With all-natural food and friendly staff, a meal at Whole Foods is worth the extra you’ll spend on it.
Formerly known as Fresh and Wild, Whole Foods is really an organic supermarket with a cafe rolled in, so as a venue for a meal it feels a little no-frills. Yet it’s clean, spacious and pleasantly lit, and you have a nice view of the hot and cold deli counters, the smoothie/coffee-making area and the staff busy at work making your food. The store is also keen to interact with you, and the ideas board which lets diners leave their thoughts is an ingenious idea. Comments like ‘staff friendliness has improved’, ‘bring back Vogel bread’, and ‘why do the British overcook their meat?’ amongst others show a business confident enough to take feedback.
Staff in organic shops can be irksome. Despairing of the additive-riddled masses, they can barrage you with information about the benefits of your soya sausage roll or tofu tagine, when all you want is a quiet meal. However, apart from some slightly intense but highly informative staff, most of the Whole Foods crew leave you to get on with your meal in peace – perhaps as nature truly intended to be eaten. The chatty diners seemed to reflect this relaxed vibe as they chilled with smoothies and coffees, or tucked contentedly into their meals.
Universally good – but as with anything organic, you pay more. On offer are a large variety of hot and cold savoury dishes. These range from curries and falafel to pizzas, soups, and a host of other interesting deli snacks for carnivores and veggies alike. There are also a plethora of tempting cakes and biscuits, which, like everything else in the store, contain nothing artificial.
As the prices of individual servings are a tad expensive, the £5.99 meal deal is a good idea. You choose a main from the hot or cold deli counter (the dishes rotate daily) and two sides, but your drink comes separately.
The vegetable madras features chunky mushrooms, potatoes and peppers in a thick and deliciously spicy sauce – a nice balance between moreish flavour and wholesome goodness. On the side, the brown rice is fluffy, not heavy, and the carrot, potato and leek mix is filling without being overbearing, coming richly covered in butter and herbs. The ratatouille is also good, packed with chunky courgettes, mushrooms, onions and peppers, enveloped in a lively tomato sauce – great for a cold day. The potato wedges on the side are light and crispy, and the broccoli is freshly steamed and predictably wholesome.
Some of the other deli treats demand to be tried – the baked tofu is delicious if pricey, its soft tofu squares richly marinated in honey, ginger and sesame seeds and seriously moreish. The lentils are okay but taste slightly raw, possessing that annoying knack health food can have of making your stomach feel like it’s having a work out. Perhaps it takes awhile to accept this kind of food if you’ve been weaned on an additive-filled diet of British supermarket food.
From the indulgent display of cakes, the carrot and seed muffin is a great way to round things off. It’s freshly-baked, soft, and full of sweet carrot taste – what’s more, the fact it’s packed with healthy seeds completely passes you by.
Whole Foods don’t serve alcohol, but have a large selection of juices and smoothies that go hand in hand with the food on offer. From the smoothies (about £2 to £4, depending on size), the almond, date and cashew mix is lovely if a bit rich. The coffees on the other hand is delicious, and good quality soya milk is available on request.
The Last Word
Be prepared to spend a little more than you would at other cafes. In return you’ll get fantastic, all-natural food and a very pleasant atmosphere. This is ideal for lunch or a chilled afternoon coffee.