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Deliciously Ella expands her healthy empire with a new cafe


deliciously-ella-mae-deli-1Don’t be surprised if all your healthy foodie friends are booking trips to London this spring: Ella Woodward, AKA Deliciously Ella, just opened her first brick-and-mortar destination.

The British blogger-turned-author, best known for creating double tap-worthy recipes sans dairy, sugar, gluten, or ultra-processed ingredients, is serving up her favorite recipes (plus some new additions) IRL at The Mae Deli. The Marylebone cafe features everything from avocado toast and superfood-packed salads to brown rice milk chai lattes and peanut fudge slices.

But her trademark plant-based dishes aren’t the only thing on the menu at the newly opened resto; Woodward wanted The Mae Deli to be a place where everyone—including her meat-eating fiancé and business partner—had a figurative seat at the table to enjoy a healthy meal. That means she’s also serving meat and fish. (Not all of her vegan followers were happy about this decision, making their feelings known on social media.)

Ultimately, Woodward’s philosophy, which she proudly proclaims on The Mae Deli’s walls, was to create a destination for people to eat real food, focus mostly on plants, and quite literally taste the rainbow. If she converts a few carnivores to veggie eating in the process? Even better. And although she’s not sharing details just yet, she promises that this London spot is just the beginning. “Yes, we have big plans for Mae, which is so exciting,” she tells us coyly.

Here, Woodward gives us the whole backstory on the inspiration for taking her recipes off your phone and onto your plate… —Marissa Gold

When did you decide that you wanted to open a café?
[My fiancé Matthew and I] decided to do it in May 2015 and opened just over six months later, so it was a quick turnaround! We looked for about three months for the right site, and then came across the one we have now and just loved it. It felt like a manageable size, so that we could really learn our operations, and it’s such a beautiful street filled with wonderful, independent restaurants. [The name “Mae” stands for Matthew And Ella.]

You’re a self-taught cook. Did you develop the recipes for The Mae Deli yourself or hire a chef?
I developed the recipes, but we have a great head chef overseeing the kitchen and food prep on a daily basis.

What are some of your favorite items on the menu?
We have an amazing array of salads every day, from maple-roasted sweet potatoes to butter beans in salsa verde, charred broccoli and kale, a great sesame slaw, broad bean mash, and miso-roasted aubergine [eggplant]! We also have warming hot dishes like a Mexican bean stew or Thai green curry with brown rice.

I love a healthy dessert—what’s your favorite sweet treat at Mae?
It’s so hard to choose! I love our power balls and we have an amazing peanut slice. Our pecan brownies are the best seller, though. They fly through the door every day!

Some of your vegan fans were upset that you’re serving meat and fish. Why did you want to expand beyond just the plant-based diet you’re known for?
I don’t see myself as a vegan; I follow a plant-based diet and therefore almost everything I eat is technically vegan, but I don’t like labels. I think healthy living needs to be open to everyone and not strictly dictate one way of living. I opened the deli with my fiancé, Matthew, who loves healthy food but isn’t a vegetarian. The reason we wanted to open was that we wanted to find a space that we felt catered to both of our needs, where veggies were the focus, but it still felt accessible and open to everyone.

Once upon a time, you were not a fan of veggies. What do you suggest for people who are just getting into plant-based eating?
Maple-roasted sweet potato wedges with lots of creamy guacamole—so good! I love all veggies now, but the enjoyment really comes from the way they’re made. If they’re boiled, they tend to be pretty dull, but roasted or sautéed with herbs and spices? They’re the best!

Which parts of the business do you and your fiancé handle, respectively?
He runs the business side of Mae, controlling our finances, the operations and running of it, business development, and anything to do with spreadsheets, which really aren’t my strong suit. I do the creative side—the food, the social media, the branding, etc. It’s a real collaboration, but we both acknowledge and respect the other person’s strengths and weaknesses, and we find that our areas of knowledge are very complimentary to each other.

What are your favorite healthy spots when you’re in the States?
Cafe Gratitude in Los Angeles is my all-time favorite spot. I lived right next door to it for three months in 2014, and loved it so much! Gracias Madre and Moon Juice were real favorites, too. LA is the dream for healthy food!

The Mae Deli, 21 Seymour Pl., London, W1H 5BH, instagram.com/the_mae_deli

Can’t make it to London any time soon? Here’s how food blogger Alexandra Dawson (of In My Bowl) stocks her fridge.

(Photos: Deliciously Ella)