Ruth Wood, nutritionist and founder of The Crucial Café, lifts the lid on the fantastic new healthy food available at The Hogarth Club in Chiswick
It’s been all change for members of Chiswick’s prestigious Hogarth Health Club recently: following a recent renovation the gym is better than ever and it now has a new modern cafeteria, Crucial Café, offering healthy breakfasts and lunches, including raw salads, hot meals with protein top-ups, cold-press juices, and nutrient-packed snacks on site. The good news for non-members is that you don’t have to join the gym to go to Crucial and that its founder and chef, Ruth Wood, is a clinical nutritionist who has a ‘no fads’ rule when it comes to diet.
Before opening the café, Ruth worked in the travel industry for 12 years. ‘When I did my A-levels I wanted to be a PE teacher,’ she says. Having always been healthy, and with an interest in nutrition, Ruth sought help when falling ill during her time abroad. After a visit to a nutritionist, she felt inspired to follow suit. ‘I’d become quite poorly from travelling and I went to see a nutritionist and she fixed me. It completely fascinated me that she did it, and that was when I decided that I wanted to be
Ruth embarked on a three-year course in nutrition. In her third year, with insurance, she was able to start practising. ‘I picked up clinics in the BBC, and with the banks and law firms in the City. I got a clinic at Credit Suisse in Canary Wharf and I was there for just over two years, in the gym.’ It was during that role that Ruth met a contact at The Priory Hospital, who suggested that she should enquire about a vacancy. ‘They said “this would work really well at The Priory programme”… They had a dietitian, who worked with patients with eating disorders but they didn’t have a nutritionist to work with the addictions programme. We’re trained to treat illness, such as diabetes, liver problems, kidney problems.’ After convincing the clinic’s directors, Ruth was hired and enjoyed her position at The Priory for the next eight years.
On leaving The Priory Group, Ruth founded Crucial Food and took on a number of freelance contracts, cooking for clients at their homes. A friend of Ruth’s, Phil Pritchard (now Crucial Café’s managing director), suggested they go into business together and they began looking for a site in Chiswick. During this time, Ruth approached Dan White (managing director of the Hogarth Group, which owns The Hogarth Health Club and The Park Club in Acton) ‘about putting my food in the café at the gym to sell as takeaway, and he said “I’ve got a better idea, why don’t you take over the café?” I thought, this was meant to happen,’ adds Ruth.
Phil and Ruth started planning the new café, with creative director Penny Pritchard interior designing the space – including the contemporary lightshades lined up in the conservatory, which Penny handmade using recycled carrier bags. Crucial Café opened its doors in April 2015 and has received a very warm welcome from The Hogarth Club members and staff alike. Health and Fitness Manager Vojin Soskic tells me the team is delighted with their new café: ‘It was a missing link for us really, so when we heard Ruth’s idea we thought “it’s brilliant, it will really fit in well”. As trainers we may give advice on nutrition and suggest what to eat but then our clients would go somewhere else [to eat], which gave them more time to not follow up on our advice. So it’s so convenient now, there’s no excuses.’
The menu features raw food salads as well as hot dishes including chicken and soups – all vetted by Ruth. For lighter bites, try a healthy smoothie (I’m a fan of the spinach-based Popeye). Or treat yourself to a protein ball or chocolate brownie (made with sweet potato).
Future plans include deliveries to West London residents and local businesses and expect to see more artwork on the walls. Over the summer art from Will’s Art Warehouse in Putney were on display, but they have now been replaced with a three-month exhibition of iconic punk photographs from legendary photographer Sheila Rock – a Chiswick resident and a longstanding Hogarth member herself.
Having visited Crucial Café for breakfast and lunch as a non-member, I’d highly recommend a visit, Ruth and her team are welcoming and you can enjoy a guilt-free feast in a super stylish setting.
The Crucial Café, The Hogarth Health Club, Airedale Avenue, Chiswick W4 2NW;
020 8747 4047; crucialfood.com