Diet London

I haven’t blogged very much​ lately, because I’ve gotten a bit fat.

Unless you are the kind of foodie who really gets off on couscous and tangled heaps of spaghettified vegetation, it turns out that lot of food – particularly the kind you go to restaurants for – is actually very fattening. Who knew?

My weight gain was​ gradual and insidious. Fat molecules attached themselves​ to my thighs in the manner of barnacles attaching themselves to ships. (The two are actually very similar. In either case, you’re merrily bobbing along and then suddenly there’s half a tonne of the little buggers clinging to your hull and you’ve got to get the industrial scraper out.) I​t was the sort of gain where you’re sort of vaguely aware of it happening, because you find yourself more in more in baggy jumpers, leggings and anything in your wardrobe with an elasticated waist​band​, but write it off as temporary bloat from a heavy weekend, or really needing a poo. But eight weeks before I went on holiday – an occasion that would require me to strip off and present my quivering thighs to the world at least once – I was forced to accept I’d gained two stone in two years, none of my summer clothes fitted me, and my fear of being mistaken for the moon at the pool was eclipsing my actual looking forward to going away.

Drastic action was promptly taken; I stopped eating out​, curbed midweek drinking​ and ​indefinitely postponed any prospect of a proper lunch in favour of possibly the three most tragic words in the English language:​ soup, no roll.

It worked though. I’ve lost nearly a stone (“But at what cost?!” I hear you cry). There’s 16lbs left to go but, I think, I’d quite like to get back to enjoying myself. Just maybe not quite as often or with such enthusiasm as before. Balance and so forth.

Unfortunately, the reason why restaurant food tastes so good is not just because somebody much better at cooking than you is wielding the ladle behind the scenes. Anyone who has heard Gordon Ramsay describe how he makes mashed potatoes can attest that the extra ingredients to restaurant-quality food often are, in fact, extra ingredients. Fatty, buttery, creamy ones. Cheesy ones. Freshly baked that morning ones.

Obviously this is problematic. I mean, I suppose I could pass on the complimentary sourdough and homemade butter, whipped into a unyielding dollop of slippery, salty, wanton fat, or perhaps plump for spring greens instead of potatoes dauphinoise, but…I don’t really want to. It’s not in the spirit of the enterprise. Going to a restaurant and ordering something you don’t want is like going to a brothel and paying to shag the dog.

So my new strategy is to try and eat out in places whose menus show a little more restraint. For instance, today is National Burger Day. Not three miles from my front door is an actual festival where people are giddily inhaling burgers at a rate of knots, and yet here I am, sat at home with a bowl of homemade lentil curry. (Which is all very well and good, but it’s not exactly a burger dunked in gravy, is it?) At the weekend I shall go out for dinner as a reward for my self-control and choose something a bit healthier. Like one of these.

My absolute favourite kind of healthy cuisine is Peruvian. This is because ceviche – fresh fish, cured in mouth-puckering lemon and/or lime juice – is one of the genuinely most delicious dishes in the world, and has absolutely bugger all fat in it. We make it at home sometimes when we can be arsed and once you’ve got hold of the fish (gotta be fishmonger-fresh) and removed all the bones it’s shamefully easy to make.

TryPachamama (£££), Lima (£££££), Lima Floral (£££), Ceviche (£££) and Andina (£££).

Although vegetarianism is becoming increasingly common in London, many restaurants still treat their meat-free dishes as a bit of an afterthought. But, there are many great veggie restaurants that make delicious, not-terrible-for-you plant-based food. Just avoid the ones fortified with copious quantities of cheese and job’s a good’un.

The Gate (£££), Mildred’s (££), Vanilla Black (£££). If you’re a true masochist you could try somewhere like Farmacy or Redemption, London’s only meat-free, dairy-free, alcohol-free restaurant and bar.

Okay, hummus is not really a diet food, though, like the avocado, the fat in it is the ‘good’ unsaturated kind. And you can dunk carrots in it, which are mega-healthy. (Say what you like about the Middle-East, they may be a bit shit on the human rights front but they are fantastic with dip.) There are also lots of interesting spices and really, really amazing aubergine dishes.

Bala Baya (££), Yalla Yalla (£), Ceru (££), Le Bab (££) and Doost (££).

Obviously not the neon orange, curryhouse kind. Proper Indian, infused with spices and heavy on the veg. There are bloody loads of these around at the moment, so you really have no excuse.

Try: Gunpowder (££), Hoppers (££), Gymkhana (££££), Dishoom (££), Benares (££££), Talli Joe (££), Cinnamon Collection (£££), Clove Club (££££) and Kricket (££).

I am an insufferable snob about sushi and sashimi, because the possibility of eating off raw fish makes me want to hurl. Nope, no nasty meal deal sushi for me, thanks, I am all about the posh stuff. Which is very expensive. Good for a special occasion (or if someone else is paying).

Try: Sumosan (£££££), Roka (£££££), Sushi Tetsu (£££), Dozo (£££) and UNI (££££ – this is a Peruvian/Japanese combo! Get the chilli mojito.)

Image credit: Sumosan
Finally, I’ve always thought London was a bit short on Thais, but a couple have popped up in the last year or two to great acclaim and the stuff is finally getting the attention it deserves.

Try: Kiln (£££), Som-Saa (£££).

Image credit: Som Saa

Author: Emily Gibson

Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.