Never mind cabbage soup or grapefruit.
One of the more esoteric weight loss plans of the Seventies was The Sexy Pineapple Diet by Inge and Sten Hegeler.
It involved swapping regular food two days a week for pineapple, in return for a slimmer waist and a yeah baby mojo like Austin Powers.
Then there’s the sleeping beauty diet, which was first referenced in Jacqueline Susann’s 1966 book Valley of the Dolls and involves being sedated for 20 hours a day to avoid temptation.
Anyway, now that we’ve stopped partying, snacking, drinking and singing a clunkier version of Prince’s 1999, it’s time to get on the 2020 wagon.
I wouldn’t recommend the above, or the more modern keto and primal diets, but everyone seems to agree on the Mediterranean.
Thus, I am on en route to this new Italian restaurant, in the shadow of that “house on the hill” (as I once heard a tourist call it).
It’s in the former premises of longterm resident Il Castello and is owned by Ilaria Torre and Fabrizio Babbucci, who were working the front of house on our visit.
It’s completely dead inside, so we get the pick of the tables, and choose something on the mezzanine, beside a radiator, as if we were cats.
To suit the land and sea theme, the walls are cobalt and covered in hexagon-shaped photographs of bucolic scenes. It’s nice, so I’ll let them off with the Katie Melua on the stereo (not the trillion bicycles in Beijing song, thankfully).
After we’ve scoffed some gratis fat green olives and bread, and had an icy negroni (£8), our starter of vellutata di fagioli (£6.50) arrives. This thick and olive oil drizzled black-eyed bean veloute smells nutty.
It’s smooth, creamy and substantial and there’s a frilly cuff of roasted kale on the top. We’re not sure where the billed crispy pig’s cheek is though. We guddle about with the spoon and think about a loony dook, but there are no solid or crispy bits of meat.
No matter, it’s still lush.
I’ve gone for the lighter option of capesante (£12). There are four halves of scallop, like waning gibbous moons, all piled on top of a tangy aubergine caponata, which is studded with loads of pine nuts. In the middle, like a magician’s guillotine, there’s a lacy sail of crispy Parmesan.
From the Mains Terra section, we try their earthy homemade trofie (£11). Served on a long plate, like a trough, this is a huge plateful, with butter yellow twists, which resemble drill bits, and porky crumbles of sausage, bitter clods of romanesco broccoli and a creamy sauce that’s scented with saffron.
Order the soup and this pasta dish, and you won’t have to eat for the rest of the week, potentially a fortnight. You won’t have to wear a jacket either, because your internal combustion engine will be well fuelled.
When it came to the Mains Marique section dish of baccala (£21), I was expecting something different. Rather than salted fish, I had an ordinary bit of cod – a huge silky piece, with a celeriac cream and herby soft braised lentils. There was none of the billed nduja mousse, but probably four would have been a crowd anyway.
There’s a short dessert menu featuring tiramisu (£5.50) and whatnot.
Since we’re both on a diet, we went for the three scoops of their ice-cream (£6.50), made in-house, and a panna-cotta (£5.50).
The gelato was rather nice, with a scoop of apple cinnamon, another
of espresso and praline, and the third boring old vanilla, which I’d only ordered because my dining partner had insisted, even though he was soup and pasta-ed up to the rafters.
He let it melt, and only managed half of his pudding, which was topped with flaked almonds, orange syrup and a flurry of icing sugar.
After all that, I think the only thing that will stop our pot bellies from getting any pottier is the sedation option.
Only problem is, I’m pretty sure we’ll end up sleep-walking to Terra Marique for more of that trofie.