Restaurant review: We check out Slim's Healthy Kitchen
Slim’s Healthy Kitchen: 429-431 Lisburn Road, Belfast. Tel: 028 9508 8011
Early last year, the adviser and I suffered a kind of collective meltdown. The crisis was sparked by a visit to Slim's Healthy Kitchen on Belfast's Lisburn Road, a restaurant whose implied unique selling-point was weight-loss.
I cried at the time that the people of Ulster had suffered enough, that such an abomination should never have been given planning permission and, wise up for God's sake, restaurants should be dens of excess where the last thing on anybody's mind is health.
We didn't actually have a meal in the place, but ordered, and this is where the meltdown must have happened, a weekly home meal plan each. That's right, five lunches and dinners, one for each day of the week.
You collected the first three days' worth early on Monday and the rest on Thursday morning. For £50, you got two high-protein meals, or £35 for one daily meal. There was also a more-carbs plan for £60 for two meals, or £40 for one meal five times a week.
What's more, picking up on a Monday and stuffing the fridge with three days of meals brought other benefits. For instance, it created a very sturdy framework around which to base our new, disciplined approach to eating.
No snacks, no raiding the fridge for random eats. When you know you have two square meals to go with, you're far less prone to temptation.
But the joy of this apparent culinary straight-jacket is that the food was very good and at no point did it approach the kind of ground those hideous "low-fat" and "low-cal" pre-packs occupy in supermarkets.
We kept at it for a few weeks and then slowly came to our senses, slipped back into old routines, largely because our lives are actually not routine enough and meals get skipped from time to time, rendering the exercise wasteful and uneconomical. Our meltdown was over. But it left a lingering, mellow desire for food that's good and good for you.
Slim's are currently reviewing those meal plans and are due to be available again soon, but in the meantime the four of us took a trip back to the place, this time to sit down and eat in.
The adviser and one daughter had been in the previous week and raved about the Thai chicken curry and the steak wrap.
Slim's menu is not what you expect. All the healthy stuff is there, of course: fresh grass, leaves and kale juice. I'm joking about the grass and leaves, but they do actually serve kale juice and a raft of superfoods and salads.
But they also have wine and beer, burgers, chips, peri peri roast chicken to make Nando's weep and that Thai curry which would stand any test between here and Chiang Mai.
The flavours in everything are amplified somehow: the chicken tastes like no other and the accompanying fiery sauce is beautifully judged; the sweet potato fries have a micro-layer of something like a tempura making them brittly crispy, the steak wrap is a masterclass of execution (and not a sloppy, lazy, dribbly thing fobbed off as street food). Absolutely everything on the table is a joy to eat and even the gluten-free beer is a surprise.
The restaurant itself is a bit like the inside of a greenhouse, where the gardener has introduced a dairy with cattle pens and painted some of them white and not bothered with others.
It's a nice mix of bare timber, faux tree trunks and big low booths. The servers are so cool one might even take a seat beside you to take your order.
And it's very, very busy. Be prepared to queue at peak times (maximum wait 20 minutes), because it seems the entire south Belfast beau monde turn up for lunch in stain-free tracksuits to let on its the vitamins, fibre and protein fixes they're after.
But if you can get there when they open at 7am for breakfast (8am on Saturdays), you'll find it habit-forming and hard to keep away.
Steak wrap £7.95
Chicken wrap £6.95
Thai curry £9.95
Peri Peri chicken (½) £8.95
Sweet potato fries (x2) £7.00
Celia beer £4.75
Red wine glass £4.50
Diet Coke £2.50
Sparkling water £1.95
Avocado salad £3.50
Green salad £3.50