This healthy Covent Garden staple – to be found up a flight of stairs above Neal’s Yard – has opened a second branch on Upper Street. And how different it is.
An airy modern eatery wearing its vegan credentials lightly, most striking is the dining counter around the very spacious open kitchen, peopled by half a dozen chefs working serenely, almost meditatively.
We pull up stools to eat – and watch the slow, choreographed dance as they build incredibly beautiful plates of food.
Meanwhile, beyond the open kitchen is a long, thin room with comfy pink chairs, mirrors, house plants and turquoise accents. This area is full, on our visit, with a mostly female crowd of diners.
The two blokes leading Wild Food’s new venture are original pioneer Joel Gazdar and head chef Thet Min Tun: on the menu expect foraged wild and artisanal ingredients, slow raw food processes, and a commitment to “heirloom produce” with medicinal benefits. And it’s much broadened from Covent Garden – with gluten-free, wood-fired pizzas, brunch and posh starters all featuring.
There are drinks if you’re on a ‘mindful’ tip, not to mention the usual wines, beers and cocktails. I recommend a Sour Power, a non-alcoholic aperitif, with vivid-red colours and a grown-up bitter sensibility in its blend of orange, rosehip, hibiscus, lime, mint and kombucha. Also intriguing is a full-bodied Berry Sparkle (non-fizz, despite the name), with its sharp blackberry and basil, neroli (orange blossom), apple, cucumber and lime.
Hungry? Here’s what we especially rated on the menu:
King oyster scallops (£9)
These are seared on a grill so smoky the manager has occasionally to stand with the door open to let the air clear. But we don’t mind the breeze – and the resulting ‘scallops’ are just perfect ovals of oyster mushroom, as meaty-yet-tender as their aquatic brethren. They sit on a charcoal-coloured plate, making the briny white seaweed tartare pop; red and orange pepper salsa is sprinkled on top for sweetness, wild sea purslane for an umami hit, and curls of seaweed for crisp texture.
White Polenta (£8)
My favourite dish of the evening: a comforting bowl of the creamy yet dairy-free starchy staple swirled with truffle oil and studded with chanterelles and an egg-yolk shaped blob of velvety butternut squash. Toasted seeds add crunch; a 100% winner.
Wild green burger (£14.50)
After one or two mouthfuls we agree it’s the best plant-based burger we’ve ever sunk our gnashers into; prior to this we’ve been mesmerized by the zen-like female chef building one after another as they fly out onto the pass. The patty is raw, a blend of pink olive and shiitake, and this is layered with aubergine yoghurt, avo cream, sundried tomato and ketchup, with pickled mooli, caramelised onion and wholegrain mustard. The bao bun is attractively pale green, too. And the baked ‘cheese’ and onion-infused kale chips? The bomb.
Wabi Sabi Kale Salad (£13)
Exactly what it says it is – a super-healthy and generous plate of salad with a ton of raw and pickled stuff: winter radish, kimchi, teriyaki almonds, chestnuts, oyster mushrooms, avocado, butternut squash and tenderstem broccoli. It’s all coated in a sunflower seed sour cream dressing – but ultimately not quite as exciting as our other dishes.
Matcha cheesecake (£8)
This circular delight (above) yields mild green tea flavours with wild nettle and kombucha, sticky seed brittle adding bite. Or chocolate-lovers may prefer a raw tart of pure cocoa, the date caramel adding dried-fruit richness. Wild power, indeed.