WHERE TO DINE WHEN ON A DIET
From Nordic diets and raw food eateries to Paleo and Atkins-friendly restaurants, we’ve found the best London dining options for your new diet regime or healthy-eating lifestyle
1 Raw food and vegan
Once the staple diet of vegans and hipsters, the raw-food diet has gained new devotees over the past couple of years as its health benefits become more widely recognised. A host of London restaurants and cafés now offer raw food dishes like seaweed salads, zucchini ‘pasta’ and cashew cheese tarts as part of their repertoire. Some have even created a 100% raw food menu. Tanya’s Café in Chelsea is one example, where all the dishes, from the pad thai and onion bread veggie sun-burger to the pumpkin dumplings, are ‘raw, organic, plant-based, free from gluten, dairy and refined sugar’. Other great cafés to try include Nama Foods in Notting Hill, the long-running Inspiral Café in Camden and Planet Organic, which has locations across the capital.
2014 was the year of the Paleo diet, and the trend shows no signs of waning as it comes to London’s dining scene. Pure Taste, the UK’s first Paleo-friendly restaurant recently opened in Notting Hill, unveiling a high-protein menu that is free from dairy products, grains, and refined sugars. A comprehensive key also accompanies each dish explaining what other diets it adheres to e.g. free from egg. As you’d expect, there’s a meaty offering on the compact menu with beef short rib, guinea fowl and pork, plus lots of fish too. And, the desserts sound very intriguing if the lime and kiwi cannelloni with basil is anything to go by…
3 Nordic diet
After our obsession with the TV stars of Nordic Noir, came our fascination with what was on their plates. And as a stark contrast to all the on-screen darkness, the Scandinavian diet emerged as one of the lightest and healthiest around, packed with omega-3 rich oily fish, antioxidant berries, rapeseed oil, wholegrains and good fats. So, falling short of moving to Sweden, Denmark or Norway, where can you get your fix of Nordic cuisine in the capital? Danish café Snaps & Rye, based in Notting Hill, serves up delicious, clean-looking plates featuring Smørrebrød (bread made from rye and aquavit), house-cured herring, meatballs paired with spice-infused red cabbage and akvavit. Scandinavian Kitchen in Fitzrovia is also well-known for its Scandi open-faced sandwiches, fresh salads and salty liquorice while Fika in Brick Lane has an excellent Swedish offering.
4 Fermented foods
The food world is abuzz with word that fermented foods are going to be the food trend on everyone’s lips for 2015. Probiotic-friendly foods like the once maligned kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut are already making a return to the limelight in the name of good digestive health – because they’re full of probiotics in case you’re wondering. Luckily, for London diners, there are lots of ways to incorporate these bacteria-friendly ingredients into your diet while on a night out. Japanese and Korean restaurants are good places to start with a plethora of dishes based around fermented foods – miso soup and kimchi, pickled radishes and vegetables included. Try the sizzling Korean grill Gogi in Maida Vale, famous in the area for its top quality authentic food and large range of kimchi dishes. Another favourite in central London is Kimchee in Fitzrovia. For Japanese, head to Zuma in Knightsbridge, Bone Daddies in Kensington or Zaibatsu Japanese Fusion in Greenwich.
5 Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet is regularly touted as one of the world’s healthiest ways to eat and it was recently voted one of the best in the U.S News and World Report’s ranking of the best diets in 2015. With an emphasis on fruit and vegetables, olive oils, nuts and fish, thankfully we’re not short of places to find this delicious fare in the capital. Del Aziz, which has locations in Fulham, Clapham, Swiss Cottage and Bermondsey, has built its reputation on fantastic quality. The mezzes in particular, from the tangy feta cheese parcels and the fresh-tasting tabouleh to the smoked aubergine and vine leaves, are an excellent choice for lunch. Other favourites include Ottolenghi’s divine Middle Eastern dishes, fresh authentic Italian food at the Casa Tua Camden café and Moro, a stalwart of the Islington area, celebrated for its Mediterranean/North African/Spanish-inspired food.
6 Free of refined sugars
What is a restaurant without its sweet section? We’re not sure we can, or want to, imagine such a thing. But while the so-called ‘war on sugar’ raged last year, we were drawn to the realisation that the foodstuff was a ubiquitous part of our diets, present in everything from fruit juices and wholemeal bread to cereal and sausages. Thankfully, a host of online food delivery services that cater to sugar-free dining are now available to try in London. The Detox Kitchen, founded by Lily Simpson, offers a programme of five tasty packages that are all free from wheat, dairy and refined sugar – although natural sugars found in fruit, raw honey and other natural sweeteners are allowed. There are two delis, one in Knightsbridge and one in Soho, which offer a myriad of salads, soups and hot meals, and the delivery service covers most of London. Eat Evolve is another delivery service that markets itself as both Paleo and free of processed sugars. There are lots of warming dishes to choose from: ratatouille, smokey beef ragù and spiced cauliflower being just a few examples.
It feels like a good time to go veggie, even if it’s just for an evening. Under the helm of new chefs and restaurateurs, many vegetables are now attaining equal billing on menus alongside fish and meat – and about time too. For strictly vegetarian options, there are numerous reputable restaurants to frequent. A good start would be The Gate (locations are in Islington and Hammersmith), the salubrious, innovative restaurant that has won awards for its flavoursome starters and mains. Currently on the menu you will find Roasted pepper cannelloni with rainbow chard, spinach and ricotta, Aubergine schnitzel layered with cheddar and roasted red peppers, and Plantain fritters filled with carrots, sultanas, nuts, herbs and fennel shavings. Deptford’s The Waiting Room is a café choc full of gorgeous treats like its leek, thyme and mushroom veggie sausage rolls and Manna in Primrose Hill, the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the UK is constant favourite with locals. And can we mention Bruno Loubet’s latest restaurant The Grain Store in King’s Cross? While not being strictly vegetarian, it treats vegetables as shining stars. There are seeds, pulses and seasonal vegetables abound with creative concoctions. We love the lightly lemon pickled cucumber, toasted fermented corn brioche and a celeriac & hay mousse tartlet. As you might have also realised, it has a great choice of fermented foods too.
8 Atkins diet
Not always the most social-friendly diet, nevertheless atkins and other similar low-carb diets will be at the top of many people’s lists this January for a quick and reliable weight-loss drop after the Christmas break. If you’re sticking to the plan while dining out, a good choice for meat-based dishes is Gaucho in Richmond, famous for its excellent steaks and mouth-watering beef sourced directly from Argentina. Housing a protein-heavy menu in general, there are lots of meat options, plus starters of scallops and ceviche to ensure you leave full. For another excellent steak choice, seek out Bueno Aires Café in Blackheath.