In our minds eating at a restaurant when you're on a diet = torture. It's a miserable experience. But when we heard that West London eaterie Sam's Brasserie has started offering a special January 5:2 menu, we were intrigued. After all, this diet (where you have 5 days 'off' from dieting, 2 days 'on') seems to be the the regimen du jour right now.
But can any eating establishment worth its sea salt come up with a three-course dinner for under 500 calories that doesn't taste like cardboard? Would the portions be so tiny we'd need a microscope to find them on our plates? And, more importantly, would they fill us up?
Purely in the name of research Grazia's Chrissy Amer volunteered to find out. What a trooper. >>
'I am a living, walking cliché. In December, I vowed to have drinks and/or dinner with everyone I know before the year was out (why do we do that?), took part in five official Christmas dinners and went bonkers at New Year. To complete the painfully predictable silly-season cycle, I am now on the 5:2 diet.
The hype around this diet has been hard to ignore but with the simple rule of eating five hundred calories two days a week and eating ‘normally’ for the other five, I thought I stood a chance of sticking with it. Folk approach fasting days differently; some save all their calories up to have a normal dinner at home with only herbal teas for distraction throughout the day, others are super organised and devise exciting low cal menus and the rest bumble their way through, somehow. The hunger can be quite overwhelming at times but the key is knowing tomorrow the rules don’t exist and if you’ve recruited any pals to join you (six and counting), they are only an email away to cheer you on. And the best thing? This diet is working.'
'I didn’t need asking twice to review Sam’s Brasserie, tucked behind Chiswick High Road, who are currently trialling a two and three course menu based on 5:2 recipes. The converted old industrial office space was bustling; trendy West Londonites sipping on post-work cocktails in the bar and most the tables taken in the restaurant. I was joined by two fellow 5:2’er chums who, like me, were intrigued to see if this offering could tick all the boxes.'
'We all opted for the chicken satay (117 kcals, pictured above) and this is where spirits dipped. It may well have been the hunger demons at work but the wait was painful with trays of Prosecco and wine being delivered to hooting tables, sizzling noises from the kitchen and not a skewer in sight. When it did arrive, the food was extremely flavoursome but looked small and diet-like which combined with the delay didn’t fill us with much hope. Oh, how we were wrong!'
'Next up, a huge mound of Wild Mushroom And Onion Stroganoff with Braised Puy Lentils (193 kcals, above). Our hearts were singing; a veggie meal that felt indulgent, packed with different varieties of mushrooms and onions and that seemed to go on forever. Forks regularly went down mid-meal for the next instalment of gossip and the dish was savoured within an inch of its’ life, garnish an’ all. The final course was a revelation - Champagne Granite with Blueberries (86 kcals), a posh, boozy slush puppy in a glass with fruit. It doesn’t sound inspired, but you have to trust me on this one, it was.'
'After a round of fresh mint teas delivered by our cheery waitress, our evening at Sam's was complete. We walked away with full, virtuous bellies and thrilled at the lack of deprivation we felt (satay-gate forgiven and forgotten) whilst accomplishing our sub 500 day.
Who said diets have to be miserable with flavours and portions like that? Sam, keep doing what you're doing and other restauranteurs take heed... '
Sam’s Brasserie, Barley Mow Centre, 11 Barley Mow Passage, Chiswick, W4 4PH
January set menu based on 5:2 diet recipes | Two courses £13.50 | Three Courses £16.50
Available Sunday – Thursday 6.30 – 7.30pm