Rose Mann wants to show Londoners the healthy side to Australian food with her new Portobello Road venture, Farm Girl café
The clue to Rose Mann’s story is in the name of her new business, Farm Girl café on Portobello Road. Raised in an agricultural family on the outskirts of Melbourne, surrounded by dogs, rabbits and a kangaroo – she’s not faking it with the country girl theme. Last year, Rose left her job in fashion to launch a café filled with balanced health foods; she wants to prove to Londoners that dishes from Down Under are about so much more than barbecued snags (sausages) and hamburgers served with beetroot. We speak to Rose about the fierce health- conscious competition in Notting Hill and her resident French bulldog, Bronte.
How did Farm Girl come to be?
I discovered I was lactose intolerant three years ago and as a Notting Hill resident continuously found myself disappointed in the lack of dairy-free options. Coming from Melbourne where every café and restaurant offers dairy-free, I was surprised to often only find soya milk available as an alternative to dairy. There was a lack of almond milk on the menu in general. I thought, “someone should be offering healthier choices… Why don’t I?” My boyfriend and now business partner got involved in January and helped me get everything off the ground. He grew up in Switzerland and had a similar childhood where everything on his table was completely fresh and locally sourced.
How did you end up in London?
I moved here six years ago as I wanted a change from my life in Melbourne. I was only meant to be visiting for three months but I loved it so much I decided to move permanently.
When did you first start showing an interest in food in a serious way?
I grew up in the Western District in Victoria on my family’s farm about three hours west of Melbourne. My childhood was filled with animals that were always around the farm; rabbits, a cockatoo, a fox named Woxa, a wedge-tailed eagle, a kangaroo… The list goes on.
My mother is British and my parents met when my father was playing polo against my grandfather (whom he beat!) so we would always spend a few months of the year in the UK for the polo. Every meal we had on the table was straight from either the paddock or mum’s veggie garden so I grew up with a huge appreciation for fresh, organic produce. Since I left school I have been travelling a lot and everywhere I went I would always try and find the restaurants that the locals would go to rather than those the hotels recommended.
Notting Hill has its fair share of health food restaurants, aren’t you worried about competition?
Farm Girl was originally set up to offer something that others weren’t, but of course London is seeing a small revolution in food culture. In fact many of our best supporters and enthusiasts are owners of local health food restaurants. I have always thought that competition is healthy, and I hope that it will help our Head Chef Benoit, Anthony and I to keep the menu innovative.
Your chef Benoit Marmoiton worked with a naturopathic doctor to create the menu. How did that relationship work, was there any conflict?
Benoit, Melly Lou (the naturopathic doctor), Anthony Hood (my boyfriend) and I all collaborated to create the menu. As opposed to conflict of ideas, we found a great balance with everyone bringing something special to the menu, from Benoit’s buckwheat pancakes to Anthony’s delicious almond and rice flake chicken schnitzel.
What exactly is Antipodean-style food? How would you describe it?
It is easiest to describe as a lifestyle choice – fresh eggs and orange juice sitting under the shade of a tree, with a warm summer breeze ruffling the leaves. The menu here is not so strictly Antipodean, it is just simple, healthy food that we love.
How does your French Bulldog, Bronte fit into all of this?
Bronte is lovely; she is eight months old and a part of the team. She has a bed at the café and spends most of her time either sleeping or lapping up attention from anyone who will give it. We are absolutely dog friendly.
Find Farm Girl café at: 59A Portobello Road W11 3DB, 020 7536 2108; thefarmgirl.co.uk
Images Issy Crocker