We’re excited to introduce Rach of Through the Looking Glass as our new Guest Blogger. In her first post for Sassy she reviews an oldie but a goodie: Life Cafe, who have recently expanded their little empire by opening up on Ship Street in Wanchai.
Having just had another one of my increasingly frequent 1am bacon fry-ups, I feel the need to make it up to my cholesterol-addled arteries. So here’s a write-up on what may be the healthiest place I’ve ever eaten at – Life Café Organic Restaurant & Bar.
Given that one of my childhood nicknames was ‘Red Beef Girl’, you can probably work out that a vegetarian joint would not be my first port of call. However, one of my friends has recently converted, hence I found myself chowing down on a meat-free meal at Life. And, far from being the joyless experience I might have imagined, it was very lovely indeed. Forget what you may have thought about vegetarian food being tasteless, worthy and chickpea-strewn. Life offers healthy, fresh and most importantly, downright scrummy meals that don’t make vegetarianism seem like a chore. What’s more, there’s not a Birkenstock, straggly goatee or hemp shirt in sight!
Located along the mid-level escalators in Soho, Life makes the most of its location with a sun-streamed first-floor dining area with huge thrown-open windows that you feel you should be singing joyously out of, like some Disney heroine. Admittedly, the view is of people’s washing hanging out the windows of some rather tatty old flats but on a sunny day, it feels light, airy and laid-back. Chunky wooden tables, cushion-strewn banquettes and bookshelves give the place a homely but funky feel, even if it can get a bit cramped during the bustling lunch hour.
My main of choice is the filo pastry filled with broccoli, potatoes, caramelized onions and feta cheese, served with mixed baby greens and lemon basil pesto (above, $98). It’s flavourful, seasoned to perfection and feta cheese turns anything into a winner in my books. The star of the dish is the lemon basil pesto, so fresh, zingy and delicious that it practically explodes off the plate. The two slices provided might prove a little much for many; you definitely won’t be leaving Life with an empty stomach!
Life offers a daily set menu for $105, which includes a soup and main, which change daily, a coffee or tea and an organic cookie. It’s good value but just too much for me – the one time I tried it, it was a kidney-bean filo pastry that was too filling on its own, never mind before you’ve had a generous bowl of soup and are trying to save room for the cookie! I’m not a massive fan of the cookie (a little dry and oaty) but the soups all have that wonderful unprocessed homemade quality and are all the better for it.
I would also highly recommend the Life Burger ($105). I scoffed at the idea of a meat-free burger being worth bothering with but actually, this was far more flavourful than some of the dried-up efforts I’ve had! The patty is made from some dull-sounding brown rice and vegetable combination, which gives absolutely no indication of how ‘wow’ the flavours really are. Immaculately-seasoned, it’s all the right kinds of spicy, soft and succulent – I’m not even sure if you can describe vegetables as succulent but trust me, when you eat it, it definitely feels as if you can!
The deli downstairs always looks far too delectable to pass by empty-handed, with prices competitive enough to hold up against the likes of Pret. My friend Bob recommended the tofu wraps but of course, I made an immediate beeline towards the chocolaty stuff! The organic chocolate biscuit slice (below, $20) is a gorgeous combination of crunchy digestive crumbs and soft melty chocolate. I’ve tried many times to not finish this in one go and never succeeded yet! Meanwhile, the organic flourless chocolate cake ($45) is similarly scrumptious. It will probably be a bit too nutty for some, but I’m a sucker for the choc-nut combo and the overall texture is light, soft and crumbly. I just wish that the thick ganache-like slab of chocolate on the top was even thicker.
Life is a pleasant surprise to anyone who thinks vegetarian food begins with Quorn and ends with Linda McCartney, with some lentils thrown in along the way. If even ‘Red Beef Girl’ can leave satisfied and without a bacon craving in sight, it must count for something, right?!
Life Restaurant & Bar 10 Shelley Street, Hong Kong
2810 9777 www.lifecafe.com.hk/
Opening hours: 12-10pm
Life Cafe have just opened a brand new deli on Star Street serving their goodies to take away – you can visit them at:
Life Deli 50 Johnston Road, Wan Chai
(Across from OVO on Ship Street)