Sisters and culinary visionaries Hayet and Sonia were so horrified by their mother’s diabetes diagnosis that they set about creating a selection of delectable cakes and pastries to satisfy her sweet tooth using only fresh, healthy ingredients and no sugar.
After a year of experimentation, inspiration and refining the recipes, the sisters had not only a mouth-watering selection of sweets but also savouries and had put together a business proposition for a café nestled in the heart of Hampstead.
Today, London’s Latest Scandal (a playful nod to the wave of novelty cafes to have opened in London) is proving to be far from just a novelty venture with a growing queue of customers passionate about its healthy, delicious food.
Hayet explains the LLS ethos: “We wanted to challenge the notion that eating healthily with fresh, unrefined ingredients meant sacrificing on flavour. We make sure the window display is colourful and enticing to pique people’s interest, but that’s not enough, customers have to be amazed by the food too – and they are.”
The sisters don’t just pay lip service to the freshness of their ingredients either, every two to three weeks they introduce a new item to the menu based on seasonal fruit and vegetables. They even have back-up suppliers and back-up dishes should any freak weather events affect crops. Hayet also notes that they source homemade bread from ‘The Bread Lady’ because they didn’t have the same control over the ingredients with their original suppliers and because when they tasted her bread, “we nearly fell off our chairs.”
It is little wonder then that LLS has already become a firm favourite with the Hampstead community. “It’s such a ‘foodie’ area that we knew we’d have to get it right. People would never take us seriously if the food wasn’t as healthy and wholesome as we said it was – plus we would never compromise our ingredients or our values,” says Hayet. “We were so touched that people would come in and suggest brands that we hadn’t tried before; it feels great to be part of such community spirit and it means we are using absolutely the best ingredients available.”
The sisters are finding it hard to keep pace with the demand for their signature dishes such as purple carrot cake, The Golden One salad and Sumptuous Red salad. The salads alone are a talking point: sold in glass jars to keep them fresh, customers can return the jars for a refund or money off the next purchase. “Not only are people wary of the chemicals in plastic but they can buy them for lunch the next day safe in the knowledge that the salad stays fresh and doesn’t brown. We are finding 80 per cent of the jars are returned too,” says Hayet.
It seems with the popularity of this café it is only a matter of time before other branches spring up across London. “That would be the natural evolution, yes,” she says, “but we aren’t about to compromise on quality or our values to make this happen on a larger scale. We want to help make people fall in love with healthy food but more than that, we want eating this way to be the norm rather than a novelty. It might take a generation to undo people’s reliance on terrible ingredients.”
If anyone can achieve this, Hayet and Sonia can, so is there anything they can’t do? “I’m still sad that I haven’t perfected a Red Velvet cake,” she says but the Divas suspects even that is only a matter of time…