Fresh from the farm

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The start of the year tends to resolve around resolutions, be they picking up new hobbies, striving to keep your house neat and tidy, or in many cases, embarking on a foray into healthy eating and living – something that Rose Mann knows lots about.

Rose is the founder of Farm Girl, the popular collection of London cafés that has gained notoriety for its innovative menus and signature interiors – that we adore. We met Rose in her Chelsea location, just a stone’s throw from our flagship store, to discuss everything from the inspiration behind her business to wellness, and all kinds of things discovered along the way.

To the naked eye, Melbourne and London might look like similar cosmopolitan cities, but what struck Australian-born Rose upon moving to the capital was that the combination of “easy food and good coffee didn’t really exist.”

“Every coffee shop in Melbourne has a great menu and vice versa,” says Rose. So, she set out to bridge this gap. Having grown up on a farm, the concept of eating sustainably comes naturally to her.

I was lucky that we were always eating wholesome, natural foods from my mum’s veggie garden or from the land; there were no preservatives or hidden ingredients that you find in cities.

This outlook was something she was keen to bring to her own café. “I just wanted to serve people honest food,” Rose explains. Whilst now it’s hard to imagine dining without gluten-free options or plant-based milks, a few years ago this wasn’t the case. Farm Girl was among the first to think creatively when it came to dietary requirements and alternatives.

“I’m lactose intolerant and I hate soy milk… you couldn’t find almond milk anywhere in London a few years ago and that frustrated me. So, when we opened with our funny milks and alternatives and everything still tasted good, I think people were just a bit blown away,” she says.

It’s not about wellness or health trends either – “people come to Farm Girl because they can still have dairy and meat and fish; it’s not just totally healthy or vegan and I think people like that.”

Rose is also pleased to see that people seem to be taking a step back from the plethora of information about the latest ‘healthy’ foods.

“I think everyone is starting to tone it back and people are starting to listen to themselves more. When one person is saying a plant-based diet is best for you, and another is telling you to eat more meat, it’s very confusing. No one knows who to take advice from, so it’s nice to see that people are being a bit smarter about what works for them.”

The most important thing for Farm Girl is embracing seasonal fruit and vegetables to create wholesome recipes, taking inspiration from a wide variety of places and cultures. Coming up with new menus is “the best time but also the hardest time,” according to Rose.

For customers, Farm Girl’s aesthetic is just as important as the food. “Nigella Lawson once Instagrammed a sandwich,” Rose tells us, and the cafés frequently have winding queues of people outside waiting to peek at the unique interiors.

In the Notting Hill branch – which was the first to open – one of the most photographed elements are the pink tables in the courtyard, which Rose herself painted one day because their original grey hue was “so dull and depressing.” This new, playful take on eating out is something Rose thinks helped to create the buzz surrounding Farm Girl when it first launched: “cafés never used to be colourful,” she explains.

Farm Girl Chelsea is equally full of fun. The creation of acclaimed interior designer Beata Heuman, it features starry-tiled bathrooms, pink arches framed by light bulbs and cork beams that are home to a plethora of house plants.

It hasn’t been all plain sailing, however. It was only after finding the perfect chef – who used to cook for David Beckham – navigating the complexities of food laws and regulations and battling with landlords to secure the perfect location, that the first Farm Girl was born.

“When I started, I had no clue about kitchens. You have this idea in your mind, and you think ‘oh a coffee shop can’t be that difficult’ – but I was learning every day. Our executive chef at the time was amazing, I wrote him a menu that I wanted but it was up to him to make it commercial,” Rose says.

When it comes to starting a business, Rose believes “you have to go with your gut.”

So many people hated the name ‘Farm Girl’ in the beginning, they said it was only going to appeal to women. And I thought – what’s wrong with that?

Rose also credits being present as key – “you can’t run a business if you’re sitting somewhere else, you have to be able to go to the sites and feel connected,” she says.

And another excellent tip? “Never forget who gave you good and honest advice and helped along the way – those people are very hard to come by.”

If you can’t wait to explore Farm Girl’s offerings, why not try this recipe at home? A delicious latte created exclusively for OKA. 

Vanilla Hibiscus Latte recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon of dried hibiscus or hibiscus powder
  • 1 drop of pure vanilla essence
  • ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • ⅔ cup of almond or oat milk
  • A pinch of Himalayan salt

Recipe:

  • Blend the hibiscus, cinnamon and salt together with 20ml hot water
  • Let it brew for approximately 3-4 minutes
  • Steam the milk until nice and frothy
  • Add to the brew and enjoy hot
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