As a vegetarian I know the hardship of not always being able to find things to eat when you dine out (or the limitations of that) and so I extend my empathy to those with additional allergies and the difficulties they must face when they eat out at restaurants.
One such allergy is gluten. I met with Ken recently who on the back of having to observe a gluten-free diet described the difficulties of finding good places to eat that would accommodate his requirements yet be able to demonstrate a full understanding of the condition. Based on the back of these issues, he decided to set up his own establishment which concentrates on providing a full gluten free offering coupled with healthy food – somewhere where allergy sufferers can dine with confidence.
His first healthy food restaurant (more in the pipeline) is Frais Living based in the new Parkgate development in the heart of Shirley town centre, just outside of Solihull. Upon arrival, the smiley team introduce the restaurant’s concept and the menu boards describe all the different foods and options within that you can select from. Breakfasts, Juices (Keep It Simple/Juice Mixes/Super Juices), Shots, Bulletproof Coffee & Chia Seeds plus the usual hot beverage range and much more. In addition, Ken’s vision is to ensure that Frais’s produce is sourced locally from nearby farms and companies. So any egg suppliers, vegetable purveyors and the like from the Solihull area, do contact Ken!
|Cartwheel Ceiling Light|
Sitting down with Ken, I commented on the eclectic decoration and he talked me through what he chose and why. Upon entry, you sense the wooden, forest hut/rustic kitchen feel which immediately oozes cosiness and is welcoming. Supporting this ambiance are the object d’art items dotted around the restaurant. These have been selected from an antique fair in Ross on Wye and the showpiece is the cartwheel ceiling light which is stunning! Ken described how when dusk arrives, the cartwheel really comes into its own. Intrigue is key behind the décor theme and Ken wants people to remain fascinated and make a point to look out for new things visit after visit.
|Antique Object d'Art|
Moving onto the menu content, being independent, it allows Ken the freedom to change and update the menus upon reaction to customer feedback. For instance, after starting out selling Caesar Salads he decided to change tack after gaining some commentary and he now sells unique versions of mixed bean salad/green pesto/avocado and cucumber salads which his customer base enjoy.
|Food for Sale|
|Food for Sale|
When building each offering (smoothies, salads etc), as well as always considering the nutritional side of things, Ken has mindfully kept the ingredients to a key group of three. He feels that this encourages customers to know what to expect and helps to avoid confusion.
|Cooked Mung Bean 'Pasta'|
|Dried Gluten Free 'Pasta'|
|Dried Gluten Free 'Pasta'|
Some of the salads that he sells contain gluten-free mock-pasta which is also vegan. This is truly amazing! Manufactured by the company ‘Explore Asian Authentic Cuisine’, the pasta style shapes are made from beans (eg: mung and soy) and water and are then pressed into a pasta formation. High in protein, it makes for a fabulous alternative for those wanting to cut the carbs, eat gluten free and be vegan. At Frais, you can either buy it ready cooked as part of a meal or you can buy it over the counter in a dried format for cooking. Ken kindly gave me some samples to try at home. Making the Organic Edamame & Mung Bean Fettuccine version for myself I thought it was definitely the next best thing to pasta. I cooked them for about 6 minutes in salted water and ate them as they are just to try them au natural and I did enjoy them, more than I thought and I know they would be enhanced with a sauce or added vegetables. I’m particularly looking forward to trying the Organic Black Bean version as it looks like the black spaghetti you can buy which is normally black as it has been cooked with squid ink which isn’t vegetarian. By having this as an alternative, I can replicate and make vegetarian versions of some of the ‘black spaghetti’ recipes I’ve seen. Plus, by using them, I’ll be boosting my protein intake and I’ll be cutting my carbs so win-win-win!
Enjoying a little lunch, I started with a Dragon’s Fury Juice Mix which contained tomato, beetroot and apple. A real myriad of taste, combining sweet, vegetable and fruit elements, it worked really well and was quite refreshing.
|Goat's Cheese Sandwich|
I then enjoyed a Goat’s cheese, mango chutney, grilled carrots, mange tout and prune toasted sandwich on gluten free bread (Genous brand). This came with a side salad and was dressed with a standard Frais designed mix of olive oil, pepper and chia seed. A complementary mix of tart cheese with sweet fruits and vegetables it was very tasty. Part way through eating, I had to remind myself that I was eating gluten free bread as it was surprising nice!
|Fresh Fruit for sale|
Apart from sandwiches, as a lunchtime option, other choices include salad boxes and there is a Soup, Roll & Side Salad package can be purchased for £2.25.
A little Wheatgrass shot followed, promoted as being packed with goodness. Encouraged to ‘down it in one’, the taste was a smidgen bitter but then when I digested it, the aftertaste was quite pleasant. A little cube of fresh pineapple was welcomed to cleanse the palette afterwards. Definitely a good boost for the beginning of the day and to have in lieu of the traditional yoghurt drinks I think.
Ken then presented the Bulletproof Coffee concept to me. Bulletproof Coffee when purchased is done so almost as a meal replacement. It is labelled as a ‘super coffee’ typically containing 400 calories. It boasts properties that energise you and wake you up, Ken said he mainly has it for breakfast. It has good fatty acids (medium chain triglyrecides) and coconut oil. Given a little sample, I was a bit apprehensive to try it, me still being a newbie to coffee drinking and still finding my feet with it. But nevertheless I sipped my sample which contained a double espresso shot, chia seeds, unsalted butter, coconut oil and water. With each sip, I got more and more used to it and climatised to the taste and surprising didn’t miss the sugar element that I would normally have with coffee. It was a bit heavy and a bit fatty but if thought of as a meal replacement (like Ken described it), then it works. If you need a bulk up on calories, this could be a good, healthier way of obtaining them.
|Power Ball - Protein Ball|
As my visit to Frais drew to an end, Ken gave me 2 Protein Balls to try at home. Ideal for those with a sweet tooth, resembling a macaroon shape, they come in 3 types - Power Ball (featuring Chocolate & Peanuts), Energizer Ball (Seeds & Nuts) and Recovery Ball (Berries & Nuts). They are packed with good fats and have enough goodness for the whole day, releasing energy gradually,they make for a great snack. I found them really tasty, especially the Power Ball which still had the chocolate hit which is important for me.
Whilst Ken continues to evolve Frais’s offering including organising nutritionally focused event seminars, his mission remains the same, to provide customers with quality, gluten free, healthy food in a relaxing, contemporary environment which I’m pleased to say is on my doorstep.
Notes: Free Seminar regarding General Nutrition & Affects of Gluten on the Body on 28th January 2015 at Frais Living. See www.frais.co.uk for contact details.~~~
Disclosure: This post has been written following a kind invitation to sample lunch and other products at Frais Living. This review was conducted honestly without bias and I was not required to produce a positive review. For further details of my PR policy, please see the Press, PR & Food Writing page of this website.