Canonbury sisters set up clean-eating café in Hampstead after mum got diabetes

LLS Cafe

LLS Cafe - Credit: Archant

The Zaame sisters from Canonbury tell Bridget Galton how they came up with the raw, vegan and refined sugar free cakes they sell in their Hampstead cafe to help their mum manage her diabetes.

LLS Cafe

LLS Cafe - Credit: Archant

Devotees of veganism and clean eating are already converted to the culinary benefits of chick pea water, spirulina and chia seeds.

But for the rest of us it’s a big ask to think of these slimy, smelly, gritty ingredients as delectable fodder.

Luckily French sisters Hayet and Sonia Zaame are on hand to help with my conversion.

Walking up Heath Street, Hampstead, your eye is caught by the colourful cake display in the window of their LLS Café which opened last month.

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When you realise most are raw and vegan, made with no eggs, butter, flour or processed sugar, it beggars belief.

“We wanted a big window display so people understand they can have a treat,” says Hayet. “We love food we don’t take ourselves too seriously or pretend to be super healthy, we just want to offer it in a way that’s accessible to people who want to look after themselves.”

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The sisters’ story reminds you that the latest ‘sugar is the enemy’ mantra is not just a food fad but a health reality.

“Mum was diagnosed with diabetes 18 months ago,” says Hayet.

“There’s a history of it in our family and she has a very sweet tooth. It’s hard for her to break the habit but whatever we do today will determine the length of her life and we have to keep her alive.”

Upset by the sight of their 57-year-old mum injecting herself daily, the sisters, who have backgrounds in advertising and hospitality respectively, decided to create her a menu.

“We realised if there wasn’t cake in it there would be a problem! We tried and failed, tasted and tested; her favourite is the strawberry tarts. She eats two a day but her glycaemic index has come down.”

Forking into one of the tarts I tasted delicate red fruit atop light whipped coconut cream on a feathery pastry sweetened only with apple and dates.

It was a revelation – as was their delectable version of a lemon meringue tart.

Wash it down with their rich induglent Valrhona hot chocolate – it’s not dairy free but it is only three percent sugar and oh so creamy.

The sisters, who live in Canonbury have discovered Hampstead folk are crying out for their gooey chocolate tart with a coconut and sesame seed base, or purple carrot cake with coconut cream icing. “They’re a signature, people keep coming back just for them.”

Sweetened with the likes of fruit or raw coconut sugar, many of the cakes are nut heavy – clearly veganism is not for the nut allergic – and although popular, I can’t say either the green Spirulina cake (a strong-tasting blue-green algae but presumably not the toxic kind that closes the Heath ponds in high summer) or the Matcha almond milk latte were to my taste.

The ancient Mayans may have loved chia seeds and they’re admittedly packed with fibre, protein and omega 3s but even after soaking overnight the resulting ‘pudding’ sweetened with dates, with its coconut cream topping was not unpleasant but not moreish either.

The name, with monkey logo and motto Eat No Evil stands for London’s Latest Scandal.

“It’s a joke. After the Cereal Killer café and the Cat Café we said we need to be the next big scandal,” says Hayet.

It’s not all free from; the sourdough toasties, stuffed with blueberry and mozzarella or falafel and beetroot hummus, are made with glutinous bread, as is the pain perdu. The shakshuka is popular for breakfast and the salads in a jar stuffed with chicken pearl barley or blueberry blue cheese and walnut or lentil endamame, seaweed and mushrooms are popular as take-aways.

“Ten years from now diabetes will be the biggest disease in the world. There aren’t enough people offering access to food like this without having to go somewhere special and without sacrificing on taste.”

The sisters serve top quality Allpress coffee and Piacha teas from Upper Street, Islington and are also hoping for an alcholol license to serve low sugar wines with tapas.

“Small plates big ambitions!” says Hayet.

“To us eating clean means removing what society has refined, going back to the source, back to an organic healthy homecooked way of eating. Getting food from the butcher, the fishmonger or the farm with no middle man.”

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