Crucial Cafe Has The 'Feel Good' Factor

Hogarth Club's new cafe with focus on healthy eating


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Where do you go after a demanding work-out or class to find food that doesn't undo all the good of your session in the gym and yet be fresh and tasty?

The Crucial Cafe at the Hogarth Health Club has the answer. Founded by clinical nutritionist Ruth Wood and her friend Penny Pritchard, it manages to strike the delicate balance between being super healthy and nutritious and yet delicious..

l-r Penny and Ruth

Having her own cafe was a long cherished dream for Ruth, who had started to specialise in post-Christmas 'Detox' diets after several years working as a clinician. Penny and her husband Phil tried one and felt so healthy after one week that they suggested Ruth should open her own place- the idea took root and the search for a venue ended happily in an offer from the Hogarth Club, with the friends as partners in the new venture.

I visited the Crucial Cafe with a friend recently to see how the team was faring six months after opening. The bar area has had a makeover, and the banquettes and tables were busy with members sipping cold-pressed juices and smoothies, while working on their laptops or relaxing with a newspaper.

The blackboard clearly outlined the daily options- absolutely everything on the menu is freshly made, apart from their bread, which comes from a specialist baker. Gluten-free bread will soon be available.

While deciding we nibbled on some delicious 'flatbread' which was made with courgette and seeds, very moreish.

Lunch options included Avocado with chilli, mint, lime and a poached egg on sourdough toast, or there was the option of a chicken, halloumi or mackeral salad wrap. But the Huevos Rancherous with poached egg and tortilla chips sounded too good to miss. The egg came atop a little dish of fiery black beans, and was much enjoyed by my companion who relishes a bit of heat.

I opted for the salads- there are two daily options, and before long a generous portion of leaf and root was presented, with black beans, sliced beets, green beans, spiralised carrot and a green dressing made with avocado, cucumber, cashews, garlic and coriander. That was only one salad- the second, which we also sampled, was roasted tomato with home-made labnah ( a middle eastern curd cheese) on top. I also had some marinated chicken on top. The entire was light and healthy, yet satisfying and I felt very virtuous.

There was an inviting selection of smoothies and a range of cold-pressed juices. The Crucial Cafe team prefer to use Almond or other non-dairy alternatives to milk and sweetness in their dishes is provided by sugar alternative 'Sweet Freedom'.

A Breakfast Smoothie of almond milk, banana, figs, jumbo oats and Coyo would certainly set you up for the day and there are also berry smoothies and a savoury Popeye smoothie with spinach, mint, parsley, lemon juice and coconut water. There's a daily Hot Pot, which is like a thick soup, with either a veggie option or as meat or fish, there are wraps, and toast with spreads. And the menu changes slightly at weekends, with Sunday pancakes very popular with children.

We were too full up to try any of the Sweet Treats, but suffice to say that I never thought a sweet potato brownie could look so appetising.

Ruth and Penny have lots of future plans for updating the Detox diet service and they also offer 'takeaway' food for people rushing back to work, or home. Their enthusiasm is infectious, so watch this space!

You don't have to be a member of the Hogarth to visit the Crucial Cafe (though you won't be able to use the member's car-park).

Anne Flaherty


December 12, 2015

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