***This restaurant has now closed
Notting Hill’s NAMA, a humble raw and vegan food restaurant opposite the far fancier Ledbury, has been a favourite of ours since we reviewed the dinner menu back in November 2015.
Could brunch be as good? We visited early one morning (no need to rush – the menu is available until 4pm, Friday to Sunday) and first impressions suggested that it would be just as innovative. Coconut porridge, for example, is far more than oats: activated almonds, apples, coconut chips and dates spiced with cinnamon, lúcuma (a Peruvian fruit), nutmeg and vanilla are the base; while cacao nibs, organic blueberries and hulled hemp seeds form the topping.
Our smiley, enthusiastic waitress suggested a ‘luscious lúcuma’ smoothie to start – intensely nutty, smooth and creamy – and a glass of NAMA’s take on horchata, a Valencian drink made from tiger nuts and coconut sugar. The latter was explosive, so sweet and warmly spiced; to us at least, it tasted like the liquid version of churros.
A blueberry pancake stack (the most popular option on the menu) was pretty on the plate, with billowy coconut ‘mascarpone’, banana slices, little oaty clusters and drizzles of maple syrup for decoration. Pancakes they may have looked like, but because eggs, milk and heat have been taken away, in taste they were very different. More dense, chewy almost, with a sweet, caramel-like flavour – the whole thing reminded us, pleasantly so, of a toffee penny.
The A.L.T., their take on a classic bacon, lettuce and tomato sarnie, was equally surprising. Instead of thick white bloomer, the bread was almost rye-like in taste and appearance, made raw from almonds and walnuts (so no baking). Sandwiched between it was crisp lettuce, plenty of fiery mango hot sauce, and slices of smoky, streaky aubergine that somehow managed the same texture as bacon – we had to gnash and gnaw away at it, just as you would with meat. It’s definitely a successful sandwich, and one that didn’t need bacon to make it delicious.
One of the best things about brunch at NAMA is the menu’s variety, despite the obvious cooking restrictions. The breakfast wrap (creamy herbed nut cheese, pesto, caramelised cherry tomatoes, marinated mushrooms and shredded spinach in a courgette and flax seed wrap) is tempting, as is the breakfast sundae – it’s as naughty as raw, vegan food gets, with spiced almond crumble, coconut ‘mascarpone’, sweet berry coulis and thick chunks of raw chocolate.
Just as with the dinner menu, the complexity and generosity of the ingredients in each dish far surpass the name it’s given (would you expect 11 ingredients in your ‘coconut porridge’?) It’s that element of surprise that keeps us coming back to NAMA – that and the dangerously delicious horchata.
Written by Charlotte Morgan, May 2016
110 Talbot Road
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