funky, sexy and oriental Following all those festive feasts, a visit to a health-conscious ca

Following all those festive feasts, a visit to a health-conscious café would seem the right thing to do – but what to do about the hunger pangs Itsu, 70 St John s Wood High Street, NW8 Telephone 020-7586 7475 Food: Five star

funky, sexy and oriental

Following all those festive feasts,

a visit to a

health-conscious café would seem the right thing


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to do - but what to do about the

hunger pangs

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Itsu, 70 St John's Wood High Street, NW8

Telephone 020-7586 7475

Food: Five star rating:

Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 11.30am to 9pm, Sunday noon to 9pm.

Cost: Lunch for two with drinks approximately £10 per head.

I've only just returned from lunch and I'm not entirely sure but I might just be hungry again. Either something to do with the increased stomach capacity I created over the festive season, or the fact that calorie intake was (smugly) on the low side.

I dined at Itsu, a fairly recent addition to the smart, shiny outlets lining the chi-chi High Street in St John's Wood. The name will be familiar to you. Alexander Litvenenko apparently ate his last meal at its Piccadilly branch before succumbing to polonium poisoning. Itsu's staff have a clean bill of health. But the branch closed and is due to reopen later this year.

Ironically, the flurry of (unwelcome) publicity gave Itsu a certain notoriety just before opening its first New York branch in December. The company has 11 London restaurants, mainly in the City, Canary Wharf and West End, areas with large concentrations of high net worth, time-deficient individuals.

This Japanese-style fast food outlet was perfect for a healthy early January, conscious-salving meal, and an obvious choice for my "getting to know you" lunch with Bridget Galton, this paper's features editor.

If you're going to fit in on St John's Wood High Street you've got to be a bit glam. Itsu's definitely that, with square black wood tables, cool white bench seats and stools and shocking pink and white-patterned oversized pendant lampshades. The walls are clad in black Japanese-style framework, in-filled with plain white or subtly coloured photos of trees and flowers. It's funky, sexy and oriental.

The food is kept in refrigerated or heated units and at the tills. At 1pm - the height of the lunchtime rush - some items were low. But it all looked fresh, clean and colourful. Many are labelled with their (smugly minimal) calorie content - a definite plus and a must if you're plying your trade to the ladies and gentlemen of this high street.

We chose a broad spread of dishes to share and helped ourselves to drinks from the chiller machines. At the tills, friendly staff totted up our bill and helpfully created room for us at one of the almost fully occupied tables.

The food tasted as good as it looked. The yellow fin tuna maki roll was neatly packaged in a clear plastic roll. Sushi rice coated in finely cut chives surrounded perfectly fresh tuna and crunchy green beans.

The alliteratively named sesame seared salmon salad was colourfully eye-catching and split into four sections. There was a row of pinky-coloured salmon slices coated in sesame seeds, another of shiny, deep green wakame (seaweed) next to one of ruby-coloured glistening pomegranate seeds mixed with creamy-coloured, toasted coconut curls and finally, a pile of bright, spring green muki beans.

Underneath were peppery rocket and rice noodles. We dressed it with the pot of chilli dressing provided. It was fresh, clean and virtuous. Our only complaint was that the price was on the high side for a meagre portion of salmon.

Teriyaki chicken noodle soup was a generous tub of miso soup packed with long, starchy fat noodles like anaemic worms, topped with slices of chicken, beansprouts, carrot shreds and (yet more) crunchy green beans. It needed the kick from the punchy teriyaki sauce provided on the side.

In search of more calories, we'd slipped two mini chocolate pots onto the tray. A Valhrona chocolate pot promising only 59 calories and a chocolate coconut version - a sticky Bounty bar in a pot - were too good to leave behind. Their labels announced, cheesily: "Small is beautiful. Several mouthfuls of pleasure. Enough to satisfy the need without the guilt."

Both were delicious. Satisfying perhaps for Miss NW8 Size 0, but Mrs W9 Size 12 could have consumed several more of those babies with no trouble.

It's fast food for the well-heeled. At £20, including two drinks (the appley/gingery detox zinger and the slightly too sweetly floral Madam Butterfly), the price takes it from an everyday price to a Friday (special occasion) lunch. Having said that, if you are of ladylike appetite and choose wisely, you could restrict your spend to maybe £6-£8.

The best bit is the calorie count. On the way out we totted up the nutritional damage and were delighted to find that the substantial amount consumed had incurred only about 500 calories each in total. Choose cleverly, you could eat less than 100 calories. What more could a lady of the Wood ask for?

All well and good, but I really am hungry and I'm off to the fridge for a cheese sandwich.

For one-to-one

coaching, cooking parties or team-building with a

qualified chef email:

lessons@

victoriaprever.com

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