[TW/CW: Clean eating, calorie counting, macro counting, mention of weight loss, mention of dieting]
[Disclaimer: I was invited to this event with no expectation of coverage. I was provided with free food and drinks throughout the event. All opinions are my own]
Promising healthy fast food, Clean Cut Kitchen in the Victoria Centre, Nottingham, stands as a testament to the boom in the clean eating trend.
Despite the documented rise of diagnoses of Orthorexia and constant criticism of the fake health claims from Instagram stars, clean eating is here to stay.
While the idea of clean eating might bring forth images of acai bowls, raw vegan juice diets, and drinking “detox” (see: Laxative) teas, the more benevolent side of this health food trend is simple – eating nutritious, minimally processed food that makes you feel good.
A relative newcomer to the Nottingham culinary scene, Clean Cut Kitchen was born in Hockley in 2017 before relocating to the Victoria Centre in late 2019. Since its inception, its mission was simple – to provide the denizens of Nottingham with healthy, fast, and cheap breakfast and lunch options.
In February, I was invited to a menu tasting evening to check out their offerings for myself.
I have to admit, I have my own criticisms of the clean eating movement.
Classifying certain foods as “clean” reeks of diet culture, and creates this sense of morality around food choices that often leads to restrictive eating and encourages eating disorders. While orthorexia as a term was coined in 1998, it hit the news only a few years ago due to the clean eating movement.
On the surface, the principle seems sound. And at first, it was.
It was about eating wholesome meals, cutting down on mass-processed foods, and learning about how to nourish your body. But, over the years, it took on a life of its own to become a system in which any food that wasn’t “whole”, or was “impure”, was to be avoided at all costs. Really, it became a diet that was trying to sell itself as a “lifestyle change”.
Not only that, but the clean eating movement gave birth to some of the worst food misinformation on the Internet.
It’s because of clean eating that we’ve lapped up the idea that we need to “detox” with teas and green smoothies to rid our bodies of toxins.
(Just as a side note, if your body can’t rid itself of toxins, you need a doctor, not a kale smoothie)
Saying that, Clean Cut Kitchen had a reputation of providing healthy food without the woo, so I was excited to try out their menu.
I was greeted with a glass of low-sugar Prosecco by one of the owners and invited to order whatever I wanted from their new menu or bar.
I wandered around the premises to take in the industrial-style decor, and to get a measure of just how “clean eating”-y this place was. I was expecting plenty of diet messaging, but I was pleasantly surprised. The booklets on each table explained clearly the purposes of different macros in a healthy diet, and while it did discuss calorie counting and weight loss in a way, it wasn’t anywhere near as overt as I was expecting.
The decor is very clean and industrial, but I wouldn’t say it’s the kind of place you’d want to spend hours at. I suppose that’s not the point, really – it’s somewhere to grab a quick working lunch or something to take back to your desk, not somewhere you go to catch up with friends.
I sipped my drink as I took in the surroundings, and tried to decide what to order.
The Food at Clean Cut Kitchen
I decided to try the Goat’s Cheese and Walnut salad.
I’ve been enjoying salad a lot more than usual recently, and I’m a sucker for goat’s cheese. You can also choose what dressing you want on it (if any) so I had a classic balsamic vinegar drizzle.
Admittedly I did want to try one of the Protein Boxes, but being in the middle of a depression episode I couldn’t decide what to have from the endless possibilities on that list, so I went for something simple.
And I have to say, it was a very simple salad.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it – it was actually very fresh and crisp, and the goat’s cheese paired beautifully with the balsamic vinegar. The walnuts were a nice touch, but generally I don’t feel like they added all that much aside from a bit of crunch. I think this salad was supposed to have pomegranate seeds which would have added a yummy sweetness, but they were missing from mine.
I was still hungry and in the mood for something sweet, so I ordered a Pina Colada Protein Shake.
This was actually the highlight of the evening for me, because honestly, it’s everything I could have ever wanted in a protein shake. Banana, pineapple, coconut milk, and vanilla whey powder blended together into a dreamy shake that was reminiscent of my favourite cocktail.
With it being a protein shake it was extremely filling. Alongside the salad I tried, I knew if I had ordered them both together it would have made for a very satisfying lunch.
Because I had major cake cravings, I decided to pick up a couple of the vegan brownies to take home with me.
While they looked lovely and rich, I didn’t like the taste. They only tasted vaguely of chocolate, and the cake itself was quite stodgy, if moist.
While I was at the Clean Cut Kitchen, I was offered a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
As I mentioned earlier, when I arrived, I was offered a glass of Prosecco. Specifically, low-sugar Prosecco, as most of the drinks on offer were low-sugar or low-alcohol options.
Having plenty of low-alcohol options was pretty great, as very few bars and eating establishments stock more than maybe one or two options, at best. Even though non-alcoholic options are becoming more commonplace, it’s not always that easy to find.
All in all, I had a lovely evening at Clean Cut Kitchen, and I enjoyed the food on offer.
If I was in Nottingham and needed to grab lunch on the go, I’d probably consider Clean Cut Kitchen if I was in the mood for something lighter. It’s nice to have that option, particularly when the rest of the Victoria Centre’s food options revolve around burgers, burritos, or sandwiches.