In stark contrast to the Michelin-starred Ledbury directly opposite, NAMA is a casual, bright white space that attracts Notting Hill’s health-conscious crowd. Everything is raw, vegan and cleansing – even the drinks list is designed to flush out those nasty toxins.
But you don’t have to be a saint to enjoy a meal here. It was one of the most innovative dinners we’ve had this season – what it lacks in meat, fish and heat NAMA makes up for in punchy flavours, presentation and colour. A shared antipasti starter (usually consigned to cured meat and cheese) surprised with pretty courgette roll-ups stuffed with olive tapenade or velvety macadamia ‘ricotta’ – the best nut cheese we’ve ever tasted – and beautiful beetroot carpaccio soaked in a sweet, vinegary liquor. Plus whole caper berries, which we love seeing on any plate.
There are usually six mains to choose from in the evening, covering everything from Thai to Italian, Mexican and Japanese. On first glance it doesn’t sound particularly inspired (‘pad thai’, ‘cannelloni’, ‘Italian pasta’) but the magic is in the detail… ‘Italian pizza’ swaps dough for an earthy, wholesome walnut and courgette base that comes topped with more of that clever macadamia ‘ricotta’, marinated mushrooms, caramelised onions (not fried, but marinated and dehydrated until sweet) and an intense tomato sauce that tastes as if it’s been reducing for days. A sprinkling of almond ‘parmesan’ completes what is a very accomplished meal.
Our ‘Mexican bowl’ was the prettier option, stuffed with salad, guacamole, almond chilli mix, pico de gallo and pickled jalapeno peppers – all drenched in a vibrantly orange, daringly hot cashew chipotle sour cream. We expected a side of kale chips to be like those you’d grab at lunch, but these were far more sophisticated; heaps of texture and pleasantly cheesy thanks to a pinch of nutritional yeast – better than it sounds.
And that’s all before one of our favourite desserts in London (perhaps not what you’d expect from a vegan restaurant). The blueberry cheesecake is the most colourful of its kind: a slice of purple on top of a sprouted sunflower seed, ‘activated’ almond (nuts that have been soaked in water for 12 hours) and sweet coconut base. Its topping – simply blueberries blended with cashew cheese – was smooth and fresh; far superior to any dairy equivalent we’ve tried. It came beautifully presented, with a berry coulis, raspberry sprinkles and rose petals. Kudos to the chocolate ganache torte, too – very similar in texture – but it was too rich for one of our party.
Alcohol isn’t a priority here (there are only three white wine options) and you’d be better off ordering one of over 30 cold-pressed juices, smoothies, probiotic drinks or vegan lattes – you can even choose which milk to have, from almond and hazelnut to hemp and rice. Try the chocolate submarine with dessert, a decadent hot chocolate-but-without-the-dairy that comes with chunks of raw cacao.
Service was pleasant, informative and never rushed, and it’s a venue more suited to groups of friends than cosy couples – music is lively, tables are cramped and there’s no candlelight come dinner-time.
If you’re not convinced by the new vegan diet trend, or you have no time for raw foodists, take a trip to NAMA and let them change your mind.
Monday to Wednesday: 9am – 5pm
Thursday & Friday: 9am – 10pm
Saturday: 10am – 10pm
Sunday: 10am – 6pm
Written by Charlotte Morgan, November 2015
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