The food was so bad, says Jay Rayner, a nearby Yorkshire terrier started to look more appetising
Farm Girl Caf, 9 Park Walk, London SW10 0AJ (020 3674 7359). Meal for two, including drinks and service 110
The menu at the Farm Girl Caf features lots of initials. Theres V for Vegan. Theres GF for Gluten Free. Theres DF for Dairy Free. I think theyre missing a few. There should be TF for Taste Free and JF for Joy Free and AAHYWEH for Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here. If you examine the companys website, and I would only advise doing so if you have strong teeth that can cope with a good grinding, you will learn that the Farm Girl group offers: A holistic and healthy yet comfortingly simple approach to Australian Caf culture. Nope, me neither. Apparently, they like to use nutritionally nurturing ingredients, which sounds rather nice. I could have done with a bit of nurture, rather than the dishes that came our way.
I have nothing against eating healthily. I have only one body and I try to look after it. My mother used to say that she hoped to die aged 98, shot dead by a jealous lover. She didnt quite manage it, but its an ambition Im happy to inherit. The menu here is omnivorous with a heavy emphasis on non-meat cookery, which is a fine thing. I like vegetables, me. They can taste really nice. But this sort of cooking does have to be done with skill, grace and, ideally, an absence of malice.
The Farm Girl Caf, Chelsea, is the third in a group which until now has stuck to charcoal or matcha lattes, and light lunches involving an awful lot of almond butter, avocado and something called coconut bacon, which you just know isnt. This is the first to serve dinner, and it does indeed look like a proper restaurant in a very Chelsea sort of way. Theres a giant blue Welsh dresser behind the bar, faux wooden beams across the ceiling and banquettes in a field shade of green. Its like a cartoon version of a farmhouse as imagined by someone who hasnt been in one.
It fills quickly on a cold winters evening, with blonde-tressed Chelsea women just bubbling with intolerances. They are fizzing with them, these dairy- and gluten-fearing dietary warriors, seeking sanctuary from the terrifying world of modern food. With them are their pink-cheeked, anxious-looking boyfriends, who clearly fear they are just one more rugby club, traffic-cone-on-your-head piss-up away from being chucked. A woman arrives clutching her Yorkshire terrier. They are given a corner table. The dog is offered a bowl of water and a plate of food and disappears on to the floor for dinner. At least somebody gets to eat well.