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The London Café Putting Gut Health First

High Mood Food is a new health food concept with a unique focus on fermentation, putting gut health first.

Following the success of the first café in Marylebone, High Mood Food has launched its second site inside The Kitchens at Old Spitalfields Market with the same mission, providing healthy fast-casual food to Londoners on-the-go.

They offer nutritious, veg-centric options for all, champion intuitive eating – #gowithyourgut – and pack their fresh, seasonal offering with the beneficial probiotics of fermented foods.

High Mood Food was founded by Ursel Barnes and Joey O’Hare. Brought up in West Berlin, Ursel was raised on homemade breads, fermented local food + lots of yoga. Following her career in finance, Ursel trained as an executive coach. Now working with highly pressurised professional clients, she knows the critical difference a healthy diet makes to wellbeing on every level – from professional performance to personal happiness.

Joey’s background is food; she’s been a chef for ten years and has played a vital role in the fermentation revival in London. Following her success on Masterchef the Professionals, she launched a successful pop-up in 2016 where the menus championed seasonal, vegcentric produce + incorporated the wonder of cultured + fermented foods. She was shortlisted for a YBF Award for her work with vegetables. With their dual approach – holistic wellbeing + culinary expertise – Ursel + Joey prove that ‘health food’ has never been quite so exciting.

What was the inspiration behind High Mood Food on Duke Street?

JH: We seek to make healthy food as delicious and inclusive as can be, and celebrate a diet that is good for gut health. Our food prioritises plant-based fibre with an array of seasonal vegetables on offer at any one time, and is enhanced with the awesome flavour and beneficial live bacteria of fermented foods. We don’t subscribe to any one diet and it’s not about strict regimes, but more about offering a balance and a gut-friendly alternative for people.

Gut health is big news. Why do you think it is so important?  What foods benefit our gut? And how can it make a difference to our wellbeing?

JH: More and more, science is able to prove how the health of our digestive systems directly impacts so much of our overall wellbeing, from our immune system, energy levels, and even our mental health. We’re always encouraging people to include more of the ‘Five Ks’ in their diet – kraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir and kamut (used in sourdough), so this is a really good checklist to start with.

What are the top things to do in our lifestyles to improve our gut health?

JH: Eat mindfully (chew your food properly and take your time!!), move daily, and prioritise sleep.

What can we expect from High Mood Food in Old Spitalfields Market?

JH: Our Old Spitalfields Market branch is exclusively veggie which is a really exciting step for us – we use organic eggs and some organic dairy, but the vast majority of the menu is made up by seasonal vegetables, and many dishes are naturally vegan.

This site is part of “The Kitchens” which was curated by chef Nuno Mendes, it’s smaller and more nimble and it’s great to be alongside such a range of upcoming restaurants and chefs. It’s essentially a kitchen food stall, so we’ve fine-tuned our menu and created spontaneous High Bowls as daily specials rather than having a canteen style.

Who are the particular role models for female chefs at the moment? And who are yours?

JH: The spirit of community amongst female chefs is what’s so inspiring at the moment, rather than one individual I think. Through Instagram I’ve been lucky to meet so many incredible chefs, food writers, bloggers and events coordinators… the network is really supportive and inclusive, and creative collaborations happen very organically the whole time.

How have you noticed the industry changing over the last ten years of being a chef?

JH: It’s become a bit more civilised thank goodness! I also think some of the most exciting food can be found in more down-to-earth, local restaurants, it’s not all about fancy tablecloths, guides and stars… In London we are completely spoilt for choice!

And what about the London restaurant scene? Have you been aware of changes in customer’s openness to try new things, or in what they expect and demand?

JH: Customers now expect legitimate vegetarian options… one token risotto or beetroot salad is shameful in this day and age! It puts helpful pressure on chefs to focus as much attention on their vegetarian cooking as elsewhere, and it’s no news to anyone that we should all eat more veggies and less meat.

I love that you’ll often now see a more even balance of meat dishes to veggie or vegcentric dishes on a menu and I think this is so important.

What’s the best career advice you’ve been given?

JH: Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Where would you travel for food?

JH: Copenhagen.

What is your ideal day in London?

JH: Walk across Brockwell Park to the local farmer’s market, coffee at Blackbird Bakery with friends, followed by recipe testing with seasonal veggies at home.

For more inspiration for the health conscious, have a look at our London healthy eating guide here

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