Trying to describe raw vegan cuisine to your nan may be a crushing ordeal but don’t let the eye-rollers put you off. Yes, it can paint a certain mental picture, but if you’re imagining hipster staff practicing yoga between customers, STOP. Rawligion, a new raw vegan café, is nothing like that. In fact, beyond the restaurant name, there is absolutely no mention of veganism when you enter. This isn’t food for vegans, it’s food for everyone, and even if you’re a meat-eater you’re guaranteed a delicious (and virtuous!) lunch.
Like Pret et al, Rawligion has a grab-and-go set-up with some limited seating. There’s a sexy laboratory feel to it, probably due to the bizarre contraption sat in the window which turned out to be the most hardcore coffee machine IN THE WORLD.
We were there by invitation, so I felt pretty special being allowed to sample all the juices, but I soon learnt that everyone gets to do this. All the juices are made fresh that morning, and you can try a shot of each to try before you buy. It’s a great idea, especially as some of the flavours sound a little experimental (like Poseidon’s Trident, pressed from fennel, lime, kelp, dulse, sea salt and chlorophyll). It’s not exactly the kind of ingredient list to get the juices flowing (ha!) and even looks a bit daunting with the spooky kelp leaving floating around in the bottle, but it was delicious..! And all the juices were weird and wonderful like that.
Drinks range from £4 to £8, so they’re not cheap, but they’re cold-pressed and comprised of the kinds of expensive ingredients that most people won’t use in their home juicer, such as rose water, burdock root and fresh aloe-vera. Besides, it’s not far off what you’d spend on a glass of house wine in any pub, except this actually tastes nice.
Rawligion is still brand new so there are currently only a few options for lunch with plans to add more over time. The seasonal salad (£4.50) was a generous portion of romaine lettuce absolutely drenched in a delicious cashew cream, delicately flavoured with dill, shallots, miso and lemon. (Side note: I can’t stand it when you order a salad in a restaurant and they’re stingy with the dressing; I’d rather it was served undressed with a dressing boat (!) on the side. Fortunately the folks at Rawligion seem to agree with me.)
Now don’t laugh, but the kale in the kale salad (£4.50) is massaged before assembled in the final dish. Like wagyu beef. I don’t know whose job it is to feel up the roughage, but they are doing a fine job.
I’ve never been a fan of kale because of how fibrous it is; my lazy mouth prefers a friendly spinach leaf. However, massaged kale has a much smoother texture and is far easier to eat than usual. The salad also includes chickpeas, sprouts, romaine, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, paprika, and – the star of the show – dulse. Dulse is an intensely flavoursome seaweed loaded with magnesium and iron and high in protein. In flavour it’s both salty and smokey, like bacon of the sea.
The courgetti marinara (£4) wasn’t love at first sight. Like every other instawanker on earth I own a spiralizer, but swirly courgette definitely feels like a sad, Monday night sort of meal after a heavy weekend. Not to mention when I have courgetti I have an absolute tonne of it, because it’s like 99% water, right? So this micro-portion on the shelf didn’t greatly appeal, but I’m really glad I tried it just for the sauce. Perhaps it’s precisely because the tomato sauce isn’t cooked, something I wouldn’t think to consider at home, but it was so rich and tangy. It was made of smoothly blended tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, garlic, miso, balsamic, medjool dates, sumac and maitake, as well as staple woody herbs. A triumph, get your gob around it.
I sampled a few other pieces I’d recommend such as the spicy Thai bowl (£4) and the Lebanese dehydrated falafel box(£5.50), but my favourite dish was by far the sushi (£4.50). In place of sticky white rice is seasoned blitzed cauliflower. Maybe it’s just because I really like cauliflower but I really don’t notice the difference, yet it’s loads better for you and bursting with fibre. Rolled in nori and flavoured with coconut flakes, tamari, honey and sesame oil, the sushi rolls consist of cucumber and red pepper, and are topped with alfalfa sprouts and ‘veg caviar’.
As we all know, pudding is where raw vegans really pull out the big guns. I was so full from sampling the menu however; I regrettably only had room for the heavenly, gooey and chewy raw caramel shortbread (£3.50). It’s a worthy sidekick for the coffee, which is immense. The Oji Drop Towers in the window produce the craft coffee one painstaking drip at a time, creating a uniquely clean and delicate final product. It’s lovely drunk black, but a splash of walnut milk takes it to a whole new level. (If you’ve never had it before, it’s creamy, flavoursome and kicks the living daylights out of cow’s milk.)
No matter what diet you follow, don’t let the negative stigma behind this plant-based approach to ‘cooking’ put you off. Rawligion take great pride in sourcing the finest ingredients and absolutely everything is made fresh and on site, to great effect. Next time you’re around Tottenham Court Road, if nothing else, get yourself a coffee.
Rawligion, 3 Tottenham St, London W1T 2AF
Author: Carla Juniper
Carla is a proud Putney-dweller and newly-minted vegetarian. She loves pickled beetroot and experimenting in the kitchen, especially when accompanied by a very large glass of wine, which is known to aid creativity and culinary prowess. In her spare time she uses her degree in Illustration to create bespoke digital portraits (you can check our her work here).
She also sucks at the flying trapeze.