We're sipping charcoal martinis with the Co-Founders and Owners of Redemption, the latest restaurant to launch in Seven Dials.
Printed velvet and teal blue banquetters, alongside marble tables with copper accoutrements, make the interior of this new restaurant warm and welcoming. Owners Adrea Waters and Catherine Salwey are visibly delighted.
The third Redemption, the Central London flagship, has the world's first alcohol-free cocktail bar and a menu of wholefood, vegan, gluten-free dishes that are low in refined sugar as well as a takeaway deli section, and has proven an overnight success. 'Customers, including other local businesses, are totally embracing what we are about and have been so welcoming and complimentary. Redemption has been an incredible journey - very tough at times as our vision was so ahead of the curve. We've had to be patient and believe in ourselves.'
'Now we feel we've properly arrived,' says Catherine with evident satisfaction. 'I confess the idea initially came about as a result of my decadent, fast-living lifestyle,' she admits candidly. Catherine rose from runner to International Brand Director across Richard Branson's Virgin Group. 'I knew I had to make changes and realised I couldn't be the only person who needed to reassess whilst still enjoying going out and socialising.
Ten years ago, such a redemptive lifestyle was in its infancy in LA and frankly seemed pretty cranky to most people. Continues Catherine: 'Even when I ran my first alcohol-free pop-up in 2014, it was all considered rather niche and ultra-purist. For Catherine, meeting Andrea, a New Zealander with huge experience of revitalising food offers in mainstream bars, was the tipping point. Andrea, who admits she is an 'old hippy' in the best possible sense, was also re-evaluating and becoming 'enthusiastically healthy'.
Really, the idea behind Redemption is to play up life's positives and enjoy what's good, delicious and nurturing too whilst removing unhealthy temptation. As Jasmine Hemsley, a poster girl for conscious healthy living, says: 'I love that you can sit in a cool, lively and fun environment and enjoy drinks which are good for you and won't have you waking up the next morning with your head spinning'.
Andrea and Catherine are bemused at how the big brands are fast trying to play catch-up, developing alcohol-free botanical drinks distilled in the manner of gins, though they think some of them are very well produced. However, they point out that there are few who visualise a totally alcohol-free landscape as at Redemption. This still feels very new. Most see developing alcohol-free drinks as an adjunct to the boozy menu. Among favourite Redemption cocktails are the Pious Pina Colada, Frocorita and Lychee and Yuzu Martini, as well as the Apple Mockjito (muddled apple press, fresh mint and lime topped with sparkling mineral water) which admirably partners with the delectable vegan key lime cheesecake (coconut and almond crust with avocado, lime and cashew cream with whipped Chantilly cream). Foodwise, Redemption are determinedly in the vanguard. 'We regard jackfruit as old school now,' laughs Andrea. 'We've moved on. The next ingredients are likely to include purple potatoes and king oyster mushrooms: both have great texture and culinary potential.' Purple foods are especially good, as they're high in anti-inflammatory properties.
Additionally, their Seven Dials site showcases an elegant takeaway deli where guests can build their own nutritious Buddha bowl from a range of seasonal vegetables, pulse-based salads, nuts, seeds and homemade dips. Innovative functional foods feature too, such as charcoal powders (so good for cleansing the gut), pine pollen and mushrooms. Neal's Yard's connection to whole foods and plant-based foods pre-empted the current interest by more than 30 years (visionary entrepreneur Nicholas Saunders turned the warehouse within the courtyard into a hub of small-scale merchants including a flour mill, wholefood shop, dairy and bakery). Andrea couldn't have envisaged a better place to open. 'I love the history of Neal's Yard, its colour and vibrancy. It is intimate and cosy yet cool. It gives me such pleasure to see the joy on the faces of new visitors who discover this hidden gem for the first time.' Beaming, Catherine adds: 'Besides customers who are so thrilled by what we do, we feel surrounded by like-minded, creative, individualistic small businesses, and that makes a real difference to us. There's a real sense of community and support among our neighbours'.
The Redemption founders both say it is hard to pick out favourites when all the local businesses have so much to offer. However, they admit to being huge fans of Jacob the Angel, who does 'the most fantastic vegan cakes'. Laughing, they also confess to 'huge neon envy' when they pop into Miller Harris to admire its interior and they're particularly taken by its new Lost In The City fragrances inspired by urban foraging walks. They certainly live up to their motto of 'spoiling yourself without spoiling yourself'.
15 Shorts Gardens / 2 Neal's Yard