Calories are cunning creatures.
No matter how much you try to avoid them, they gravitate towards you, like leeches.
I tend to operate on the principal that if you eat standing up or with your eyes closed, the food was gifted or is being consumed for work reasons, then they won’t burrow into your middle-age spread and live there, permanently.
Sadly, many think it’s safer to acknowledge the calorie’s existence, especially a younger generation of gym bunnies, who drink protein shakes, and log every single unit of energy in MyFitnessPal or Fitbit, before burning it all off by taking 90,000 steps and 11,000 selfies.
This place, also with a branch in Glasgow, is for them, I suppose.
It’s in the former premises of what was The Bakers Arms and, before that, The Raj. There’s not so much in the way of interior branding for this fledgling chain eatery – it’s white, plain and, apart from the cabinet of takeaway goodies, hasn’t changed much since the last resident vacated the premises.
Diners are corralled on a bright mezzanine level, with stairs flanked by empty whey protein powder containers, like stone lions outside a mansion.
On the menu, there are pictorial keys beside each option, to indicate if they are vegan, vegetarian, high protein, gluten free, low carb, dairy free or contain nuts. Oh, and of course, there’s the calorie content.
Food suddenly becomes a little less attractive to me, when I see the numbers laid bare and nothing left to the imagination. My allocated 2,000 a day is swiftly depleting, like a game show countdown.
I go for a main course of “power katsu curry” (£11.45/588kcals/35g protein/60g carb/22g fat), which isn’t a mega treat, but is pleasant enough.
There’s a judicious portion of chook in a mildly spiced brown sauce, with wholegrain rice on the side and a swirl of sriracha. It’s a Tuesday night in front of the telly kind of dish.
Since there was no manuka honey glazed salmon (£12.95) left, we go for a second poultry option – the Himalayan salt and chilli chicken (£11.45/548kcals/30g protein/76g carb/13g fat).
It consists of crispy clad bits of chicken in a pleasantly jammy red sauce, dotted with sesame seeds and green peppers, as well as some more of that rice and sriracha.
The vegan carbonara (£9.95/367 kcals/13g protein/43g carb/15g fat) is a tangy take on this pasta dish, with a viscous and clotted “cashew” sauce over the spaghetti, as well as flecks of mushroom, sun-dried tomatoes and toasted pine nuts. S’okay.
We could have stopped there, especially as the real calorie thwack was to be found in the sides.
The peanut loaded fries (£7/561 calories/21g protein/50g carb/30g fat) was probably our favourite thing, thanks to “bbq pulled chicken”, some swiftly congealing “protein cheese”, sweet potato fries and what looked a bit like porridge but was the equivalent of a family sized jar of crunchy Sun-pat dumped over the top.
I love peanut butter, though eating it neat is usually reserved for heartbroken or drunken moments.
Another side of nachos (£7/339 kcals/12g protein/37g carb/15g fat) featured wholemeal tortilla chips, a chunky salsa, a tarn of guacamole and sour cream and more protein cheese along with our choice of the hearty and slightly bland Cajun bean chilli (£2/90 kcals/1g protein/18g carb/13g fat), with chickpeas and kidney beans in a sweet tomatoey gloop.
Forget spinach, Popeye.
If you want to get really hench, finish up with their “protein sticky toffee pudding” (£4.75/653 kcals/33g protein/73g carb/21g fat).
It was a little dry, but otherwise good, with a vegan caramel sauce and custard on the side. The gluten free fudge brownie (£4.75/418 kcals/8g protein/31g carb/26g fat) is surprisingly decent too – cocoa rich and gooey in all the right places.
So, let me tot up the calories. That’s 3,564 divided by three people = 1,188. Subtract what I had for breakfast and that leaves less than 500 for dinner.
Dammit, those nasty calories have cornered me. Save yourselves. Run. Run. (Or, order less and leave feeling smug after a sensible feed).