From London’s most luxurious dairy- and gluten-free chocolate pudding to the hottest superfood breakfast in town – Healthista Eats blogger Charlotte Dormon gives us the lowdown of the best healthy restaurants around London
With winter setting in, our days of outdoor eating are long gone. Juices, salads and light dinners no longer seem tempting, and instead our food desires switch to more carbohydrate-rich, comforting, warming foods. This isn’t as worrying as you might think, as it’s just nature’s way of wanting us to keep warm.
In fact, many health experts say that it is normal for us to crave comfort food, as we need a little extra body fat in the winter to keep us warm
As long you don’t get lazy and keep up a good exercise routine, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to enjoy some heavier warming wintery meals without piling on the pounds. In fact, many health experts say that it is normal for us to crave these types of foods, as we need a little extra body fat in the winter to keep us warm, compared to our usual lean summer physique.
To celebrate the winter season setting in, I have been all over London finding Healthista readers great places to eat – from restaurants serving delicious gluten-free Italian lobster spaghetti, to knock-your-socks-off amazing dairy-free chocolate pudding, to the best of British cooking at a restaurant that has one of the most stunning panoramic views across our glorious city.
For some Healthista eating inspiration – here are my healthy picks for the week.
Breakfast – Superfood Porridge at Lima Floral, Covent Garden
Oat porridge, as most of us Healthistas already know, is very good way to start the day. And with the chilly mornings finally here, if you fancy stepping away from the blender and heating up your health routine, then a big warming bowl of it for brekkie can be most appealing. But why not mix it up a bit and try something different?
Lima Floral is a Peruvian restaurant located between Leicester Square and Covent Garden. They have a new breakfast menu, and knowing how much South Americans love their superfoods, I was keen to come and try it out to see if it could supercharge my morning.
As well as offering customers a traditional organic Scottish porridge option, Lima Floral has its own Andean porridge made using three types of South American super-grains: quinoa, kiwicha and kañiwa. The grains are soaked and cooked with almond milk, and served with chancaca syrup on the side. Wondering what Chancaca syrup is? It’s unrefined sugar syrup, which has a similar colour to a dark honey and has a yummy, nutty caramel type of taste. Peruvians use this as an alternative to unhealthy white refined sugar to sweeten their dishes.
These super-grains are all packed with protein, and are a good option for those with coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity, as they are all naturally gluten-free. They also contain a number of valuable nutrients, including vitamins and key minerals such as magnesium, calcium, phosphorus and manganese. All of these nutrients are highly beneficial at breakfast time, as the body uses them to convert the food we eat into energy.
Just like our Scottish oats, these grains also score well when it comes to their fibre content. Having good levels of fibre in grains gives them a lower GI (glycemic index), meaning they have less of an impact on your blood sugar and keep you feeling fuller for longer. Fibre also helps to promote healthy bacteria in the gut and gently cleanse and support your overall digestive system.
The dish is much lighter than regular oat porridge, yet managed to keep me full and satisfied for hours after eating it.
Despite already being happy with the health credentials of this dish, I was really pleased that it tasted good as well. It was perfect timing too, as I was looking for something different to eat out, as a change from my usual poached egg and avocado combo. Having a lovely warm bowl of creamy almond milk porridge is not only so good for you, but such a pleasure to eat. The dish is much lighter than regular oat porridge, yet managed to keep me full and satisfied for hours after eating it.
As well as the porridge, Lima’s breakfast menu also includes organic yoghurt with eucalyptus and chia seeds, blueberry pancakes, and Peruvian eggs frittata.
Lima has a relaxed atmosphere, with a laid back and casual dining style. It would work well for a social breakfast, or business meeting. The location is ideal if you need to head in early to avoid the crowds for some Christmas shopping, as it’s just a moment’s walk from all the best shops in Covent Garden.
Find Lima Floral at: 14 Garrick St, London WC2E 9BJ
Lunch – Gluten-free Italian lobster spaghetti at Ostuni, Queens Park
Italian food is one of the most popular dining out options in the UK, but can often be difficult for those of us avoiding cheese, wheat and gluten.
I’m a big fan of pasta in the winter, so was pleased when earlier this year I moved to north-west London and discovered that Ostuni – one of this area’s most sought-after Italian restaurants – serves all of their pasta menu with the option of gluten-free.
Ostuni is packed out every weekend. For this reason I very nearly didn’t write this review, as it’s almost impossible to get a table here on a Saturday. But I just couldn’t keep it a secret from you any longer, as I know how annoying it is to sit watching your friends happily tucking into garlic bread, pasta and pizzas whilst those of us on a gluten-free diet poke our fork around some boring grilled chicken and a few rocket leaves – it’s just no fun at all! So with this in mind, I thought it was about time to introduce you to my local Italian.
The husband and wife owners only ever greeted us with huge smiles and big hugs, treating us more like long-lost cousins than customers
I’m going to get to the point soon about the gluten-free pasta, but I just need to share the following information with you so you understand more about why I adore pasta and Italian food so much.
I’ve always been interested in good food, and when I was growing up there was a wonderful Italian restaurant called Angelo’s at the end of our road. I loved this restaurant so much, as did all my friends and family. Their food was faultless, and the atmosphere electric. The husband and wife owners only ever greeted us with huge smiles and big hugs, treating us more like long-lost cousins than customers who had just arrived for a meal. Angelo’s made eating out seriously good fun – it literally vibrated with happiness from the sheer pleasure of everyone enjoying it so much. For many years, I had birthday parties, family gatherings and first dates there, and used just about every excuse possible to eat there until I left home.
So, in summary, eating Italian food is complete nostalgia for me. It makes me feel instantly happy and reminds me of some of the best memories from my childhood. It also shows what a difference it makes when you see people (Italians in particular) that have such a passion and pleasure for their cuisine.
So, let’s get back to the present. At weekends, after my fiancé Oliver and I have done our usual trips to the gym (him) and yoga studio (me) and done the boring household chores, we love to lunch. As we both spend a lot of time working in central London, we usually keep it local when it comes to eating out at the weekend. Ostuni (our local Italian) is one of London’s first authentic Italian restaurants dedicated to the cuisine of the Puglia region. And as well as wonderful food – just like the restaurant from my childhood – it also has a fantastic vibrant atmosphere that I love.
one of my all-time ‘to-die-for’ dishes – Lobster Spaghetti – is on the menu and available as gluten-free
For the last ten years, I have followed a gluten-free diet (for health reasons), so being able to eat pasta out, as I mentioned previously, was rare. But now one of my all-time ‘to-die-for’ dishes – Lobster Spaghetti – is on the menu and available as gluten-free. So if you like to eat lobster, you’ll love this meal. All ingredients used are excellent quality (the lobster is only available when in season) and the taste of the rich garlicky tomato sauce with the fresh lobster smothered over the pasta is sensational.
Ostuni is a fun place to come, whether you’re on a date, or with a group of family or friends. The ‘high-vibe’ Italian party atmosphere is what makes this place so special. From the moment you sit down your mood is lifted and you’re feeling upbeat and ready for weekend.
Find Ostuni at: 43-45 Lonsdale Road, NW6
Dinner- Birthday dinner at the top of a skyscraper – SkyGarden, Fenchurch Street
I love London at night. So for my birthday, I wanted to enjoy a dinner with a difference, and booked a table for the family at SkyGarden on 20 Fenchurch Street. Also known as the ‘Walkie-Talkie building’, 20 Fenchurch Street is one of London’s tallest skyscrapers, and offers guests a drinking and dining experience with a 360-degree uninterrupted view across the City of London.
On arrival, I was excited to get into the lift to head up to the 37th floor of this skyscraper to drink a glass of champagne whilst overlooking my favourite city. My only apprehension was that the food might not be up to scratch. Often I find that these types of venues can be more geared towards tourists who want to head in for a bite to eat and tick some sightseeing off their list. So, although the menu looked great, I did not go with high expectations.
Once we reached the top, we walked out the lift and our jaws dropped. We all stared wide-eyed out of the glass, completely overwhelmed at just how magical the view was around us. It was more breathtaking that we could have imagined, and being here made us all realise just how mighty this city is that we live in.
the emphasis is on using sustainable and locally sourced ingredients, serving fish, meat and vegetables that are fresh and in season
After we had done our wander around, taking pictures like hyperactive tourists, we went and sat down at our table at the Fenchurch restaurant for dinner.
The restaurant was smart, modern and sexy, and from the moment we sat down the service was outstanding. The restaurant offers a contemporary British menu, with an emphasis on using sustainable and locally sourced ingredients, serving fish, meat and vegetables that are fresh and in season.
When I eat out, I take my time to look at what a restaurant has to offer and whether it’s suitable to be reviewed for Healthista Eats. Often it comes down to the restaurant serving something that’s hard to find elsewhere – like vegetarian, organic, gluten or dairy-free – or serving exceptionally healthy food compared to others in the category. I’m also concerned about sustainability of the ingredients sourced, especially when it comes to seafood and fish. So apart from the beautiful setting, one of the reasons I chose Fenchurch was the fact that this restaurant also makes the effort to ‘support British’ and care about the quality and source of the ingredients in their meals.
Healthy eating is about giving your body what it needs to feel good.
Healthy eating does not have to mean only eating green salads and avoiding gluten, sugar or dairy. Healthy eating is about choosing the most nutrient-dense foods and giving your body what it needs to feel good. It’s also about picking the good restaurants from the bad, and being able to able to navigate a menu and know what you should – or shouldn’t – be choosing. And in my experience, if the restaurant can’t answer questions about where they source their fish or meat – and this is something that concerns you – then it may be worth rethinking. I would consider myself a conscious diner, and where my food comes from is important to me.
My birthday meal was by no means a let-down when compared to the view that had wowed us here. The food was full of flavour, with a selection of mouthwatering sauces that highlighted the great taste of the wonderful British ingredients.
Each of us was bowled over by the dish we had chosen.
For starters my mum and I had a dozen Jersey Rock oysters, my dad had the chopped mackerel, pickled cockles, sea herbs and oyster cream, and my fiancé Oliver went for warm smoked Lincolnshire eel with cucumber, horseradish and dill. Each of us was bowled over by the dish we had chosen. Although both mum and I have a fair amount of oyster-eating experience (one of her favourite foods), we thought the Jersey Rocks were exceptional in taste and texture and had a unique creaminess that I had not experienced before. The boys also loved their fish starters, both agreeing how impressive it was to find chefs being brave enough put traditional ingredients like cockles and eel on their menu.
For our mains, I had the line-caught sea bass with mussels, seaweed and artichokes (below); Mum had the Dover sole with brown shrimps, capers and samphire (above); Dad had loin and sausage of venison with pickled red cabbage, pear and juniper; and Oliver the Goodwood rib eye, served with cauliflower and heritage carrots. Once again, just like the starters, each of us admired the dish we had selected, praising the chefs for creating something with such a delicious taste and all so beautifully presented.
We finished our meal with teas and coffees, and savoured the last moments by sitting back and soaking up the stunning view of London around us.
Fenchurch at SkyGarden is wonderful place to enjoy a birthday, or any special occasion. We all thought the service was exceptional and the food fantastic.
Find Fenchurch Restaurant at: 20 Fenchurch Street, London, EC3M 3BY.
Something naughty for the weekend – dairy & gluten-free chocolate pudding – Indigo restaurant, One Aldwych
Anyone who knows me well knows that chocolate is a serious part of my life – and knows that I’m one person they can trust to tell them where to get their hands on some of the really good stuff.
I have spent years seeking out London’s most luxurious chocolate shops to locate the best-quality dark chocolate, truffles, hot chocolates and anything else chocolatey you could dream of eating.
One of the hardest things to find has always been a decent London restaurant that serves a dairy-free chocolate dessert. So often the chocolate puddings are loaded up with milk or cream and are therefore totally unsuitable for those avoiding lactose or dairy products.
I have spent years seeking out London’s most luxurious chocolate shops
Then along came a man called Dominic Teague (below), head chef at Indigo restaurant at One Aldwych hotel. He decided that those living a life with an allergy or intolerance to gluten, lactose or dairy should not miss out on enjoying a gorgeous chocolate pudding. Who is this Dominic chef, I wondered, when I started to research this. Is he some special chocolate pudding-making angel that has been sent to me from heaven? Maybe he was vegan? In my experience only vegan restaurants created dairy-free chocolate puddings that vegans could enjoy. If not, why would this chef make such an effort?
I looked into his credentials and it seemed Dominic had a lot of experience on the fine-dining London food scene, having begun his career as an apprentice at the Lanesborough Hotel. From 2000 he worked at Marco Pierre White’s L’Escargot where he was Executive Chef, before leading the kitchen at the Sandy Lane Hotel in Barbados. But what made Dominic decide to make this dairy and gluten-free chocolate delight was the fact that his mother was lactose intolerant and his wife could not eat gluten. After finding this out, I knew that this chocolate pudding was a sign of love. Dominic clearly wanted to make something that he knew his wife and mother would adore, along with the rest of us who generally miss out on chocolate treats.
What made chef Dominic Teague decide to make this dairy and gluten-free chocolate delight was the fact that his mother was lactose intolerant and his wife could not eat gluten
The other Saturday afternoon I made a date with a friend Anna to join me for the chocolate pudding extravaganza I had waited for most of my life. I was only used to trying raw chocolate puddings in my usual chilled hippy vegan hangouts, so was looking forward to having a fine-dining chocolate experience that afternoon.
The One Aldwych hotel building on the Strand where Indigo located is smart and sophisticated. The main bar area, before you head upstairs to the restaurant, is covered is a lavish glossy marble floor and adorned with giant vases of fresh flowers and decadent furnishings. It was full of well-dressed women enjoying glasses of wine and cocktails, and certainly looked like a nice location to spend an afternoon.
After sitting down and a drinking a refreshing non-alcoholic raspberry fruit cocktail, Anna and I were served our Amedei chocolate mousse, honeycomb and almond milk ice cream.
It was simply heaven on a plate. The mousse had all the best things you could want in a pudding – some crunchy biscuit and honeycomb bits, and creamy, rich, dense chocolate mousse, topped with cooling ice cream and a thin piece of chocolate to bite on. All of this was free from dairy and gluten, yet tasted so incredibly good that I doubt anyone who wasn’t actively avoiding lactose would even notice it didn’t contain any milk or cream.
All I need to say is this. For those who love chocolate but don’t love dairy, please visit Indigo immediately. And Dominic, if you get to read this review, then I congratulate you and thank you for pushing the boundaries and stepping out of the catering comfort zone, by making a pudding that I and many of our Healthista readers can now go out and enjoy.
Find Indigo at: One Aldwych Hotel London WC2B 4BZ
CHARLOTTE DORMON is our Healthista Eats blogger. She’s not a chef, or even that much of a cook. If it’s recipes you’re looking for – you’re in the wrong place. But whether it’s Sunday lunch or Friday night cocktails, she’s the one friends and family turn to when they want to know how to eat out and be relatively healthy. Each week she’ll now be bringing you the same insider knowledge. We’ll drink – and eat – to that. Follow Charlotte on Twitter @ and Instagram healthyeatslondon