If you want to get people to a restaurant, the key is as simple as making your food look pretty. Thanks to the social media sensation that is Instagram, a picture alone, now says far more than a thousand words.
If you don’t agree, you need only look to the most prolific instagrammers and their ‘most amazing'(ly nausiating) avocado on toast, or pesto pasta to see that complexity and refinement is not what gets hits, but pretty versions of the familiar. Basic sells. All it takes is a smear of nut butter, a drizzle of date syrup, sprinkle of almonds on top of the plainest porridge or rock hard pancakes and totally basic food becomes swoon worthy.
Jay Rayner is right, for once, what truth can a photo and word count of 150 characters, a few heart and lip licking emojis really say? Nothing, except how arty the chef is feeling on the day, or how great the filters on Instagram really are (hudson remains my fave.) To get bums on seats its the power of the masses that now have far more swing than one greedy man, with a loud voice, trying to eat the world (sorry Jay) and I am saddened to say that in so many cases the misleading visual nature of this app has found some of the most popular and my most anticipated meals of the year, have also been the most disappointing.
It is for this very reason (and that I live the other side of town) it had taken me this long to check out Notting Hill’s new brunch spot, Farm Girl, an Australian-style cafe on Portobello Road in Notting Hill. Almost daily, this last month, a beautifully lit purple acai bowl, adorned with granola dust and slithers of banana, has crossed my newsfeed.
Its a cute little spot, the closer end of the Portobello road to Notting Hill Gate, tucked off road in a little conservatory-like room, off a terrace courtyard. Brightly lit and beautifully tiled, it has a distinctly Mediterranean feel, with high ceilings and a part-open kitchen. Where this place differs from other health-focused cafes is in the atmosphere. There is no ounce of the stainless steel, clinical, uptightness that so many others have, but a happy buzz, with jovial customers and a welcoming coziness.
For a hungover chef on a Saturday morning ordering was near impossible, the menu is both extensive and wholly enticing. I was torn between the mammoth blueberry pancakes, acai bowl and eggs. Feeling the need for something carby, yet wholesome and filling, in the end I went with my staple fave. Smoked salmon, poached eggs and a side of avocado. All washed down with a matcha latte, for a much needed caffeine kick. My partner in crime, the lovely Niomi Smart was a bit more adventurous, and went for what would have been my second choice, the coconut bacon BLT, a vast doorstop of a sandwich with a smoked and toasted scattering of coconut chips, a nut cream cheese, tomatoes and salad. The size of which could have sunk a battleship.
Undoubtedly Farm Girl’s best trait is their generous portions, refreshingly so for a central London location. Both dishes surpassed tasty. Initially sceptical, I loved the result of the coconut bacon, with its wonderful texture and smokyness in the sandwich. A perfect counterbalance to the creamy, nut-based, faux-cheese and the fresh salad
My only quibble with my dish was the bread under the eggs. Having explored many on London’s gluten free options, I found it a little soggy, certainly not homemade and would have loved a rye, or spelt option. The eggs were perfectly poached however, the salmon thickly cut, oily and good quality and the avo, well… you can imagine.
To top off the meal, (with an absolute cherry,) was a vegan, chocolate iced doughnut. Who knows how we fit it in. It was undeniably tasty and moorish, made from a mix of coconut, some sort of syrup and coconut oil. I would go back for that, and a matcha latte, for an afternoon pit-stop alone.
For details and a full menu, you can check out Farm Girl here. I hope my pictures do it enough justice, because as Instagram rightly alludes it is certainly worth the trip. I will be back post-Christmas, without a doubt, for an anti-detox January feasting!