“Imagine a restaurant where you can dine on the finest food, created by an award-winning chef, and leave having burnt off every calorie consumed in the sitting…”
So a few weeks ago I stumbled across a concept that was being advertised on Twitter. Miele, a family owned and run company that specialises in the manufacturer of high-end domestic appliances , commercial equipment and kitchens, would be, for one day only, opening up a pop up restaurant in Covent Garden called Steam. This wouldn’t be just any pop-up restaurant. This would be a Calorie Neutral restaurant. How fantastic! And so I applied to make a reservation for this special experience, and you know what? I managed to get one. My confirmation email made for interesting reading, and made me all the more excited about my chance to try out this concept.
“Calorie-neutral doesn’t mean you will just be nibbling on lettuce leaves and sipping water. Miele has teamed up with the award-winning Head Chef at The Boundary, Frederick Forster, to ensure that each and every foodie at this exclusive dining experience is served a meal that oozes with flavour.
The interactive quality of Steam is what gives it its calorie-neutral status. Whilst dining, customers will participate in a number of activities to ensure they offset their calorie footprint. From taking part in stretching classes to aid digestion, to completing dining workouts whilst sitting on vibrating seatpads in order to increase calorie burn, ‘steamees’ will certainly experience a dining extravaganza like no other.”
And so, on the 13th March, my flatmate Josh and I headed to this ‘one day only’ restaurant hidden down Grape Street in Covent Garden. We walked in and were greeted with a glass of hot green tea. This is to motivate your metabolism and get those calories burnt faster. After a quick introduction we were taken downstairs into a work out area where we took part in a 30 minute exercise class; a combination of Yoga and Pilates which were designed to get the muscles working and our cores motivated. I’ve never tried Yoga or Pilates before, other than some ‘at home’ YouTube classes which were rarely completed to the standard a class instructor would have expected. They’re both much harder than they look, to say the least, especially for someone with as poor balance as me! – I had worked up a mild sweat within 20 minutes and felt ready to begin my dinner by the end of the session.
We returned upstairs where we were talked to about the chef that would be preparing and cooking our dishes within one of Miele’s new steam ovens. Frederick Forster who was voted National Chef of the Year had an aim which was to prove that “healthy food can be tasty too.” I think it is safe to say he achieved this.
However the exercise wasn’t over yet. Our small group of seven guests sat down at one large table together, and were each provided with a pillow on our seats that individually heated and vibrated. For those of you who may have had previous experience with Vibro-plates (a reasonably new piece of high-tec gym equipment) you may already know that small vibrations can do a lot of good to an individuals muscle toning and calorie burning, and so these great little pillows allowed us to continue ‘working out’ whilst we ate our meal! As well as this, there was the option to partake in some more playful calorie burning activities in-between courses, such as some boxing and ping pong! My kind of exercise! We were firstly served ice cold water – an obvious choice of non-calorific beverage and a good way to boost calorie burning, and this was followed by our first course.
Quail Egg Cocotte with Mushroom & Leek Fondue (75kcal)
I don’t eat eggs on a regular basis and so in a restaurant this would normally be a dish I would avoid ordering, however the small portion was lovely, and the Mushroom & Leek Fondue (you hear fondue, you expect cheese… No. Mild disappointment for me right there!) was full of flavour. I didn’t know you could steam eggs! I guess that just gives me another method in which I can cock up an omelette!
Scallop & Chorizo Brochette with Cucumber & Ginger Dressing (95kcal)
I adore scallops; they’re one of my favourite things in the world. But the problem with this dish is I love my scallops to be pan fried in a pool of butter, and obviously the healthy aspect of this meal didn’t allow for this to be the case. However, this dish was still lovely, and the chorizo was gorgeous and juicy which is how I like it. The dressing complimented the flavours well too and had the scallops been fried in butter this could have been my favourite dish of the night.
Prawn Stuffed Lemon Sole with Herb Butter Sauce (135kcal)
This was my favourite dish of the night, and i’m not normally one to really love fish dishes when I eat out. The sole itself was beautifully tender and flaked away with the fork effortlessly, and the prawn stuffing was full of flavour which worked really well with the sole. The herb butter sauce was a nice treat and brought the whole dish together really well. I resisted the urge to have seconds though through fear of having to do more exercise to off-set it all! I think this was a dish designed for a steam oven. Delicious!
Beef Fillet with Beansprout Salad (131kcal)
This was a popular dish for the whole table. When you think of steaming you’d never really consider using that technique for red meat, would you? But it really worked. It was still wonderfully medium/rare (just how I like it) and the accompanying vegetables still had that great crunch to them which was great. It all had an overall taste which reminded me of a stir-fry which was lovely.
Banana Cake with Confit Pineapple and Crème Chantilly (less than 137kcl)
Who knew cake and cream could be almost healthy!? This tasty two-bite pudding really benefitted from being cooked in a steam oven – the flavours were strong and the cake itself was moist (I hate that word, but table discussion couldn’t come up with a better alternative… soggy doesn’t have a tempting ring to it, does it?!) The small square of pineapple added a juicy zing to the dish as a whole, and the crème chantilly gave the whole plate a more luxurious (and almost naughty) element – but yet it was still wonderfully low in calories.
Overall I really enjoyed the experience of this pop-up restaurant. Whilst not completely sold on the idea of steaming all of my food (see above opinion on scallops!) I loved the idea that more foods could be made healthy by this alternative cooking method. In addition, I thought the exercise class that preceded the meal was fantastic, and I think the entire concept of a neutral calorie restaurant would work brilliantly within cities such as L.A, New York and London where individual health and image are key. I think this is the kind of concept London missing (at the moment it’s a bit too preoccupied with gourmet fast food!) and maybe if this concept became a better known, the whole nation might become a little bit more aware of how to stay healthy and offset any calories we take in on a day to day basis. It’s really not difficult, and to be honest, it’s just simple common sense. I’m glad Miele have been able to utilise their products to start making healthy food more exciting.