Most of us were introduced to Aussie cuisine via Ramsay Street, where someone was always having a “barbie”. But in its London incarnation it tastes rather different.
“Everyone thinks barbies!” laughs Rose Mann, co-founder of new Notting Hill opening Farm Girl (59A Portobello Road, W11 3DB thefarmgirl.co.uk). “I think it’s more the combination of fresh healthy food, nothing heavy.”
Mann is the real thing — she grew up on farms outside Melbourne — and has “always wanted to open a café because I love people and I love food”. Last June she left her job in fashion, went travelling in California with her boyfriend Anthony Hood, and then found a prime spot in Notting Hill.
The all-day breakfast menu includes “Farm Girl porridge” — Mann’s favourite — a mixture of chia seeds, fresh berries and omega mix, and avocado on toast (obviously), served with strawberries. The lunch menu features chicken schnitzel, almond soba noodles and — the crowning jewel of any vegan’s repartee — a coconut BLT. It’s a sandwich filled with coconut chips smoked in paprika, with avocado and cashew cream. “One girl got halfway through one and didn’t realise it wasn’t bacon!” Mann laughs.
Obviously it is also about laid-back, unpretentious vibes. Farm Girl is cool and shady, the walls tiled in verdant earthenware. Bronte, the couple’s seven-month old French bulldog is hanging around, offering a squished face to delighted punters.
What else does Down Under do better? Coffee, for a start. “When I first moved here, I lived in Chelsea and used to travel to Lantana in Fitzrovia because it was the only good coffee I could find,” says Mann. Farm Girl get theirs from the Roasting Party (theroastingparty.co.uk). I’m not really a coffee snob but my cappuccino certainly tasted, crucially, like it had coffee in it.
The revolution has definitely made it to London. Sydneysider Bill Granger opened his first restaurant there when he was 24 and brought Aussie rules dining to London in 2012, with eponymous restaurants first in Notting Hill and Clerkenwell. He has just opened another branch in King’s Cross (Stanley Building, 7 Pancras Square, N1 4AG, grangerandco.com), which is bringing a “sunny, easygoing and generous” Australian vibe to the transport hub. The menu includes juices, chia seed mueslis, sourdough, coconut bread, brioche and — obviously — avocado and eggs on toast.
Rose’s favourite Lantana now has branches in Fitzrovia, Shoreditch and Camden (lantanacafe.co.uk). Unlike Farm Girl, its weekend brunch menu veers occasionally into unwholesome territory — banana bread with mascarpone, banana custard and salted chocolate crumbs probably isn’t for clean-eating devotees — but most of the offerings are consistent with Rose’s “fresh and healthy” definition: smoked haddock, courgette bread, corn fritters.
Reilly Rocket (507 Kingsland Road, E8 4AU, reillyrocket.com) has a similar flavour: it’s “inspired by the sunny cafés of Melbourne” and has a seasonal menu with local ingredients. Obviously, the coffee is some of the best in east London.
Relying on barbie weather is risky in London but this incarnation of Down Under dining has got a sunny future.