of describing what Lily Simpson looks like, I’m going to
begin by telling you what she put on my lunch plate at The Detox Kitchen deli on Mortimer
Street, London. From a selection of nine salads and eight mains I
ended up with sweet miso aubergine, an inventive Waldorf salad with
peppers and capers, a crumbling salmon burger with broad bean dip
on the side and a sweet potato salad with crème fraîche, coriander,
lime and chilli. Over lunch with Lily I would become as enamoured
by the woman in front of me as I would with the food on my
Hear the name Lily Simpson, Founder of The Detox Kitchen, and
Hemsley sisters or
Deliciously Ella, a face probably doesn’t spring to mind.
That’s on purpose, she tells me, as we sit down for lunch and she
politely refuses to have her photo taken. “Apart from feeling
incredibly awkward in front of the camera, I wanted it to be about
the company.” Aside from a few interviews, such as this, Lily
usually lets the food do the talking (see The Detox Kitchen
instagram). “Ultimately it is about me. It’s the food I like to
eat, the food I create, the food I love, but I want it to be about
the company, the people in the company and the feeling you get when
you come in and eat our food. I don’t want this constant image of
me popping up in our customer’s head because it is a tied
connection. No way. It freaks me out.”
This decision, evidently, has in no way hampered Lily’s success.
After working in property for four years, she started a catering
company called Lily’s Lovely Bites – “the worst name in the world,”
she laughs. At 27 she launched a food delivery service which grew
into what is now The Detox Kitchen. The service currently has two
hugely successful delis in Kingly St and Fitzrovia (which is
heaving at lunchtime), a concession at Selfridges, a food delivery
service which Gwyneth Paltrow named her go-to in London and a
cookbook. This year she raised £2 million from investors to expand
the brand and told the Evening Standard she would open ten delis in
the next three years.
So how has she done it? Her focus is on producing quality and
consistency in her dishes, all of which she produces herself with
her head chef. She gets ahead in the wellness game by offering more
selection in her delis and constantly inventing and evolving
healthy fare. She partners with the right people, she tells me, a
team of specialists, experts and those passionate about the brand –
“I’m not a nutritionist” says Lily, “I’m not a chef. I’m someone
who has a passion for food and likes having a business. From the
beginning the most important thing has been partnering with people
who can do things better than me, like Rob Hobson, the nutritionist
who wrote the section in my book.”
And she’s not selling a dream. “Our biggest message is that if
you eat better you will feel better and look better. But ultimately
it all comes down to genetics. I have a ridiculously fast
metabolism, so it doesn’t matter what I eat, I’ll always be a
normal size. But I’ve always
struggled with my skin. There’s a girl in our office and her
skin is like porcelain and she’s not super, super healthy. Her skin
will always be like that, and I will never have skin like that.
It’s important for girls to know and understand that. We just want
to give people the best chance to feel more energised, have better
skin, hair etc. But if you don’t have the genes of a supermodel,
you’re not going to be one.”
On the backlash against wellness bloggers and chefs, she’s
sympathetic. “No one in the industry is trying to mislead anyone.
If you look at the big guys – The Hemsleys, Madeline Shaw,
Deliciously Ella – they are all just trying to get people to eat
healthy food. The thing is they are just all very attractive girls.
We’re all on the same mission, we’re just going about it in
In the case of Lily Simpson, different is very refreshing. Over
the course of our lunch she tells me she craved crisps for
breakfast when she was pregnant with her son, forgot to feed him on
a stressful car journey across France to the point that he lost his
shit, and loves chocolate – “and the dirty kind, not the 90 per
cent cacao bars.” Gwyneth Paltrow may be a fan, but she’s
definitely no Paltrow herself.
Here it’s about the food not the face. And as I leave the café
and take note of the Detox Kitchen regulars fixated by plates
filled with specialty salads, no one seems to have a problem with
Here Lily shares some of her favourite health food restaurants
My favourite place in the world is Grangers. I wouldn’t say it’s
super healthy but the food is delicious and super simple. It’s
Australian brunch food with lots of avocado but it’s just amazing.
I just love everything: the look, the feel, the atmosphere and the
They do an incredible brunch and an amazing granola. Their lunch
is really good. Actually the dinner is amazing too. It’s the
quality of their food but also the combinations of flavours.
I’m completely obsessed with Ottolenghi. I wouldnt say its super
healthy but the flavours are unmatched in London. My favourite
restaurant in London is his restaurant Nopi and I go there at least
once a month with my husband and sit at the bar. Always sit at the
bar if you go there.
They do a really good job of providing healthy food. it’s not a
taste sensation but you know it’s from a really great source. It’s
super simple with really nice combinations.