Jo Foley adds to our theme of staying fit at sea by looking at how Spas have reinvented various cuisines to be healthy AND enjoyable
While the whole idea of spas and food may seem a contradiction in terms, that is most definitely not the case these days. Food is vitally important both to the spa provider and to the spa guest.
If, for instance, the guest wants to shed a little weight, then what they eat is an essential part of the package. Plus, in general terms, the precepts of healthy eating are vital to the overall feeling of well-being.
We all know sweets and sugar are bad for us, as is alcohol, and we know fruits, vegetables and fish are good – but following such edicts is often quite difficult and, to many, rather boring.
What spas and their cuisines now do is to show us how to make the normal exciting. They do it by what they serve in their juice and smoothie bars, what they serve in their restaurants and by their cookery demonstrations.
Take Chiva Som, for instance, renowned for its spa cuisine and especially for its cookery classes. In these, it takes the concept of Thai food – delicious stuff laden with extra fattening and artery hardening coconut cream and delicious oils – and reinvents it using stocks and apple juice, so Spicy Thai Chicken tastes just as good, the healthier way.
I have even been known to buy jars of the spa’s marmalade to bring home with me. Spas know their future is in being watchful about their guests’ health as well as pampering.
At the revamped restaurants at Surrey’s Grayshott Hall, executive chef Adam Palmer believes it is much better to eat proper food but sensibly portioned, rather than indulge in any fads or in laborious measuring and counting.
To which end he has designed special plates, all colour coded which signify exactly where protein, carbs and vegetables should go. Oddly enough, the vegetables are given a much larger area than either of the others. But it is fun eating by colours – and it works. The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the increase in the sales of plates guests want to take home with them.
Eat Healthy At Sea, Too
Cruises we all know are all too tempting with their multiple restaurants and endless opportunities to enjoy and revel in food. However, many of the main restaurants now offer a healthy option on their menus, so passengers can indulge without piling on unnecessary pounds.
COSTA CRUISES have even taken it to a completely new level with their special Samsara Cabins and Suites, which are not only located inside the spa complex on both the Costa Concordia and Serena, but also have a dedicated Ristorante Samsara.
Here, Michelin star chef Ettore Bocchia dishes up exquisite offerings from his own special molecular cuisine with its emphasis on the freshest of ingredients, tastes and textures. This amenity will also be on offer on both the Costa Luminosa and Pacifica next year.
Then, PRINCESS CRUISES with their Serenity Spas have special Serenity stewards who proffer healthy drinks, smoothies and light bites while their restaurants all offer a Lotus (healthy eating option) on their menus.
One of the most difficult aspects of keeping to a strict ayurvedic menu is often the blandness of the food, which in true purist terms should be only vegetarian and not highly seasoned or spiced.
However the ultra-cool Cloisters Spa at the Amangalla in Galle, Sri Lanka, has a wizard of a chef who could even make school dinners palatable. Having researched the history and local traditions of healing food, he is providing five-star healthy eating ayurvedic menus, including the local cure-all herbal porridge called Kola Kanda.
It may look like pond life and is an acquired taste but, once you’ve acquired that taste, it is not only delicious but is amazing for boosting energy and blood circulation as well helping nails and teeth grow.
Park Hyatt have recently introduced energy-boosting smoothies and drinks at three of their top city spas – in Paris, Moscow and Dubai. Devised by Brazilian nutritionist Patricia Teixeira, who was for some years nutritionist to soccer giants Real Madrid, they were first introduced for travelling businessman but are now just as popular with leisure travellers.
At Espace Henri Chenot in the Palace Hotel, Merano (in the Italian Dolomites), food is an important part of the week-long detox programmes, as well as the longer weight loss programmes. And the food devised by Mme Chenot and her chef is delicious, albeit sparse.
On offer are some of the most beautiful-looking salads – all leaves and air with delicious, clever dressings made of aubergine, mint and very little else. Grains such as quinoa, spelt and rice are all given a gourmet gloss with herbal seasoning rather than salt and pepper.
Each meal is of three courses, each one as healthy as the last and as beautiful as each other so guests can feast their eyes rather than their tums. On the fast day two, clear soups are on offer – one of carrot and shiitake and the other a simple vegetable broth.
And, on no day does anyone on the detox programme consume more than 700 calories! However, to take the mind off eating, special cookery classes are offered for those who wish to continue the good habits at home.
What is so clever about spa cuisine is how healthy foodstuffs are combined with different flavours which can easily be copied at home – hence the great growth in people experimenting with different fruit and vegetable juices as well as smoothies using just a little sheep’s milk yoghurt and ice.
For those who will always feel a little peckish, Six Senses’ new destination spa Erawan at Naga Island (just off Phuket) is providing the ultimate in snacks.
Each of the resorts villas and cottages has its own private garden with pool and relaxation area surrounded by plants the guests can actually eat. Grow your own diet obviously has a great future!