Taste is thin on the ground at Marylebone detox cafe
PUBLISHED: 11:20 13 January 2007 | UPDATED: 10:30 07 September 2010
A New Year resolution fails badly for our esteemed critic VICTORIA PREVER as bland food sends our critic diving for the chocolate cake The Quiet Revolution, 28-29 Marylebone High Street, London W1U Telephone 020 7224 3157 Food: one star Service: two s
A New Year resolution fails badly for our esteemed critic VICTORIA PREVER as bland food sends our critic diving for the chocolate cake
The Quiet Revolution, 28-29 Marylebone High Street, London W1U
Telephone 020 7224 3157
Food: one star
Service: two stars
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 9am-6pm, Sunday 11am-5pm
Lunch for two £27, main courses £5.95-£9.95
After December's diet - largely comprising chocolate, fat, sugar and alcohol - I'm feeling the need to purify and detox.
My body needs some organic "temple food". And I'm not alone.
Every women's magazine worth its salt (which, of course, you should be eating less of) is touting a healthy eating regime. Eating and being merry is so last year.
Easier said than done, when you're looking for nourishment on Marylebone High Street.
So I reluctantly shunned the seductive and potentially hip-enlarging call of La Fromagerie, Paul and Le Pain Quotidien and other sexy culinary bordellos.
Instead, I met my friend Joanne, the dynamic career girl, at The Quiet Revolution - the café tucked behind the Aveda store on the High Street.
Aveda's products aim to make us beautiful on the outside using renewable, sustainable, organic plant-based ingredients.
I was working on the basis that a café attached would do similar things for my internal beauty - which I suspect, after December's excesses, is less than gorgeous.
The Quiet Revolution is an organic café.
Not so long ago, such a place would most likely have been full of hemp-wearing hippies serving nut roasts and brown rice.
But things have changed and today organic is in the mainstream, and taking up some serious space in our supermarkets.
The hippies are to be found in black T-shirts and the hemp is more likely to turn up in a bottle of expensive shampoo.
At 12.45pm on a weekday, the café was packed with a variety of diners. The majority were women and the few men there appeared to have been towed in by their female companions.
Decoration is stylishly minimal - plain walls and slate flooring. Seating is at five large, chunky wooden tables (two communal, three more private, all with bench seats) or a long counter set along the window, with (reasonably comfortable) metal stools.
The food choices are on a series of small square blackboards suspended from hooks, covering a large part of the terracotta coloured wall above the till.
You order at the till and your food is then brought to you.
If dining alone, that could present a problem. Do you order without first saving a seat or do you leave your things on a seat and risk leaving them unattended?
There's a range of fresh juices, hot and cold salads, sandwiches, soups and some hot food. It's not all healthy - but there's plenty for those (like me) seeking purity.
The lady who served me was brusquely unhippy in her manner but did helpfully direct me to their meal deal, which includes soup, a salad, sourdough bread and a juice all for £9.95.
Joanne chose a hearty sounding lamb stew with potatoes and carrots and a "Ruby" juice drink.
My soup and salad arrived first - a long time before the rest of the food, which showed up in no particular hurry some time later.
The portions were extremely generous - in no way reduced to accommodate the meal deal.
Parsnip, turkey and spinach soup was pale green and watery. Lumps of turkey meat provided some interest - but it tasted of very little. The bread accompanying it was fresh and tasty but not sourdough.
Joanne watched as I moved on to the lentil salad. A generous pile of overcooked, fat green lentils sat on some naked rocket. Limply undercooked roasted vegetables with zero seasoning reclined limply on top. The only hero
on the plate - rescuing it from total taste oblivion - was some scattered feta.
Inexplicably, a plastic pot of plain oil (not dressing) was provided. Why would you want to pour neat (flavourless) oil over your food?
When the Joanne's lamb stew finally arrived - also generously sized - it tasted little better.
Large chunks of fatty, gristly meat were accompanied by few of the advertised vegetables other than a couple of chunks of potato and some carrot pulp.
A mound of brown rice was bland 1970s vegetarian fodder, its only saving grace - the belief that it was at least doing you good. And the thin but tasty gravy from the lamb did improve the rice a little.
All the right ingredients were there, but prepared in such a way to give them minimal flavour.
Looking around other people's food, some did look more appetising. But who knows whether they tasted any better.
We'd nearly finished when our juices arrived. My "funky" juice mix of kiwi, apple and mint was passable but needed speedy drinking as it split into solids and liquid within minutes.
Joanne's was a beautiful dark red mixture of carrot, ginger and beetroot with the added bonus of total virtue.
This food was reminiscent of the "health food" of decades ago.
Healthy and organic shouldn't be synonymous with bland, flavourless and unattractive. It should be colourful and bursting with flavour and taste. This food gives healthy a bad name.
In a last-ditch attempt to find a redeeming feature and to put a smile back on poor Joanne's face, I returned to the counter to ask for a slice of Green tea and white chocolate cake from the cakes displayed in a large fridge.
Ten minutes later I caught the unsmiling waitress leaving - clearly with no thought of our cake.
Now irritable (probably the onset of cold turkey from additive deprivation), I collared her.
She returned to ask someone else to serve us the cake. An off-putting sludgy, pistachio coloured concoction, it was actually moist, delicately flavoured and the best bit of our meal.
The bill came in at just over £27.
But after that experience, I'm definitely no revolutionary - quiet or otherwise.
I'd rather make some noise at Pret a Manger with some salads and smoothies.
If you're after interesting juice concoctions and unusual healthy sounding cakes, head to the back of Aveda.
Otherwise, join me over the road at La Fromagerie for a plate of cheese and a glass of red.