Healthy eat­ing is a con­cept that many of us pay lip ser­vice to, but there can be no ex­cuses for not put­ting it to the test in this new Belfast out­let

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - FOOD -

Freshii, the fast health food chain, has popped up on the corner of Done­gall Square and Welling­ton Place, all lush, glow­ing and green. It was only a mat­ter of time be­fore some­body would take the con­cept of healthy eat­ing se­ri­ously and pro­vide the punter with quick and easy ac­cess to fast raw food.

Slim’s Healthy Kitchen ap­peared to of­fer pre­cisely this, but (thank the stars) they were also wise to the fact that peo­ple would al­ways reach for a burger and chips, as long as they were on the menu hid­den among the bul­gar wheat, kale crisps and veg­e­tar­ian curry. So while you might look vir­tu­ous eat­ing in Slim’s it may be that you’re not eat­ing that healthily.

Un­for­tu­nately, and not a lit­tle em­bar­rass­ingly, as soon as any­one men­tions the two words “healthy” and “eat­ing” in one sen­tence, I can­not pre­vent the curl­ing of the up­per lip or say­ing rude things. It just seems wrong to present food which be­longs in a phar­macy, a trough or a hospi­tal ICU as an en­joy­able al­ter­na­tive to the cooked stuff we usu­ally pre­fer.

I keep away from salad bars and those peo­ple who eat whole­some Tup­per­ware lunches they made the night be­fore (I can sense the ad­viser growl­ing — she does it all the time) be­cause while these meals may pro­vide nu­tri­tion and en­ergy they also of­fer the op­po­site of com­fort and joy.

Call me a he­do­nist, but eat­ing should al­ways be a joy and we should be grate­ful for it.

This in­tol­er­ant po­si­tion re­cently slapped me in the face, how­ever, re­mind­ing me that I was wrong and that healthy food could be a joy af­ter all. Raw Food Re­bel­lion (now called some­thing else) and Tony and Jen’s, both on the Lis­burn Road in Belfast, pro­vide out­stand­ing food. In the case of Raw Food Re­bel­lion, the ve­gan of­fer was just as en­joy­able as any of the more sin­ful deep-fried things I’ve eaten out of a news­pa­per and poly­styrene con­tainer af­ter a Fri­day night out. Now en­ter Freshii, which has com­mer­cialised the genre more than any­one else. Although not strictly veg­e­tar­ian (there are op­tional add-ons to dishes in­clud­ing beef, chicken and tuna) the cor­po­rate feel of the brand­ing, the glass chill counter and the price lists, all give off a slight whiff of Five Guys and Bub­bacue. White tiles and dark wood pan­elling mix pleas­antly with bistro fur­ni­ture in the sur­pris­ingly in­ti­mate, hig­gledy pig­gledy lay out of the din­ing ar­eas. The Belfast out­let seems to at­tract more of­fice work­ers than young ones. But it’s only a mat­ter of time be­fore par­ents of teenagers will de­mand to see Freshii re­ceipts prov­ing that they didn’t spend their pocket money on a filthy burger and ate healthily in­stead.

And eat healthily they will should they ever darken the door of this place. It’s all kale, quinoa, corn and car­rots and plenty in between. While the alu­minium chill trays look not un­like the kind of thing you’d see be­hind glass in a Sub­way, they are all filled with brown rice, broc­coli, toma­toes, black beans cheese, av­o­cado and the like. These will go into the bur­rito you or­der, or the bowls, the sal­ads or wraps. Ef­fec­tively, kale and quinoa form the foun­da­tions of most of their boxed meals. Even the soups will fea­ture kale or quinoa or both.

To the unini­ti­ated, it can be a bit daunt­ing. The screens above the counter keep chang­ing so just when you thought you’d learned off by heart the con­tents of the Bud­dha’s Sa­tay bowl (rice noo­dles, crispy lentils, car­rots, broc­coli, cab­bage, green onions and peanut sauce), it switches to an­other item. But menus are at hand and you can just or­der pre-de­ter­mined meals from it.

The in­gre­di­ents are good qual­ity. A Mediter­ranean bowl is packed with quinoa, salad HEALTHY OP­TION: greens, Kala­mata olives, chopped red onions, feta, cu­cum­bers, roast red pep­pers, toma­toes, co­rian­der, al­monds and a red pep­per sauce. Lit­tle sign of the sauce meant reach­ing for the Sriracha bot­tle poised on each table. Whole­some but a bit bland, crunchy but not hugely tasty, my re­liance on the Sriracha ended up with sting­ing red lips. I can still feel the throb­bing.

None­the­less, it’s hard to knock this. The price is good for the fresh­ness and abun­dance of what you re­ceive. It will take some trial and er­ror be­fore I get the mix right, but on first im­pres­sions, it’s not bad at all. And you will feel very smug and de­lighted with your­self for hav­ing eaten so healthily. It’s like a gym for your mouth. Mediter­ranean bowl ...................... £7.95 Added chicken ................................. £1.00 San Pel­le­grino ................................. £1.35 To­tal ................................................ £10.30

Freshii, on the corner of Done­gall Square and Welling­ton Place

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