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Friday, 16 September 2011

The Giraffe Cafe, Wimbledon

The Giraffe Restaurant Empire seems to have taken over the world with its popular multicultural menu and fun enthusiastic vibe. But refusing to settle for any imperfections, the Giraffe team has recently reworked a few of the branches, introducing the new snazzier and healthier Giraffe cafe. I went along to try out the brand new eatery in Wimbledon.

Located just a short ride from the main train station and up into leafy Wimbledon village, the restaurant is easy to find. For me it is an area of London that brings back fond memories of working at Wimbledon Tennis in the summers, and visiting the bustling pubs here for an after-work drink. The Giraffe cafe suits this smart suburb and will, I’m sure, appeal to the discerning residents.

We arrived at 8 o’clock on a weekday and the restaurant was relatively quiet; I can imagine it is busier earlier on when the after-school hordes come in for wholesome snacks and smoothies. It is cosy and intimate especially where we sat towards the back and perfect for a relaxed meal. The decor is quirky with an informal arty feel.

Cucumber tinged tap water was immediately brought out to us while we pondered the menu. I have visited the predecessor, Giraffe restaurant, and much prefer this layout, though I’m sure the change will annoy some regulars. The menu is much much more precise, and thank God, because previously just about anything could be found on the menu, eclectic, global even, and completely overwhelming.

After a recommendation, we chose the edamame beans to share as a grazing starter. I wondered if they were going to be similar to the Wagamama variety, but they were far better coated in a sticky salty soy and chilli sauce. It was the perfect finger food to nibble on while gossiping and sipping our wine.

The mains require more careful consideration - a diverse menu of essential salads, seasonal favourites, curries and burgers. We opted for the basil chicken curry, with mint, basil and green chilli, served with brown rice, and the California chicken focaccia club sandwich, which is stacked high with avocado, rocket, tomatoes and tarragon dressing. The curry was light and fragrant, mild but filled with fresh flavoursome vegetables, delicious and healthy. The sandwich was just as good, a combination of tastes and textures, with quality ingredients, prepared with real attention to detail. We were also offered Giraffe’s speciality sweet potato fries, which we couldn’t resist - they were incredible, thin and crispy and soft and sweet inside.

A short break before pudding but then we were back on with an awesome banana waffle split - certainly the best looking dessert on the menu, and a portion of Jude’s vanilla frozen yoghurt. I’m all for low fat, but I didn’t much like the taste of the frozen yoghurt, drizzled in honey it was far too sweet and not very satisfying. The waffle however made up for it, stylishly stacked, it was a devilish treat and quickly hoovered up by us.

We had such a lovely evening at the Giraffe cafe that the time disappeared in a flash, and soon we were the only table left while the staff quietly cleared up around us. Whether you’re health conscious or not, the Giraffe cafe is a lovely restaurant to visit, with friends, family or a partner. It is a mean feat to pull off, serving tasty authentic dishes from all over the world, but the new Giraffe cafe rises to this ambitious challenge, and I predict many more Giraffe restaurants will be evolving into this savvy new style of cafe.

Visit the website and book a table here.

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