There was a time, not so long ago, that Malibu, despite its worldwide reputation, was nothing more than a sleepy residential coastal town: the beaches were beautiful, there were some celebrities out and about but, by and large, the place belonged to longtime residents and it was far from glitzy. The lack of fancy hotels kept it low-key: you went to Malibu to surf or enjoy a picnic at the beach.
Somehow, tourists the world over have now discovered it and quite a bit of the town caters to them: while there are still no fancy hotels but one, the stores in the main shopping area are glitzier and of no use to residents and, even on a Monday, the Pacific Coast Highway is jammed with cars carrying surfboards and beach chairs.
I was musing over all this as I dropped my car at the only (discrete) car wash that prominently featured a bevy of Porsches and Teslas. And my Mini, which I thought could do with a shower while I was meeting a friend for lunch – part of the endless birthday celebrations – at my favorite Malibu restaurant. Which is everybody’s favorite Malibu restaurant.
Eating well in Malibu can be difficult. Plenty of restaurants and none of them good. Unless you are planning to take out a mortgage at Nobu’s or Mr. Chow’s, everywhere else is less than stellar.
Enter Helene Henderson, a former Swedish model who came to LA, got married and put to good use her knack for cooking delicious and simple food. I know, it sounds such a typical LA story but this lady really knows how to cook. Helene started with pop up dinners at a former diner at the very end of the Malibu Pier: they were so successful, that she extended the lease and, in time, took over the restaurant at the top of the pier too. The Malibu Farm was born.
I love the simple whitewashed walls, the rustic wooden tables and benches, the excellent lemonade and, yes, the food, that you can eat perched on the top terrace among seagulls, on the fancier and shaded patio right above the waves or inside. The location at the end of the pier is more informal and orders are taken at the counter, but either venue is welcoming and unfussy.
If you are ever in LA, I would suggest moseying over there early on a Saturday or Sunday morning (I do mean early, no later than 9:30, or there will be a wait) for breakfast amongst the surfers. The menu makes some concessions to Helene’s Swedish heritage: Swedish pancakes for breakfast or meatballs at lunch. Everything is fresh and mostly organic – I particularly love the cauliflower pizza and the vegetable paella, which is made with couscous. Also, you can’t beat the view.
For a taste of Malibu at home, Helene has published a cookbook, The Malibu Farm Cookbook and more locations are slated to open in Hawaii and around the States. So, keep your eyes peeled.
In the meantime, here is a lovely and simple salad for those days when arugula and tomatoes just won’t do.