Food, Top Feature

Why we’re getting healthy…ish

Forget ‘free-from’ fads. Healthy Eating 2.0 is all about tasty, indulgent wholefood dishes, as championed by our food committee member Melissa Hemsley

Five years ago, who would have predicted that we’d all be eating black kale for lunch? Or that you’d be able to walk into any branch of Starbucks and order a turmeric latte?

The recent craze for virtuous living might seem at odds with Soho House chefs’ relentless focus on flavour, but books such as Eat Happy by the cook and writer Melissa Hemsley show how the movement has evolved from “cleanses” and unrealistic diets to focusing on dishes such as pizza omelettes or chocolatey “happiness balls” that are delicious, satisfying and good for you too.

This way of eating is about rejecting labels, but some have called it “healthy-ish”: Condé Nast’s food magazine Bon Appétit dedicated an issue to the concept and food writer Lindsay Maitland Hunt has published a Healthyish cookbook (sample dish: single-serving chocolate and peanut butter cookie).

Food writers such as Yotam Ottolenghi and “deliciously” Ella Woodward helped to popularise vegetarian cooking, but today’s time-poor cooks require snappier and more recognisable recipes, says Maitland Hunt. “Extremes have been used by people to solve problems for so long, but nowadays with Instagram and 24-hour media I think we have this feeling of being overwhelmed by trying to be so rigid. Healthyish is resonating because people are wanting to do something that’s real and feels good.”

Soho House is ahead of the trend, says Hemsley, who as a member of the food committee has championed the introduction of more vegetables and fruit on our club menus. “Eating at Soho House should be an indulgence but when a lot of members eat here three times a day it’s not about flat-iron chicken and espresso Martinis all the time,” she says. “We want our food to look and taste amazing, but you’ve also got to be able to move afterwards.”

Chefs are relishing the challenge of developing unforgettably delicious dishes that are packed with goodness – from cookies made with antioxidant-rich coffee flour to mushroom lattes and vegetable carpaccio. “You don’t want to compromise on taste. We smoke the beets for our beet tartare and it tastes even more amazing than beef tartare,” says Andrea Cavaliere, executive chef, North America.

Based in West Hollywood, Andrea has witnessed the shift towards healthier eating first hand. “It’s not really a trend, but a way of life – something big is happening. People want to be healthy but they also care about the environment and pollution. That’s why we’re seeing this direction towards plant-based alternatives to meat. Our guests want everything they put in their mouth to be good for them, taste amazing and be good for the planet too.”

The numbers back him up: veganism is the number one health trend in the US, while one in four dinners eaten in the UK are now vegan or vegetarian. That makes plant-based food startups the hot investments right now, with Leonardo DiCaprio joining Bill Gates in backing Beyond Meat, whose “bleeding” beetroot veggie burgers are popping up in diners and stores across the States.

While there’s plenty of innovation going on, many of the health foods that the Instagram generation is obsessing over are as old as the hills. In reviving ingredients like quinoa, avocados, poke, kimchi, kombucha and sauerkraut we are looking to our ancestors’ style of cooking in our quest for longevity. And the rise of “healthyish” eating shows that we are finally falling back on the simple, yet surprisingly elusive idea that our grandparents lived by: balance.

“It’s a boring word, but it’s the thing,” says Hemsley. “You don’t have to label yourself vegan or vegetarian or gluten free – healthyish is about whatever makes you feel good.” In other words,
if you want to forget it all and have a beer and a burger on a Saturday night, that’s fine too.

Words: Chloe Lambert

Healthyish dishes around the Houses
Soho House Barcelona: 
Beetroot gnocchi, mató cheese, poppy seeds Electric House: Salmon, cauliflower, romanesco, orange, crème fraîche Soho House Istanbul: Grain bowl with lentil, kale, grated feta Babington House: Rice noodles, sprouting broccoli, green curry yoghurt Soho House West Hollywood: Sea bream tacos, blue corn, black garlic, pineapple, pickled onion, serrano chillies
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