In recent years London's raw food scene has become more and more sophisticated: at casual cafés such as the Wild Food Café in Covent Garden, raw food is no longer confined to the fringes of the health food movement. Now, it’s even spilled into the art gallery world. The new café inside the rear entrance to the Royal Academy, 42° Raw, defies all expectations by stripping its post-exhibition treats down to the raw. A sign reading ‘cooking is so last year’ at the entrance sets the tone. The dish names may sound familiar – Thai noodles, lasagne, avocado sandwich – but the reality defies expectations. The ‘Thai noodles’ turned out to be raw carrot and courgette ribbons in a coconut curry sauce, while the sandwich ‘bread’ was not baked, but made out of cold-pressed seeds.
We were especially impressed by a stunning-looking lasagne: layers of thin raw vegetable slivers were paired with cashew cream (a raw take on the classic béchamel), tomato sauce and parsley pesto and topped with sunflower seeds; the taste was unexpectedly sweet and nutty.
Not only is cooking so last year – baking is too. The display of mouthwatering cakes made it hard to believe that no oven was involved in their creation. A cupcake base was made with almond flour, dates and cashews and agave syrup – which explained the chewiness. The cake’s frosting was vegan too, made with cashews and coconut oil.
42° Raw also serves a range of fruit and green juices (mixing fruit and vegetables), which can be hit and miss – our Stockholm juice of mango, apple, carrot, mint and chili was so full of coarse fibres they repeatedly clogged up the straw.
Art is there to open up the mind and allow us to experience things afresh – and 42° Raw certainly does this to art gallery catering. Still, with tables dispersed in the museum entrance hall and very slow service, this is not a destination eatery, or a place to visit if you’re in a hurry.