Diet Dining – Under 500 Calories at the Park Plaza Sherlock Holmes:
Just before Christmas, knowing that most of us would be frantically trying to diet after the Holiday season, I contacted some PRs and asked for ideas for healthy eating and fitness. I was genuinely suprised to get a mail back suggesting that I might feature the new Fitness Menu at the Park Plaza Sherlock Holmes - under 500 calories for three courses.
So I asked nicely if I might try. There had to be a catch. I manage to cook some low calorie meals – and I do know that there are ‘better’ options on most standard menus. But, under 500 calories for three courses is quite an achievement unless the portion sizes are very small!
I’m going to reproduce the menu options in their entirety, simply because I am still amazed that it’s possible to have such a pleasant meal and keep under 500 calories.
To start, you can choose from wild mushroom and truffle soup or seared sashimi tuna with aubergine caviar and wasabi dressing.
I picked the wild mushroom and truffle soup. My dining companion meanwhile was selecting from the normal menu and chose butternut squash and chestnut soup.
He also ordered bread – which looked fabulous but which I dutifully ignored (although I did lapse and try the wine, a very pleasant new zealand sauvignon blanc…)
My soup was thick and rich with mushrooms, the aroma of truffle lifting the dish nicely. Mushroom soup is often full of cream, but this was stock based, giving the mushrooms a chance to star (as well as reducing the calories I suspect!).
There are three options for main courses – pan fried turkey escallops with braised Swiss chard, baby carrots and grain mustard sauce, roasted beef tomato and ratatouille nicoise with grilled halloumi cheese basil and pine nut or the grilled salmon fillet which I chose.
The salmon comes with celeriac remoulade, in this case dressed very lightly with a little oil and lemon, and with tiger prawns and cherry tomato dressing. The fish itself was great, not overcooked and very moist although the tips of the prawns were a little charred for me and the halves of cherry tomatoes seemed more like a garnish than a dressing. A little herb butter lifted the dish and you really wouldn’t have known it was part of a ‘fitness’ menu.
My companion’s snapper was a fine specimen, beautifully presented and pronounced tasty and fresh.
For dessert I opted for the marsala poached figs with vanilla flavoured ricotta cheese – there’s also a low calorie mango and raspberry mousse with chocolate sauce on the menu. While the figs themselves were fine, the ricotta didn’t work well for me and I’d have been happier with a little greek yoghurt. Perhaps that’s simply that where I’ve seen ricotta used in desserts in Italy it has been double sieved to give a really light creamy base. But still, a worthy attempt at producing a substantial dish.
My companion had fig upside down tart from the main menu which looked fabulous.
As I hope you can see from my photos, portion sizes are really not compromised, the food neither looks nor tastes like diet food and it compares very well to the regular menu. And, most important, I ended up feeling quite full and didn’t need to eat later in the day. So for me, a real success and excellent value for money at £18 for three courses and £15 for two. The Park Plaza Sherlock Holmes is on Baker Street, so a short walk from Oxford Street.
This is diet dining out without the angst. I simply couldn’t order an egg-white omelette or a plain green salad – for me dining out is a treat and the food needs to feel that way. Somehow the Park Plaza Sherlock Holmes have managed to achieve that with their fitness menu. It might be nice to see the calorie count for individual items and perhaps to have some side order options. But otherwise, for me this was a great concept with very little apparent compromise.
Do you know of any other restaurants with this type of menu? I have reviewed and enjoyed the food at The Anthologist, where there are skinny options on the menu for both food and cocktails – and tried low calorie pizzas. But in both cases, the calorie counts are limited to individual menu items and it’s very easy to wreck things with just one portion of ‘wrong’ food.
The Park Plaza Sherlock Holmes
108 Baker Street
Disclaimer: I dined as a guest of the restaurant