The Review - RESTAURANTS Published: 21 February 2008
The Inspiral lounge
A love and plate relationship
Following an expensive refit, an innovative Camden Lock café is promoting harmonious modern living, writes Sara Newman
IN the heart of Camden Town, with panoramic views of the burnt-out market, rises a café with the intention of “healing through nutrition”.
An £80,000 refit, including a panelled ceiling complete with LED strip lights that change colour at the flick of a switch, has transformed what had been an empty stagnant café into a futuristic, trendy Starbucks alternative.
Dominic Schnell, the co-founder of the Synergy Project, a collaboration between musicians, artists and NGOs to promote “conscious partying”, is the owner of The Inspiral Lounge.
At first glance one can imagine that celebrity-obsessed “organic” bashers who favour sanitised environs will come here.
One thing is certain, the food is fantastic.
Their smoothies contain more than 20 ingredients including shelled hemp seeds, muca, mesquite, purple corn and yacon syrup, acai and goji berries.
The creamy celeriac and almond soup is an absolute triumph and the romero pepper filled with spicy pomegranate sauce and served with a sunflower and rocket salad brings colour to the cheeks and warmth in the belly.
They make their own tofu, sell pure chocolate balls and include squash in their lasagne.
On Saturday night the venue stages performances and poetry, and houses DJs known in ambient electronica circles.
Monday is film night and on Sunday they hold an open-mic session.
DJs and VJs perform from a seat perched above a two-storey shrine of PCs, providing free internet access to customers.
Dominic says: “We are looking for a way in which we can utilise the achievements of the human mind – ie technology – and combine it with this world we are living in.”
Another challenge lies in making the venue accessible to everyone when he is spending £1,000 on food a month.
A portion of food (£2) or a plate of three portions (£5) will have to increase from the current asking price if they are to be economically viable, says Dominic.
He describes his raw food chef Joel as an “absolute fetishist” when it comes to fresh, good quality ingredients.
“Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a purist,” says Dominic.
“I have a six-year-old child who’s really hard to feed.”
The venue is designed to be child friendly with a play area downstairs.
Dominic “tapped into the alternative scene” – a café business, ID Spiral – with his ex-partner Irena, touring the Glastonbury and Glade festivals and setting up home in a double-decker bus.
The Synergy Project followed.
“It’s not about shouting for change, but change from within, and trying to make this world a better place in a peaceful and harmonious way,” says Dominic.
In the space of six years he has moved from a bus to a house in Hartland Road, Camden Town.
Where once he served chai out of plastic cups from two crates that could fit in the back of a car, he now owns a 15-metre shipping container, multiple vans and employs about 50 people overall.
Staff are expected to offer creative input and once the business starts making a profit they can expect a share in return.
• The Inspiral Lounge, 250 Camden High Street, Camden Lock, NW1. Tel: 020 7428 5875.
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