Between clean eating commandments, low fat labels and calorie counting, many of us have managed to develop a fairly complicated relationship with food. So when the latest addition to Clerkenwell’s dining scene throws up the term “functional medicine” as a framework for its menu, one could be forgiven for thinking the web was about to get even more tangled.
That’s why it is a surprise to find quite a simple message emblazoned across the doorway of Aprés; the new breakfast and lunch hotspot from nutritional therapist/chef Catherine Sharman and restaurateur Danny Gray. Their advice? “Make friends with food.”
“It’s shouldn’t be about counting calories or making enemies of certain food groups, or going vegan or vegetarian for the wrong reasons,” Catherine says. “Eating should be about nourishing your body and making every bite the best it can be.”
Cue Aprés’ ‘hearty but healthy’ menu aiming to redefine the concept of comfort food. It’s not exactly paleo, though there are some elements of the ‘caveman’ diet; it’s not quite vegetarian, but many dishes are plant-based. There’s no gluten in any of the dishes, nor refined sugars – though a counter laden with sweet treats suggests otherwise. So what is Aprés?
“The menu is based on functional medicine, which means that everything you’re eating helps your body to function better,” Catherine explains. “We combine nutritional knowledge with cheffing skills to produce food that tastes like you’re treating yourself, while flooding your body with nutrients.”
Starting your day the Aprés way means creamy porridge of pre-soaked gluten free oats or poached eggs over slow-cooked tomatoes and peppers on a thick slice of homemade gluten-free bread. Lunch can be light in the form of seasonal salads and fritters or hearty by way of a bone broth-based chicken risotto or fragrant lamb curry over cauliflower rice.
Snacks like the date and oat crumble cake or the deep chocolate brownie will curb 3.30pm cravings, but are full of natural sweeteners like coconut sugar and molasses to keep you feeling smug until dinner. Speaking of, dinner will also be on the menu a couple of nights a week in the form of pop-up supper club-style evenings based around nutritional education.
Catherine got the idea for the supper clubs aft er winding up in conversations around nutrition on a daily basis, but despite spending four years qualifying to become a nutritional therapist the last thing she or Danny wants is for Aprés to become is too prescriptive.
“You can’t make these broad claims; the clean eating backlash taught us that, although this is all actually backed up by science,” she says. “I’m not about to tell you that if you don’t eat gluten your digestion will improve because that might not be the issue. It’s all about variety of nutrients, and your body will use them in whatever way it needs.”
The one thing the pair can promise is that their food, and the feeling you get from it, is slightly addictive – hence the name Aprés. “We wanted to try and capture that feeling that comes aft er nourishing your body properly,” Catherine says. “Once you achieve peak health, you crave it.” Aprés, 72 St John Street EC1M 4DT