What’s It Like To Eat A Zero Calorie Five-Course Dinner?

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  • Natasha Wynarczyk tried the Steam by Miele pop-up eatery, where you burn off all the calories you put in

    My idea of a great meal out with friends is sitting down to a Nandos. It involves lots of cheese and/or spices, and is washed down by half a bottle of wine and a couple of cocktails.

    But, yesterday, when I was invited to Steam, a for-one-day-only pop-up in Covent Garden serving five courses cooked by The Boundary’s head chef, and National Chef of the Year, Frederick Forster, I couldn’t refuse.

    When I think ‘pop-up’, hipster fast food joints like Lucky Chip or Bubbledogs tend to come to mind. However, this one was a lot different from the naughty US food inspired pop-ups that have seemingly taken over London. Steam’s unique selling point was the fact it promised to be a ‘calorie neutral’ dinner, a ‘dining extravaganza like no other’. Thankfully, being promised a zero calorie dinner didn’t mean we would be nibbling on lettuce leaves or sipping water.

    After arriving at Steam, we were all given a cup of green tea (‘to warm you up and boost the metabolism!’). Having just battled through a blizzard to get there, I was immensely grateful and downed it in one. Then it got difficult. We were led downstairs to a chilled room (again, the aim of this was to make our bodies work harder) and told we were going to do a 40 minute body balance class taken by a Les Mills instructor.

    Unfortunately for me, finding out I was going on the day meant I was inappropriately dressed, in a tight-fitting red vintage dress that I hardly ever wear due to the fact the material isn’t ideal if you need to sweat at any point. I was also worried about flashing everybody, but I wasn’t alone, five other girls were also in dresses or skirts. And my plus one was wearing his office wear, which meant every time he did a move he got smacked in the face with his tie.

    We were led through a warm up, which was hardcore, leading a girl at the back to exclaim: ‘That was just the warm up?!’ in a horrifed way. Our instructor took us through a series of challenging tai chi, pilates and yoga moves (have you ever done the downward dog in a tight dress? Not recommended). Apart from the outfit problem, once I’d warmed up, the exercises started to get a bit easier and afterwards I felt invigorated, as well as very hungry. Thankfully it was time to eat.

    Upstairs came the big unveil. We were told all of our food would be steam cooked by Forster using a Miele steam oven. The menu looked tantilising, with a quail egg cocotte to start, followed by a scallop and chorizo brouchette, prawn stuffed lemon sole, beef fillet with beansprout salad – and even a banana cake with confit pineapple and creme chantilly. Forster took us through every dish, telling us about how it was cooked. It was all delicious as well as being extremely healthy. As Forster said, cooking with steam allows natural flavours to be preserved so you don’t have to add oils and fats to your food.

    As we ate we sat on chairs which had a vibrating, hot pad on the back. This aimed to burn 48 calories every half hour of sitting down. We also drank extra-chilled water, again to raise the metabolism and get the body working harder. Between courses there were opportunities to burn even more calories, by playing ping pong or donning a pair of gloves and boxing. I had a go on the boxing, however my false nails kept getting in the way. The ten minutes I managed to spend doing it burned 59 calories though, or more than half the scallop and chorizo brochette.

    Eating in this way is tipped to be one of the next big crazes over in LA, and, if successful, will soon be rolled out across the UK. I was told over 1,000 people had applied to go to the four different sittings of Steam yesterday and I could see why – the idea of eating nice food and ‘getting away with it’ certainly seems very appealing. Once it was over I did feel healthy, alert and ready to face going back out into the cold.

    Unfortunately all my good work was later undone. Having to go on to a friends’ ‘adopting a baby’ party after Steam, by the end of the night I was so hungry I had to practically beg my friends to stop by the nearest chicken shop on the way to the tube station. It’s true what they say – old habits die hard.

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