Monday, 23 November 2009

A date with Daylesford

The first date is a tricky thing and despite being desperate to fall in love last Saturday, the object of my affections was not to be the one. Daylesford Organic in all its wholesome finery has received a mass of praising press and I should by now know that from the peak of expectation the fall to disappointment is all the more acutely felt.

The Daylesford brand, founded by the Bamford family with the first farm shop opening in 2003, has become synonymous with modern organic luxury. Proudly displayed throughout the Westbourne Grove store are Soil Association certifications, organic labels and various testaments to the nutritional wonders of their super foods.

One colourful wall placard describes the happy life of the Friesian herds who’s udders have produced all the milk, butter and cheese that will pass your lips. If you can get your hands on a jug of the white stuff that is, something that we failed to achieve despite numerous pleas from our bereft teacups.

Sitting down at a streamlined glass bench decorated with lines of chalky gravel we looked around for a waiter, first with anticipation, then with frustration and eventually with despair as we found it nearly impossible to spy anyone who might take our order. The manager was doing a sterling job, trying to steer her severely understaffed ship, but ultimately one lonesome person is never going to be able to keep a whole floor of Saturday breakfasters in high spirits.

Because of this we had plenty of time to ponder the concise menu which despite its shortness satisfies most appetites with its variety. A basket of toast (£3), bowl of granola (£5) or pile of pastries (£3.50) being the more traditional options but paperdelle bolognaise (£9.95) and spicy vegetable pad thai (£9.95) make the list for the more adventurous morning eater.

After managing to place our order - this felt like quite an achievement - we were rewarded with swiftly appearing sustenance. Earl grey and elderflower tea and smooth rich coffee were served with a delicious square of soft chocolate brownie; perfectly cooked sticky sponge dotted with white chocolate chips. Next to arrive was a statuesque vase of water, long slivers of cucumber curving through the liquid and for once tap water didn’t feel like the poor man’s choice. Sadly the Virgin Mary lacked for everything, the plain tomato juice missing any seasoning or spice at all.

My plate of scrambled eggs (£4) was perfect: Fluffy, well seasoned, creamy and orange-yolked on top of crunchy buttery sourdough, they paid testament to the happy hens from which they came. Eggs Benedict and Florentine (£6.95) were both devoured with smiles, the bright shiny hollandaise lemony and well balanced.

Sugar-free, wheat-free, granola muesli with almond milk had the potential to resemble chewy cardboard but the glass bowl was full of satisfyingly crunchy cereal, flecked with goji berries and seeds. The pappardelle with bolognaise sauce was sloppily presented in comparison and the flavours good but not memorable.

Plates finally cleared, our verdict was that the food is fine, the atmosphere and service less so. The almost complete absence of staff make dining here a stressful experience for both customers and employees. But there’s something about Daylesford, the concept is so attractive, the ethos so compelling, that I did something I never do in the dating world and after a less than convincing first experience, said yes to date two.

And I’m glad I did because this time the service was quicker, the staff were not so frenetically pressured and there was time to appreciate the surrounding space with it’s bar stacked with loaves of spelt sourdough, pumpernickel and baguettes. Or the meat counters housing pork, lamb, beef and game from valleys of the south west, guarded by startled looking stuffed pheasants. And the flickering open stone fire, ordered shelves of juices, wines and oils and impressive stacks of cakes.

The shop is a decadent emporia housing every food lover’s fantasy. Chocolate covered nuts, sambuca-flavoured honey, pretty pink peppercorns, cases of marons glace, cellophane wrapped biscotti, juniper berries and roasted seeds are just a few of the delights displayed on their elegant shelves. The choice is bewildering – in a good way.

The retail experience is exciting, the food full of flavour and the concept one with which it is easy to be taken with. But the service is so non-existent that date three is still not a sure thing.

Daylesford Organic Larder Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Daylesford Organic
208-212 Westbourne Grove
London W11 2RH
020 7313 8050


  1. great review- particularly liked the reference to the 'happy' herd of cows. Perhaps they made a special trip to milk them that day, would account for said delay! Also worth noting its great potential for christmas presents for the foody in your life- lots of unusual and beautifully packaged goodies up for grabs.

  2. I had breakfast in the Pimlico branch and although my pastry was yummy and coffee strong and hot I also had serious issues with service... depsite it being 8.30am midweek. I think the problem is that Daylesfords is not catering for breakfast meetings or those with a timescale in mind! In fact by the "mwah-mwah" air kisses I witnessed between staff and well-heeled customers with tiny dogs I'd say they have a strong local following of ladies who are in no rush at all!

    Still, I'd go back when I have more time. A

    nd their cookies are delicious!

  3. Having also been there on Saturday morning I have to agree with the review on the Daylesford, which summed the place up perfectly. I found the service disappointing and my food was fine, not great. I also didn't get my food till I reminded the waitress and suddenly it turned up 1 minute later, which makes me think that it could easily have been sitting on the side for a while.

    However the atmosphere was pleasant and the shop upstairs is great, with lots of lovely cakes, biscuits and savoury foods.

    I have only been once, however, I will probably give it another go if I am in the area again, who wouldn't want a gorgeous chocolate brownie served with their tea?!

  4. I heard they make HARD YOLKED EGGS!
    No excuse.

    I do like their jam pots though, great shape.

  5. I especially like the gravel in the middle of the tables. It certainly is chalky.

  6. Agree wholly that the food is ok, not great -- certainly not the standard it should be for the price.

    The brownie, however, I found very disappointing. I'm with agreement with this review: