Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published September 1st 2015
Healthy eating in the heart of wimbledon
43 Worple Road, Wimbledon, SW19 4JZ
These days, so many people suffer from different types of food allergies or intolerances. When you are cooking a meal from home, it is not so bad because you can make your own dinner and know exactly what you are putting into it. If you want to go out to eat, however, it becomes more problematic. On the whole, restaurants only do a small number of 'afterthought' dishes for those they probably consider 'awkward' customers, and they are usually pretty basic, unoriginal, and not always going to appeal to your pallet.
Lu-Ma is therefore a gem of a find. Located on Worple Road in Wimbledon, the cafe was started up by and named after mother and daughter team, Lucy and Maria. Their vision was to create a cafe that ditched ingredients that tend to disagree with our bodies, such as dairy, refined sugar, red meat, and simple carbohydrates like white rice and starchy potatoes. Although not entirely a vegetarian restaurant, The Resident magazine has voted Lu-Ma one of the top twenty-nine veggie eateries in London because a high proportion of their dishes are suitable for vegetarians, vegans, and are gluten free.
Although I fall into none of the above categories, I am keen on healthy eating, so have been interested in visiting Lu-Ma for quite some time. The opportunity arose this past weekend when I had a late shift, and needed to find somewhere to eat before starting work. The cafe is small, but does not feel cramped in due to a clever space-maxismising layout.
The double doors are always open and lead out the patio, where there is lots of seating. The shabby chic interior has been decorated with light airy colours; it has a slightly nautical style that makes it seem more appropriate for a posh fish and chip restaurant by the sea than a health cafe just off Wimbledon high street. Lu-Ma does, however, create a feel good factor with a number of positive messages framed on the walls and embroidered on cushions.
On one side there is a bulletin board full of leaflets advertising well-being classes such as Zumba and prenatal groups. If you keep hold of your Lu-Ma receipt, you can even get a free yoga class. On the shelves, there are a few takeaway health snacks if you can't stay for a full meal.
The main wall features the menu, written down on a giant blackboard. The blackboard also explains a bit about a few of the ingredients they use and why they are good for us. One of these ingredients is seaweed, which replaces the ketchup as a table condiment, alongside black peppercorns and pink rock salt.
Lu-Ma provides a range of freshly made smoothies such as Dr Beet, Incredible Hulk, and Green Goddess, which are all packed with nutritious fruit, vegetables, and dairy free milk. They also have some branded drinks, including coconut water and iced tea.
I have never liked tea and that is mainly because I do not like hot drinks, but on this occasion I thought I would give their mango iced tea a go. It was pleasant enough for a one off, but I am definitely not a convert.
I was greeted by a friendly waiter who was keen to be of assistance, but unfortunately impeded by a bit of a language barrier. I had to ask him four times whether a particular dish was served hot or cold. He eventually understood and said it was served cold, but when it arrived to my table, it was in fact hot.
The dish in question is called the Alkalising Bowl, which is 'fried shredded wakame and kale with brown rice, avocado, spinach, broccoli and tahini dressing' for £6.75. It was a huge bowl and looked very appealing, but disappointing taste-wise. I like all these individual ingredients, but they did not come together to create a flavoursome dish. Without the tahini dressing (of which there was only enough to cover a quarter of the meal) everything was pretty bland, and in my opinion, the broccoli had not been cooked sufficiently. The broccoli was only cooked gently in order to retain the nutrients, but this had the counter effect of making it hard and crunchy rather than soft, tender, and easy to digest. If it had been steamed, you would have got the best of both worlds. The Alkalising Bowl was very filling and I could tell that what I was eating was good for me, but my overall enjoyment was minimal.
Because I was full, I did not intend to have dessert, but then the waiter mentioned some of their homemade cakes not listed on the menu. All of these sounded very tempting, so I sat a while, letting my stomach rest, to give me room to indulge.
The dessert that really pricked up my ears was the chocolate and orange cake for £4.65, so I began by asking how rich it was. Again, there was a language problem, so the waiter brought Maria out to help. She sort of understood what I meant, but not entirely - 'By rich do you mean is it filling?' Together we cobbled together the conclusion that it was a rich cake.
I took a moment to ask myself if I really wanted a rich cake at that point. I looked at the lighter banana cake and saw that it was only a small toast-size portion, so decided that it should probably be fine. My eyes and stomach bulged in unison when the chocolate and orange cake was placed down in front of me. It would have been a big slice for light sponge, but for a rich cake it was ginormous.
Divided into four layers, the first consisted of a thick dark chocolate ganache, flavoured with sharp orange. Ideally, the cake would have been better served at room temperature, but as it had just been taken out of the fridge, the chocolate was rock solid and a bit tricky to slice into with only a fork at hand. Once I had broken off a piece, however, it was eye-rolling heaven. I've never experienced a ganache so thick, creamy, and smooth.
Because the cake is not listed on the menu, you can't be sure of all the ingredients, but from the taste, I think the bottom layer was an orange infused chocolate sponge with chopped cashew nuts and cashew butter. I have never tried cashew butter before, but the flavour came out so strongly, I don't think it could have been anything else. This layer was my absolute favourite because although buttery, it was much lighter, and did not become sickly over time.
As for the two middle layers, I have no idea what they were made from. It did not have the texture of cake or ganache, so I am at a complete loss. It was gorgeous none the less, and I regretted not being able to finish it all.
I think Lu-Ma is a wonderful place to go if you do indeed have special dietary requirements. As someone who is just interested in healthy food, I'm not sure whether or not I would necessarily go back for lunch, but I would definitely take advantage of their takeaway service to buy an indulgent piece of cake and then divide it into small portions at home.