An encounter with nutritional consultant Liliane Israel leads to the sampling of deliciously healthy dishes at Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona
Zoë Manzi, Editor, MO magazine, The Condé Nast Publications
Sometimes in life, things just work out. On a beautiful summer's evening I headed up to Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona's dreamy rooftop bar and restaurant, Terrat (pictured above). I sat at a table waiting for my dining companion, drinking a fabulous pisco sour while surveying the steeples and spires of the city to a soundtrack of relaxing beats and the buzz of happy people relaxing in the dipping pool.
Monica, my delightful date, appeared with an extremely stylish Parisian who, on introduction, greeted me warmly and exclaimed, 'I feel like I know you already through your wonderfully witty writing and your excellent magazine. I just love it!' Readers, she had me at 'allo'.
This was my first meeting with Liliane Israel and it was a total coup de foudre! Madame Israel, a lawyer for France's General Council of 30 years standing, decided to follow her passion and retrain in her retirement. She is now a naturopath with a thriving private practice in Paris and, as founder of Wellness Gastronomy, she works as a nutritional consultant for Mandarin Oriental.
I wondered how this worked; after all, chefs aren't exactly famous for their tolerance of others interfering in their kitchens. 'Frankly, it works wonderfully well,' says Israel, laughing. 'I assume it's because I fully respect their art and inspiration, their creativity. I don't impose on anything. Most of the time, they already have on their existing menu dishes which are really healthy or things that with just a small twist can be totally in line with my principle of opting for natural, not fried or heavy, good oils, good sugars, good fats, and a good combination. I'm not saying 'you should do this or that'. I say, 'Your menu is great, I love good food.'
For Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona, Israel has created two breakfasts with the hotel's culinary team: Light Delights and Vitality. The first is suitable for weight management and comprises a perfectly balanced mix of protein and fibre with light yet filling carbohydrates. The Vitality focuses on energy-boosting foods with additional carbohydrates and sugars. I tried them both on consecutive mornings. Highlights were the lightest, fluffiest, dreamiest of mango mousses and the tastiest tofu served with spinach, tahini, soy sauce and sesame seeds that I have ever encountered.
At the core of Israel's ethos are three steps: she provides a key to clients with the order in which food should be consumed, producing optimum assimilation, and ensuring that your body converts the maximum in energy from your meal.
I am delighted to report that I stayed comfortably full till lunchtime. Then I sampled the plankton risotto at Bistreau, but that's another story…