It’s 7.20pm on a Monday evening in north-west London and Melissa Hemsley is reminiscing. “I used to work here!” she says, gesturing at the interior of Paradise by Way of Kensal Green, which looks like a cross between a luxe conservatory and an Edwardian dining room.
Now, of course, the day job is something different: Melissa and her sister Jasmine, known professionally as Hemsley + Hemsley, are the pioneers of London’s new “eat clean” movement. They have almost 35,000 followers on Twitter and 129,000 on Instagram. Their first book, The Art of Eating Well, is selling like hot cakes (healthy ones) , and they are now working on a second one.
“We should really be at home writing,” says Jasmine. A rapt audience of (predominantly) women in their late twenties laughs.
This is the first of a series of supper clubs they’re throwing at Paradise. It’s the first time they have put on an event like this, populated largely by the women who have propelled their book onto the bestseller list, at times outselling those by established foodies including Mary Berry and Jamie Oliver.
The trimmings look the part. Water jugs are garnished with massive slices of orange and spiralised cucumber — and the warm-up act, a blueberry, lime and lavender cocktail, contains coconut water. There are Neom organic candles and posters in the bathroom printed with a Robert Urich quote: “A healthy outside starts from the inside”. So far, so #aspirational.
Healthy-eating icons: fans are excited to meet the sisters But what about the food? The pre-starter starter — a seaweed bone broth with miso, lemon and chilli — is brought out in white mugs. The Hemsleys are zealous about broths, indeed in another room they are selling bags printed with the call to arms “boil your bones”.
Melissa and Jasmine work the room with fluid grace. The evangelism of their eat clean message is outshone only by their skin, which is clear and plump. Gallingly, I swear Jasmine isn’t even wearing make-up. Must be all those good fats. Luckily, the menu is full of them.
Some recipes are from the book, other dishes are new. The starters are a selection of dips, crudités and crackers. The mung bean beetroot hummus (a “Hemsley classic”, reads the menu) is creamy and rich; the pea, mint and broccoli dip unexpectedly sweet. The mains include buckwheat noodles with spiralised vegetables (light and fresh), quinoa (fat and fluffy and served with root veg) and cauliflower tabbouleh “with a nutrient-dense twist”.
Desserts are Paradise Bars — slabs of coconut, honey and salt coated in chocolate, another Hemsley classic, and pineapple carpaccio sprinkled with chilli. Chilled Pep-Up tea — turmeric, ginger and cayenne — takes the place of post-meal espressos.
Around the room sit groups of girlfriends; the few men (I spot four) look dazed, presumably the cumulative effect of a menu hewn from nutrients and superfoods, and seeing the luminous Hemsley sisters in the flesh. I see the founders of Frame, Pip Black and Joan Murphy; at my table is a Deloitte exec and his wife, who works at Pinterest.
As the evening wraps up, the sisters mingle, dispensing goodie bags containing posh turmeric, Pukka teas, coconut oil, fancy moisturiser and a voucher that’s good for a class at Frame.
Two girls in their twenties approach my table, where Jasmine is sitting. They’re visibly excited to meet her, and ask her to sign their copy of The Art of Eating Well. She talks knowledgeably about good fats — one of the girls jokes that she used to live off Greggs but since discovering the Hemsleys she’s been much better. She is amazed she doesn’t feel full after the meal — there was a lot of food — and Jasmine nods, explaining that the nutrients are filling so they will prevent you from over-eating. The girls’ eyes shine. Everyone wants to bid farewell to the Hemsleys in person.
The sisters embody the art of eating well — and the disciples are lapping it up.