MY WIFE is struggling with the cold, raw, thick and chunky vegetable soup. We’re both having it on this rainy, dull day as the sunny tomato soup on the specials board isn’t available.
“Think gazpacho,” I whisper as I, too, crunch through the sweetcorn, carrot, sweet pepper and other vegetables in this chilly broth.
I finish up eating hers as well, for the sake of appearances Café owner Inga Dirziute drifts over and says she can heat it up for her in the dehydrator but it will take a quarter of an hour.
Can’t she bung it on the stove? Strike a light, that would be entirely against the ethos of the oddly named Pure on Raw vegan cafe. It doesn’t have a cooker and it doesn’t have a grill. So everything here is served cold.
Cooking destroys the essential vitamins, enzymes and other goodies in food, says Inga, who invested £4,500 of the family’s savings for a month-long raw food cookery course in America.
If Inga had been around when the first cave man discovered fire she’d have blown it out. She believes raw food is full of vital essences beneficial to well-being and I admit this blonde, willowy Lithuanian woman radiates with health.
After reading colleague Jo Davison’s feature on Inga recently – “I want to show customers that not only is raw food nutritious and amazingly good for you, but it also tastes great,” she told Jo – I was keen to see for myself.
Now I have heard a lot about raw food including the fact that too much can make you explosive at your nether end but Jo tells me she wasn’t troubled in that department so we venture out for lunch.
Pure on Raw is on Shalesmoor, four doors down from Nibbles, a caff offering roast pork and stuffing sandwiches. It’s tempting to change plans but we press on.
Now Shalesmoor, with many of the shopfronts boarded up, is probably the last place in the world you’d expect to find a vegan eatery, let alone one which has done away with cooking. In Sheffield they rarely let veggie restaurants live, let alone vegan ones.
The cafe, white-walled with a cluster of tables and pumpkins on the floor, is empty and looks closed but Inga appears and offers us smoothies to drink.
We have blueberry (£3.50) and spinach (£4). “It doesn’t taste like spinach,” she reassures me. It does, I think, feeling like a reluctant Popeye. Both are made with pineapple and the blueberry is quite palatable.
Not all the menu, either on the printed sheet or the specials board is available. The mock chicken salad will be available if we wait half an hour, says Inga. Heavens, it’s 12.45pm already.
After the soups, which were a rather steep £4.80 a bowl, I’m trying to get my head around Inga’s philosophy at the same time as trying to get my teeth around my main course burger (£9).
The raw corn bread ‘bun’ is made, so the menu explains, of sweetcorn, coconut, almonds, garlic and spices. I think there has been some pressing and dehydrating going on and to be honest the word that comes to mind is cardboard.
It doesn’t taste much different from the pattie, made of sprouted walnuts and sunflower seeds with carrots, sun-dried tomatoes, capsicum and so on. Plus there’s lots of the usual salady stuff and a pleasant dip.
We have also ordered ‘spring rolls’ (£8.50) but not as we know them, Jim. The wrapping is raw collard, or spring greens smeared with two fillings, one of them made with nut butter, the other called SoSage, which is Brazil nuts, tamari (Japanese soy sauce) and herbs, plus shredded vegetables, more or less what’s in the salad accompanying it.
After a lifetime of eating food that is caramelised, roasted, sautéed, steamed and boiled so that it is much more than a sum of its parts my tastebuds have hit a brick wall.
They have lived through and liked deep-fried chickens’ feet and preserved Chinese eggs but they are sulking at this.
I am willing myself to like this stuff and can report a small victory. The sweet and sour sauce of dates, lemon and orange juice with the spring rolls is lovely, although that may be relative.
By now the café is filling up, entirely with women. They appeared to be ordering water and cakes. We were terrified to ask for tea because it might be cold.
Then we came to the desserts and if Inga stuck to them she’d be on a winner. There was a banana and chocolate and blueberry, both broadly similar, like cheesecakes, made with coconut butter. Now whether we liked them more because of what had gone before or for themselves is debatable.
But I’m sure it was all good for us. Raw food wards off Alzheimer’s, Inga tells me kindly.
“Be healthy, lose weight, get energised and feel great!” is her slogan.
Tell you what, the missus was energised to send me out for some fish and chips for tea.
The scores from Dawes, by the way, are studiedly neutral. Others may like it more.
The Dawes Verdict
Pure On Raw
244 Shalesmoor, Sheffield S3 8UH
Tel: 0114 327 3235 Open: Mon-Tues and Thurs-Fri 10am-3pm. Closed Wed. Sat-Sun 12-7pm.
Cash only (card paying applied for). Paying car park around back.
Website: Web: www.pureaonraw.co.uk