Freelance writer and journalist based in west London.
Published February 24th 2013
Veg out with Vegetables
It was a freezing, snowy day and we were feeling full of winter when we stumbled upon Down to Earth in Kensington. But we left feeling we'd had a shot of vitality, thanks to this independent café's focus on organic, vegetarian and vegan fare. Part restaurant, part health food market, all dietary requirements are catered for, so whether it's wheat-free, dairy-free, gluten-free or sugar-free, you can rest assured you won't have to spend time worrying about cross contamination and double-checking that the kitchen really does use separate equipment to prepare their dishes. I've had to do that many times when dining with my father, who has coeliac disease. But here they understand it's important and what's more, they celebrate the difference.
The café is open plan, with a range of dining tables, coffee tables and sweet, raised window seating that allows you to peer out onto the bustling Kensington High Street. The chairs all have eye-catching handle details, which bring a notable element of modernity to the surroundings. This is one of the most chic parts of London after all.
But chic doesn't have to be expensive. Prices are sensible and competitive. Scrambled eggs with vegetables and bread, or a two-egg omelette with a choice of fillings and bread, will set you back £7.50. The vegetable portions are huge; they want you to consume goodness and they make their best efforts to ensure that happens. Both meals were really tasty. The continental breakfast selection, which is available for £5, is similar to what you may experience in a hotel; go up to specially laid table, choose what you want of the cereal, yoghurts, breads and pastries and enjoy. For lunch, soups and salads are a fiver and mains, which can include halloumi tartlets, quinoa savoury cakes or sweet potato and pea samosas are all £8.50. Organic smoothie and juice combinations are varied. Exotica, at the fruit end of the spectrum, contains mango, orange, apple and lime; Veggier Rainbow, with cauliflower, carrot, red cabbage and fennel, is the most savoury.
Raw food is a feature of the dinner menu at Down to Earth. The lasagne comprises layers of portobello mushrooms, tomato sauce, herbed cashew cheese, courgette pasta strips and pesto. The raw pizza boasts a sprouted buckwheat and avocado crust, with the same sauce and cheese as the lasagne but topped with various vegetables. You can even have a trio of raw tapas; why not try the cauliflower couscous, bruschettas and courgette and avocado tartar? Prices for the evening menu range from £4.50 to £7.50. All the food is ethically sourced, packaging is biodegradable and by-products from the kitchen go to feeding the cows at their farm in Harrow in north west London.
Health food might be the name of the game here, but it doesn't mean boring. There's also a range of sweet treats, including what the café calls guilt free cakes. The German chocolate cake certainly looked delicious, as did the dairy free sorbets. These can be found in a large counter at the entrance.
The produce for sale is attractively displayed along the walls of the room. It's quite pleasant to dine with the bulging cabinets and shelves around you, plus you can't resist taking a peek at what's on offer afterwards. I defy you not to make a purchase before you leave.