In deepest Holland Park, this new establishment occupies an intriguing space in a storybook London streetscape. The site was last a restaurant under the name of Orsino – it had a beautiful interior but was never quite good enough to survive in this rather hidden-away location.
Isolation is less of a problem for the place’s new incarnation, as an offshoot of the spa-chain spin-off from the fashionistas’ favourite country house hotel: Babington House. It is the latest part of the ever-growing empire of Nick Jones, of Soho House fame. But while Orsino was an elegant, spacious place to eat, the space now devoted to the Spa and café is actually quite small.
On entry the girliness of it all brought home the double-entendre of the name, as emphasised by product names for items such as calming bath oil (‘Stroppy Cow’), cleaning milk (‘Grubby Cow’), and bath foam (‘Frisky Cow’). Ardent metrosexual men, though, will perhaps be attracted by the ‘Bullocks for Men’ range.
The single communal table available for eating doubles as a work-space for the manageress and spa attendants with nothing to do (all of them, on our visit). It’s cheerily chaotic. De-tox or no de-tox, I ordered double the recommended amount of food, rightly judging the appetities of the core clientele to be less than mine. Potato, chickpea and spinach soup was pleasingly light but satisfying at the same time. Leek fritter with pine-nuts and Parmesan, however, lacked the feeling of my-body-is-a-temple purity and sticky date pudding with toffee sauce tasted just as un-healthy as it sounded.
Fair to say the food at the Cow Shed makes no great claims for its purity. For a decent-value snack in a chichi part of town, though, it offers a handy enough accompaniment to the cleansing of the body beautiful.