Sam's, the London restaurant with a 5:2 diet menu

Date:29-01-2014 08:58:33 read:2

Sam's, the London restaurant with a 5:2 diet menu

The 5:2 diet is now so popular that Sam’s Brasserie & Bar in Chiswick offers a 500-calorie menu especially for the fasting folk of west London

Ladies who lunch: Xanthe Clay and Celia Brooks enjoy a 5:2 lunch at Sam’s Brasserie & Bar Photo: Martin Pope

Fasting, it seems, is everywhere. The Fast Diet, the bible on the subject co-authored by the intermittent-fasting expert, Michael Mosley, is No 1 on the Amazon bestseller list again, more than a year after publication. Everyone is either on it or knows someone who is.

It’s fostered a whole bookshelf-worth of tomes dedicated to different forms of the diet and recipes to cook on those fast days, when calories are limited to 500 or 600. The latest is even more specialist: 5:2 Vegetarian by Celia Brooks. And now restaurants are getting on board – Sam’s Brasserie & Bar, a smart little Chiswick joint, has a 500-calorie menu designed especially for the fasting folk of west London. I invited Celia Brooks to lunch there.

She wafted in wearing a floaty blouse and skinny jeans, blonde hair in an insouciantly perfect up-do and lipstick immaculate, and looked around contentedly at the exposed joists, and snug booths. “This is very American,” she breathed. Originally from Colorado Springs, Celia arrived here 25 years ago, but retains nostalgia for her homeland as well as a Midwest twang. It comes through in her recipes with instructions like “squeeze the crap out of the grapefruit”.

The menus arrive quickly, which, we agree, is just as well. Anyone who has limited themselves to 500 calories a day will know that you are hungry, irritable and in no mood to wait. You also become obsessed with calories, which Sam’s clearly understands as calorie counts for the three choices for each course in the 5:2 section were all listed. “Anything to drink?” asked our cheerful waitress. We ordered water. “Quite right,” she said. “Don’t spoil everything with a glass of wine. And have the feta and watermelon salad. It’s the best starter.”

Celia, meanwhile, was peeking through the letterbox window admiring the chefs beavering away in the kitchen. Surprisingly for a woman with eight cookery books to her name, Celia has no professional cookery training, having studied theatre at Colorado College. She came over to England to work as a stage manager, but the glamour of the theatre palled and she took up life modelling for artist Christiane Kubrick, wife of the director Stanley Kubrick.

I’d generously let Celia, a vegetarian, have the watermelon salad starter. She tucked into the pretty pink and white tumble, remarking, “That looks like too much feta to be only 99 calories, but I like the sesame seeds on top.” My three pea-pod sized chicken satay (117 calories) could have been juicier but came with a sprightly bean sprout salad.

Celia’s cooking career started with an even more simple dish – baked potatoes. “I couldn’t cook at all, but one lunch time Christiane asked me to go and put some on. I’d never baked a potato or seen an Aga.” But she put on her dressing gown, padded down to the kitchen in the Kubricks’ Hertfordshire mansion and did as she was asked. The next day Celia assembled tacos, and before long she was catering for the crowds of people who regularly appeared for lunch: “Twenty or 30, I’d never know how many.”

The couple, Celia recalled, “were really encouraging. They weren’t vegetarian, but for some reason they enjoyed my food.” While Mrs Kubrick was her mentor, she became close to Stanley too, who would work late into the night, then appear midafternoon and eat his lunch while she cleared up the kitchen. “We’d talk about politics and history, everything.” When Kubrick died, aged 70, Celia stayed up all night baking his favourite bagels for the funeral, “tears streaming down my cheeks”. The guests next day included Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman but, Celia told me, “the bagels were meant to be eaten hot out of the oven, and by now they were rock hard”. Happily there were no tooth veneer casualties.

Our main courses arrived; what looked like a toddler portion of meatballs in a chunky tomato sauce for me, a slab of butternut frittata with a dish of beetroot sauce for Celia. The meatballs were punchy and delicious, but the frittata tasted grim, bland and rubbery.

Celia – who is now the official tour guide for Borough Market – doesn’t look like she needs to diet. But she does know what it is like to be a podge. After an unhappy divorce in 2010 she headed back to America for a few months – and ate. “Chocolate malts, hash browns, anything fried. When I came back I was 20lb heavier. People’s attitude was, you’re the wrong side of 40, you just have to live with it.” Celia thumped the table, making her mango and passion fruit pannacotta (144 calories) wobble enticingly. “But no, I wanted my life, my confidence and my wardrobe back.” She started the 5:2 diet in the autumn and by the following February had lost the weight, and started a blog about the experience which formed the basis of her book.

The pannacotta was amazingly creamy, and my berry compote with fromage frais seemed enormous for 75 calories. But I wasn’t complaining. I’d stuck to my diet, I was full, and I’d had a meal out. 500 calories well spent.

Sam’s Brasserie & Bar, London W4 (020 8987 0555; Set lunch or dinner, 5:2 recipes: £13.50/£16.50 for two/three courses

5:2 Vegetarian by Celia Brooks (Pavilion) is available from Telegraph Books. Call 0844 871 1515 or go to

Read more: 5:2 diet: healthy recipes 250 calories or less

Read more: The 5:2 diet: can it help you lose weight and live longer?

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