Thursday, 25 March 2010


152-4 Curtain Road
London EC2A 3AT

020 7613 0007

"You should eat that its a dried tomato", said our waiter.

"Sun dried?", said my scottish friend.

"No. We have dehydration ovens. Four of them. They cost £1000 each.", said our waiter proudly.

Sun dried tomatoes are so passe, so yesterday. The sweep of history. I thought if those people sheltering close to here from the Blitz in the underground 70 years ago, a nanosecond in geological time, could have heard him. How things change.

Here we are at Saf in the East End of London where they now have special expensive ovens to dry vegetables. We have just finished our first course, the tasting plate £16.50. It is described as "beetroot ravioli, vegetable maki, olives and spiced nuts, tapenade, cashew cheese with raw flax seed crackers, home made pickles and samosa" and..."sun dried tomato". Ha we should have them up before the trades descriptions authority. Sun dried or oven dehydrated this was a very impressive start. The platter looked like something from the most upmarket sushi restaurant. Every piece on it was beautifully crafted and tasted equally delicious or as my pithy Scottish friend said "Its not you arse wipe Vegan bollocks. You can taste this". She is sensitive to how food can be used as a socio political statement.

Main courses were equally impressive both visually and importantly to eat. I had the Phad Thai. There is a sense in which they are struggling with descriptive labels grounding them in the non vegetarian world but adding their own detailed descriptions of what are in fact unique dishes with only a distant relationship with the heading. The Phad Thai included enoki mushrooms, mung shoots and chipotle almond sauce. Anyone who thinks vegetarian food is flavourless really should try this. It is a transporting education! I tried a bit of my scottish friend's lasagne which according to the menu description includes 'sun dried tomatoes' , or were they. Frankly I don't care if they were dehydrated in the basement. The dish was also sublime. There was olive relish and mushrooms and sage pesto in there; nothing like any lasagne I've ever tasted and ,l ike most of the food, and everything I had, cold but nevertheless fantastic.

It was a bit de trop to have puddings after this lot but we couldn't resist. I have chocolate ganache tart £5.50. This is the most conventional eating experience of the evening: its dominated by the taste of high quality dark chocolate but there is no cream; instead there is pernod ice cream, rum and pear compote, cacoa syrup. Scottish friend has Pumkin Pie £6.50 with candied pecans; again very good but closer to what I might expect to find elsewhere.

I am sitting looking into the restaurant. "I could be in Notting Hill" I say, looking at the elegant spiral lights, the wooden flooring, the attractive staff. " You need to be looking my way at the dismal little cafe outside to be reminded you are in the East End," said my Scottish friend. It was a memorable evening. Oh and vegetarian of course doesn't mean there is no drinking. They make good cocktails here (I had a Margarita) and we had a bottle of Spanish wine (see photo): organic/vegan natch and good value at £19.

Saf on Urbanspoon

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