The most testing time when trying to live the low-carb high-protein (LCHP) lifestyle is when you eat out.
Not only is it bad etiquette to substitute ingredients, but some eateries just stubbornly resist trying to indulge the LCHP-conscious among us, hoping the fad will pass.
The result is that, barring the café at my local gym with its overpriced menu and bland healthy food, I had given up on ever trying to eat clean when eating out. Well, that was the case until I visited new eatery The Grove Green Café on the corner of 4th and 7th avenues in Parktown North for lunch.
Being a fan of cafés, I was curious enough to investigate. The Grove Green Café is conspicuously and creatively branded, making it hard to miss when driving along 7th avenue. I didn’t struggle to find parking inside the premises, possibly because it was a quiet day. There were only two other patrons, dining together, when I arrived.
What struck me as soon as I entered was the consciously healthy menu on display on the wall behind the cashier. On offer were quinoa salads, bunless burgers, smoothies and fresh fruit and vegetable juices. This is LCHP heaven, I thought, as the mantras all around the eatery began to register in my consciousness: “eat well, train hard”, “natural ingredients”, “low carbs”, “guilt-free”, and the best one: “flourless, sugarless cheat snacks” (above desserts).
Their order-and-pay-upfront policy is a bit off-putting, reminding me of a fast food chain, but efficient nonetheless, and I decided to have a roasted chicken quinoa salad and a cappuccino. As soon as I sat down at an outdoor table, I began to second-guess my choice. We seem to be skipping autumn and going straight to winter in Johannesburg, and it didn’t seem like salad weather. Luckily, service was prompt and courteous, so it wasn’t long before my cappuccino – a good judgment call – arrived.
While warming myself with my drink, I scanned the printed menu again to see if there weren’t any winter-friendly dishes like soups or healthy veg stews served with brown or cauliflower rice. Nada.
But barely 10 minutes later, my order arrived. A sky-high serving of quinoa with shredded roasted chicken, tomatoes, baked sweet potato, almonds, kale, caramelised onion and cucumber. I was taken aback that the servings were so gargantuan for such reasonable prices. My salad and cappuccino together cost me R100 – very un-Parktown North prices, not that I’m complaining.
The salad was quite simply delicious. And as intimidating as its size was when it first landed on my table, it went down so quickly I even forgot it was cold. With two-thirds of my meal demolished, I decided to have the rest as a takeaway.
My thoughts were still tantalised by the “flourless, sugarless cheat snacks” manifesto above the desserts menu, however, so I decided to go back to the counter to order another cappuccino (R20) and a dark chocolate pecan brownie cake (R20). It turned out to be a masterful feat of health-conscious culinary expertise. Not only did it look great on the plate, garnished with nuts and glazed with what I assume is honey, but it tasted phenomenal. While this treat might not appeal to those with a traditional sweet tooth, I really appreciated the density of texture and wholesomeness of flavour delivered by the rolled oats and extra-dark chocolate-based dessert.
I see myself going back there to try out their bunless burgers. I sure do love a good patty, and theirs promise to deliver on taste without the distraction of a bread bun to obfuscate flavour. Their cappuccinos are also pleasant: served in large cups, they’re reasonably priced enough for me to consider making The Grove Green Café my regular lunchtime haunt.
*The title of this article originally mentioned banting; however, The Grove Green does not subscribe to the banting diet. The cafe focuses on ‘fit food’, serving low-carb, high-protein meals with no refined sugars.