Saturday, July 16, 2005

Life or something like it

Life, just off the escalator on Staunton Street, is SoHo's first organic vegetarian cafe. As soon as you walk through the door the smell that assails you is that worthy wholemeal smell so reminiscent, for me, of my childhood: the smell of wholefood stores and the Salisbury Centre in Edinburgh, home-cooked food, grains and pulses. Yet somehow the interior design has managed to avoid the wholefood clich├ęs: there's a clean, pared down feel and the overall atmosphere is one of peaceful contemplation.

The food, on the other hand, does not manage to avoid the trap of being rather too worthy for its own good. After a delicious, if rather disturbingly named juice entitled "Reanimator" (a mix of ginger and citrus fruits intended to combat colds) I opted for the risotto of the day. This was made with very chunky, nutty wholegrain rice, piled in the middle of the plate and surrounded by a small moat of sauce made from squash, and adorned with two large, unsubtle hunks of steamed bak choi. After a few mouthfuls I not only felt full, I started to resent what was left on my plate not only because it wasn't particularly tasty, but also because it was hard going. The squash sauce had no seasoning and the rice didn't have enough differentiation of flavour to be interesting.

There is an interesting range of organic wine (to my knowledge this is one of the very few places in Hong Kong where there is an entirely organic wine list) and we shared a bottle of Australian merlot which despite beginning with promisingly plummy overtones, began to taste unaccountably bitter after the first glass. The service was friendly, though not particularly on the ball.

Noble intentions could be matched by a bit more subtlety in execution.

Life Cafe, 10 Shelley Street, SoHo, tel. 2810 9777

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