Terry Durack chews over the merits of Britain's first raw-food café

No wheat. No gluten. No sugar. No GMO. No dairy. No yeast. No shoes.

Yep, no shoes. If you want to enjoy the detoxifying glories of London's first raw-food café, then please leave your clod-hoppers at the door, along with your high stress levels and your smart-arse scepticism.

It's not often that I find myself in Primrose Hill, or in a yoga centre, or in a vegetarian café for that matter, so to be in all three at the one time immediately starts to play havoc with my immune system. The fact that I am surrounded by women, several of whom are highly pregnant and perched in the lotus position on oversized, cushioned box-stools around a large communal table, is also slightly disconcerting.

Where the reception area of the Triyoga centre stops and the Little Earth Café starts isn't terribly clear, or, I guess, terribly important. The café was started 18 months ago by Katia Narain and Christophe Reissfelder, and has been a hit with the Primmy Hill set from day one. Word has it that not only Gwyneth (inevitable that her name would come up, isn't it?) but also Katie Holmes have been spotted here nibbling on seaweed salad and raw-food pizza, an unlikely food product that involves a walnut and flaxseed crust topped with sun-dried tomato sauce, rosemary, pine nuts and avocado.

Katia Narain trained for three months with Woody Harrelson's personal chef, which in raw-food parlance, is a bit like Jamie Oliver doing an apprenticeship with Ferran Adria at El Bulli.

Devotees claim that because the enzymes are destroyed when food is heated above 48C, our bodies have to utilise our own enzymes to break down the food, which can result in us feeling tired and run-down. So rather than ovens and cooktops, the raw-food kitchen is more about juicers, blenders, slicers and dehydrators, all of which are in evidence in Little Earth's tiny open kitchen.

I remain unconvinced, but I'm damned if I'm going to struggle back into my shoes now, so I rather aggressively claim one of the two smaller tables, and order a Green Peace juice of apple, celery, fennel, cucumber and kale (£3) that tastes bright and tangy. Also known as The Fountain of Youth, it is supposed to detoxify, strengthen the immune system and keep the eyes strong and healthy.

The short, laminated menu lists both raw dishes and warmed organic dishes, including some with alarming names such as Pink Sushi and Nutty Monkey, as well as quinoa (an ancient Inca grain) with pumpkin, and an organic soup of the day.

Pink sushi (£4.50) isn't sushi at all - or very pink for that matter - but takes the form of two big fat cylinders of crisped nori seaweed filled with a pile of sprouts, a little carrot, cucumber, avocado and a beetroot mush. It's so light and airy-fairy it makes no impact whatsoever on my tastebuds or my stomach. One of my neighbours is having it as her entire lunch. For me, it's an amuse-gueule.

Butternut squash, ginger and coriander soup (£4.25) arrives in an elegant, crazed Japanese bowl sitting on a handsome wooden tray accompanied by a thin slice of dense wheat- and yeast-free toast. The soup is rich, silky and focused, with both flavour and finesse, boosted with the hit of ginger and bolstered with a drizzle of oil. It might take a little longer to warm to the bread.

Next comes a raw salad of arame seaweed, grated beetroot and diced avocado (£6) that is full of crunch and character, made juicy with a light Asian-style dressing. Quinoa (£5.50), a notoriously difficult grain to pronounce (keen-wa) and to cook, comes mixed with little bits of roasted pumpkin and topped with a sludgy, terracotta-coloured cashew and red pepper sauce. The grain is properly cooked, like transparent couscous, and the whole thing tastes better than it looks, which is probably just as well.

I finish on a rather crumbly and coconutty raw macaroon (£1), and a raw cookie (£1) which is as weird as you would expect raw cookie dough to be. (Taken home and baked in the oven for 10 minutes at 180C improves matters considerably, although I feel a bit guilty about killing all those little enzymes).

If I had to eat at The Little Earth Café every day, I would rebel against the mushiness, the bitsiness, and the repeated flavours of avocado and beetroot. But I don't have to eat here every day. I don't do yoga and pilates, I don't wear Juicy Couture trousers, I don't buy nasal cleaning aids (£12.99) and tongue cleansers (£2), and I'm not pregnant.

Those who are the demographic, however, could do a lot worse. The food is well designed and well prepared, by people who can actually cook. The slow pace is calming, the mood passive, and the slightly illicit feeling of being in a "secret women's place" is rather charming. By the time I leave, having eaten probably four times as much as anyone else on the premises, I feel quite good.


Scores 1-9 stay home and cook 10-11 needs help 12 OK 13 pleasant enough 14 good 15 very good 16 capable of greatness 17 special, can't wait to go back 18 highly honourable 19 unique and memorable 20 as good as it gets

The Little Earth Café at Triyoga, 6 Erskine Road, London NW3 Tel: 020 7449 0700

Open Monday-Friday 10am-8pm; Saturday 10am-6pm; Sunday 11am-5pm. Around £25 for two

Second helpings: More healthy eateries

The Healthy Life Bistro 7 Little Brittox, Devizes, Wiltshire, tel: 01380 720 043 Along with the Healthy Life natural food store and cooking school, Peter Vaughan's popular bistro promotes nutritionally balanced eating. The mainly Wiltshire-sourced menu caters for veggies, vegans, fish lovers - and even meat eaters.

Grassroots Cafe 97 St George's Road, Glasgow, tel: 0141 333 0534 Round the corner from the Grassroots Organic food store, the café serves up a global take on vegetarian with everything from Greek dips to Moroccan tagine and Thai green curry. The reasonably priced organic wine list is a bonus.

The Cowshed 119 Portland Road, London W11, tel: 020 7078 1944 The new urban sibling of the Cowshed Spa at Somerset's Babington House, where you can get a facial, pedi, mani or massage, as well as pop in for a healthy breakfast or lunch, or a not-so-healthy afternoon tea.

Email Terry Durack about where you've eaten lately at t.durack@independent.co.uk