Review: Rocking Raw Chef
Sarah and Phoebe go vegan for one evening at a trendy new pop-up restaurant
Every Sunday evening, the kitchen of the Free Press pub on Prospect Row is taken over by Barbara Fernandez, who designs a new menu each week. This is not the typical hearty pub grub you might expect from the surroundings; Barbara is on a mission to bring raw food to Cambridge.
As you might expect, the main idea around raw food is not actually cooking anything, in attempt to preserve all of the nutritional value. Barbara aims to emulate the textures that cooking can produce, using tricks such as dehydrating, or marinating in lemon juice to break down the structure of more fibrous ingredients.
All her food is also vegan, so no raw meat or eggs involved (phew). Some of the dishes were served warm – so long as the temperature does not reach above 46°C this still meets the requirements of raw food, since the enzymes will not become denatured. This is not a concept that Phoebe and I were particularly sold on – we eat out as an excuse to indulge, not diet – but we were of course willing to give it a go, and it would be wrong not to admit that Barbara looked good for her raw lifestyle.
We got an assortment of starters, including baba ghanoush, mango chilli dip and mini spinach “quiche”. Both dips went well with the accompanying handmade corn chips, which were dehydrated rather than deep-fried making them quite chewy rather than crispy, but still tasty. The “quiche” was surprisingly good considering it contained neither egg nor pastry.
Our main was a taster platter of everything being served that night – falafel, coconut soup and courgette “pasta” – which was perhaps a little pricey at £15, although I appreciate the amount of processes and time it must have taken to prepare. The coconut and mushroom soup was light with an unexpectedly tasty flavour. Personally, I prefer my falafel deep fried, but I was pleased to be able to try the spirallised courgette noodles, something that has always sounded interesting. These were served with a creamy (despite the lack of dairy – magic) tomato sauce.
Barbara took the time to explain to each customer how their food had been prepared. It was clear that her passion was spreading the word about raw food as she raved about how each dish had been crafted. She definitely doesn’t take herself too seriously and is all about making raw food easy, fun and tasty.
The most exciting course was probably dessert. The carrot cake – made with grated carrot and courgette as well as chia seeds, with a creamy frosting made with cashews and a raspberry coulis – was a total hit. “Probably the healthiest cake I’ve ever eaten,” said Phoebe, “and tasty too!”
This raw meal was definitely an interesting experience, but I must admit I left craving carbs, so I’m not sure I’m a convert.
But if you’d like to give what was admittedly an impressive feat a go, you’ll find Barbara’s food at the Black Cat Café on Wednesday nights as well as the Free Press on Sundays.