12 Aug 2009

Cultured Milk: ‘Frae’

Rather than silver spoons, two Glaswegian entrepreneurs were seemingly born with biodegradable starch ones in their mouths...
ISLINGTON’S bazaar lined Camden Passage boasts a new foodie attraction: a parlour purveying swirls and smoothies blended from frozen yoghurt. Meaning ‘from’ in Glaswegian, ‘Frae’ was founded by two university friends born and raised in Scotland’s largest city. The 27 year-olds drew inspiration from watching Americans queue come sun, sleet or snow to sample ‘chilly bliss’ at ‘Pinkberry’, a Californian chain of yoghurt dispensaries. From west coast to east, that tasty American dream amassed almost 90 outlets in fewer than four years. Armed with a fighting fund gleaned from tedious city work, the duo adapted the concept, bringing back the promise of fat free decadence to Blighty.
Behind the Victorian frontage of this former wallpaper shop, the result is a small but sparkling cabin of whitewashed brick walls sandwiched between a floor and ceiling of basic blonde ply. Boldly coloured Dan Flavin strips stylishly echo the hues of the Scotch thistle. Seating is the colour of elephant skin and bar stools are moulded dayglo. Music is modish ‘60’s rock.
Yoghurt from a secret farm is kept fluffy, cool and crystal free in an impressive engine. Imported from Rockport, Massachusetts, where most residents apparently have generations of allegiance to the factory, ‘Daisy’ cost considerably more than the average British wage. But seeing as yoghurt can be ‘very temperamental to freeze’, she was a worthwhile investment, and, as initially botched efforts of my own revealed, eventually easy to use.
Combined with a choice of 18 additions, including spicy Goji berries, daily fresh fruits from Covent Garden’s ‘Dave the fruit guy’, and wildly hedonistic chocolate from neighbours, Paul A. Young, the probiotic, calcium-rich base comes in two forms: surprisingly but palatably tangy pure (verging on citrus), or more textured, green tea leaf. Not that I count, nor even understand them, the actually ample, smallest serving starts at 70 calories.

Caught up in Martyn and Donald’s enthusiasm, I ingested a lot of the white stuff on my visit. Blended from plain yoghurt, my Scottish strawberry and Oreo cookie smoothie was malty but uplifting. Out of a tub made from sustainable Scottish forest, I dug my biodegradable starch spoon into a fine, sandy textured, invigorating green tea base flecked with dark chocolate cubes. Unlike the tea, it didn’t evoke the tannic effect of a brewed ashtray. To follow, a Brazilian and Honduran espresso was an iron fist in a velvet glove. Such excellent coffee may in time be used to mimic the effect of an affogato.
Despite having opened barely eight weeks ago, celebrity fans are emerging, including comedian (and cook), Hardeep Singh Kohli.
Even amidst the first school holidays for the firm, children don’t seem to be the main market. Indeed, male singletons, take note: during the hour I visited, I glimpsed only beautiful young women, no doubt as much to do with the charming Scots as the paradoxically pure but pleasurable product. These included a teacher who knocks at the back door daily, demanding a frozen fix before they officially open, and an artist who titled a forthcoming addition to the menu - the ‘frae’ppuccino. In addition, staying open until midnight, Martyn and Donald have elegantly lured tipsy people from their kebab/pizza routine, which is benevolent because their wholesome frozen yoghurt makes an allegedly superb hangover cure…
Open daily for eat-in/take-away: 11am-Midnight
FRAE: 27 Camden Passage, Islington, London. N1 8EA
Frae on Urbanspoon