Restaurants: High fibre, low energy

Vivienne Heller has mixed feelings about one of the Capital's newest organic eateries
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The Independent Culture
Ever since I saw my flatmate's organic groceries being delivered by a lardy man with a fag and a stained vest, I've been deeply suspicious of the true-food trend. Certainly, GM scares and Belgian food freak-outs have prepared a fertile ground for this growth industry, but is it a case of altruism or cynical business acumen?

Hence I was intrigued to learn that Woz, sister restaurant of the marvellously exuberant Wiz, in Holland Park, had jumped on the bandwagon, ditching its popular no-choice Mediterranean format to become Bistrorganic. Antony Worrall Thompson must have been confident of his clientele, and, indeed, this light, airy place was packed last Friday with a youngish local and surprisingly low-key crowd.

We sat at a scrubbed wooden table just a little too wide for a good gossip, but were heartened by the extensive cocktail and wine list. Guided by AWT tips, we chose an excellent sauvignon, full of that ripe, composty promise unique to organic vintages. Fleshy olives and authentically blemished radishes whet our appetites as we surfed the wide-ranging menu, which was divided into two sections: "Club" (robust dishes such as shepherd's pie and field mushrooms on country bread) and "Food from my Travels", a more cosmopolitan spread.

Michael began with garlic and parsley soup: "absolutely delicious; in my top five soups ever". Rich and peppery, it was an earthy, flavoursome contrast to my bland cauliflower panna cotta - a pallid dumpling on a raft of cucumber and spring onions. Disappointing, but it would have taken an alchemist to set those ingredients alight.

My tastebuds perked up with the main course. Shavings of bacon were a crisp antidote to the intensity of seared scallops, atop the best risotto I've ever eaten. It was steeped in squid ink for a subtle aromatic flavour, with every grain gleefully asserting its individuality.

Michael's chicken had not died in vain. "Terrific," he enthused. "It obviously had a great life." To be swaddled in prosciutto and placed on a bed of white bean puree seemed a pretty good way to go.

It was a hard act to follow, and our dessert - balsamic strawberries - failed on most counts. The fruit wilted into a sour stew, only slightly redeemed by a dollop of "spooning" cream and a buttery fragile shortbread.

Much of Bistrorganic's food was memorable, but AWT's bon viveur sorcery was sadly missing from the whole proceedings. It's early days - as the menu noted, some of the ingredients will be non-organic until superior- quality replacements can be sourced. But for an organic eatery to vie with the best restaurants, there needs to be a sense of joyful commitment and a back-to-nature, David Bellamy-style celebration of life; a touch of the Woz that was, in fact.

46 Golborne Rd, London W10 (0181-968 2200). Approx pounds 30 a head

GOOD-NATURED GRUB

Organic Cafe

21-25 Lonsdale Rd, NW6 (0171-372 1232). Couscous to steak and chips and fry-ups till 4pm

St John 26 St John St, EC1 (0171-251 0848). Meadow-fresh meat in a stark white room

Windmill Restaurant 486 Fulham Rd, SW6 (0171-381 2372). Delicious, down-to-earth veggie food, decor and ambience

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