middle Eastern food, but allow us to expand your culinary horizons. Israeli fare has been growing in popularity for the last few years and becoming trendier as a result, with restaurants like Delicatessen – a relatively new neighbourhood-style eatery – promising to serve up modern Middle Eastern food that’s fit to burst with vibrant flavours. Boy do they deliver.
Upon entering, you’re instantly struck by the bustling, welcoming atmosphere that makes you feel like settling in for the long haul. The décor is what I would describe as rustic ‘desert chic’. It’s bright and airy with an entirely glass frontage and a few tables outside for those warm weather days. When we visited, at 2pm on a weekday, we were surprised at how busy it was so would highly recommend a reservation. There are plus points to this though; sneaking a peek at which dishes look the best on everyone else’s table before placing your order. When our waiter arrived, we looked first at the drinks menu (priorities) and perused the short wine list on which there’s a clear focus on robust reds to complement the rich dishes, before deciding on a cocktail. I can vouch for their Middle Eastern pomegranate-infused take on Sangria that was well worth a sip.
The menu itself is influenced by head chef Or Golan’s Moroccan and Lebanese heritage, and inspired by his time in both Tel Aviv and at London’s famed Ottolenghi. In true Middle Eastern dining style the dishes are mostly about sharing, with mezze-style plates like melt-in-the-mouth aubergine with tahini and figs, green falafel, and sashimi-grade Bluefin tuna served with anchovies and avocado; all three of which tied for first place in my book. We also chose the charred sweetcorn with chilli and vegan parmesan, a super creamy hummus with flatbread, and a beef carpaccio dish with truffles and artichoke that my dining partner raved about the whole way home. Don’t fancy sharing dishes? The main items definitely caught our eye too and you won’t be disappointed with the choice at hand; think sea bass with burnt tomatoes and tahini, old Jaffa lamb kebabs and 5-hour slow-cooked spare ribs. This is a menu that is well-researched and has been thoughtfully put together using only the freshest ingredients. The cacophony of extraordinary spices and bold flavours that we devoured complemented each other at every bite, so much so that I’m already planning my return.
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Sought-after location? Tick. Boutique feel? Tick. Food that manages to be both nutritious and delicious? Tick. There’s not much you can say about Tell Your Friends – a new-ish vegan hot spot in Parsons Green – that doesn’t tick some kind of box.
The vibe is casually classy, and unlike some vegan joints they don’t shy away from alcohol, meaning you can enjoy a virtuous meal and still savour that well-earned glass of wine. After being there for ten minutes, I realised this was a restaurant of two halves. The front is almost conservatory-like with an abundance of glass and a gold/white colour scheme set off by what looks like the original patterned floor. Sit in this front half to enjoy a little people-watching (think tiny dogs and expensive handbags) or head further in for a more intimate setting. Here in this back half, dark flooring and cozy raised booths are framed by a few pieces of industrial-chic furniture and a neon pink ‘Tell Your Friends’ sign on the back wall that simply screams ‘Instagram me!’ The rose gold cutlery and cactuses on the table were a nice touch, along with the pleasant soundtrack of upbeat 80s funk music that’s just loud enough to set the scene without demanding that any conversation must be bellowed.
Expect laid back but attentive service and menu recommendations sure to include the ‘chicken bites’ that come with a sticky and tangy hoisin-style sauce. Being a vegan restaurant, this wasn’t a specialty that we were expecting, but my goodness it was good. We sat there marvelling at how the ‘chicken’ in these bites could be anything but meat; so much so that I couldn’t resist asking the waiter what it really was. He delightedly informed me it was jack fruit and agreed that the taste and texture were sure to fool even the most sordid of carnivores. Other culinary delights to grace our table included Arancini balls filled with gooey cashew ‘cheese’, risotto rice and sun-dried tomatoes, and the Buddha Bowl full of fresh ingredients like smoked tofu, mange tout, cabbage, avocado and quinoa topped with a flavoursome sesame dressing. We also tried the made-to-share ‘Friends Board’ of which the piece de resistance was the ‘faux foie gras’ made with lentils. It was certainly tasty, but I soon wished we’d opted for the vegan ‘mac and cheese’ after seeing it arrive at the table next to us – it looked to die for. This moment of regret was soon eased however by the grand finale of a vegan salted caramel donut that was utterly delectable. Overall, the food was great, the place was cool and we liked that it had an eco-conscience. Not only is it vegan but you can also buy reusable ‘TYF’ coffee cups here too. Now, go and tell your friends.
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With a location in each corner of the capital, Granger & Co is something of an institution when it comes to healthy cafes in London. The brainchild of world-renowned relaxed foodie Bill Grainger, this much-loved chain hails from Australia and has other eateries in spots such as Sydney, Tokyo and Seoul. The vibe they’re going for is welcoming and friendly, and they’ve nailed it down to a tee. Whichever restaurant you choose, great food and a warm, unpretentious atmosphere are always guaranteed. We’ve satisfied our appetites in two of the four locations – Notting Hill and Clerkenwell – and while each has its own distinct charm (Clerkenwell feeling a little more upmarket while Notting Hill is a more intimate space), both gave us a whole lot of reasons to go back.
Enjoying Saturday brunch in Notting Hill, I selected the ‘Granger’s Green’ juice of apple, cucumber, ginger, silver beet and coconut water topped with chia seeds as the perfect healthy start to a lazy morning. If you’re more of a smoothie fan, my dining partner devoured the ‘Bill’s Raw’ smoothie (homemade almond milk, banana, raw cacao and agave) in less than five minutes, so I’d say that’s a pretty good recommendation. Unable to choose between dishes, we decided to share two big plates for our mains. The courgette fritters with halloumi, quinoa, buckwheat and green harissa-topped kale paired surprisingly well with the second dish of soft-shell crab, chorizo, poached egg and kimchi fried rice, and we genuinely couldn’t fault either the flavours or the presentation – they looked as good as they tasted. A matcha latte became the finale, and we left feeling satisfied without the need to waddle.
When dining of an evening in the Clerkenwell branch, it was the tuna tartare with picked daikon that caught our eye to start, and it was just as melt-in-the-mouth as you’d expect. Always a fan of dining sharing style, we then chose the yellow fish curry with spiced butternut squash and brown rice, accompanied by a small plate of roasted cauliflower, saffron yoghurt and grilled corn, and a side of spring greens in chilli and garlic. It would have been rude not to conclude the meal with something sweet and we were soon fighting over the last bite of white chocolate and pistachio pavlova served with peaches, apricots, thyme and a smooth yoghurt cream.
Our verdict? This is how food should be. Full of delicious, mouth-watering flavours that came from fresh, nutritious ingredients with a little bit of indulgence on the side. After all, if you’re paying to eat out then you deserve a little treat, right?
The Fit Traveller was a guest of these healthy cafes in London. As always, the words, opinions and tasting notes are authentically our own.
Zoe Louise Cronk is a freelance writer and editor who left the corporate world behind to spend her days crafting ideas into articles and exploring new avenues of health and fitness.
When not writing or daydreaming, Zoe can be found planning the next tick off her travel bucket list.