JUICY Gossip’s Mexican steak (top) and the Garden Fruit Salad with chicken and dried nuts, are guaranteed to tantalise even the most health conscious  people. —Photos by the writer
JUICY Gossip’s Mexican steak (top) and the Garden Fruit Salad with chicken and dried nuts, are guaranteed to tantalise even the most health conscious people. —Photos by the writer

ISLAMABAD: A small cafe nestled in between a restaurant and a gym may sound like the perfect temptation to ruin your healthy-eating routine, but a cosy little hideaway in the F-11 Markaz has tapped into that seldom explored niche in the food market; catering to people on the health kick.

A simple, three-page menu boasts a selection of fruit juices, vegetable and fruit salads, breakfast, low-carb meat-based sandwiches and steaks: just so there are no regrets when you lose your resolve after a session at the gym.

Juicy Gossip is one of the few places in Islamabad where fruit concentrates are not used in the juices. If you’re a fan of fresh fruit juice, you can definitely find your juice and smoothie-fix here.

The open floor plan of the otherwise cramped cafe also allows the customer a peek into the live kitchen, where staff sporting hairnets and aprons hurry about, peeling fruit and loading them into blenders.

The deliciously combined, often quirkily named juices are guaranteed to have one coming back for more. Reddish Desire is a marriage of apple and pomegranate and The Love Triangle is a combination of apples, carrots and pomegranate while Tiny Whispers is a concoction of various fruit nectars.

The breakfast section on the menu has a limited variety of omelettes, but there is a great variety of side items such as sausages, baked beans and beef kebabs. The omelettes are light and fluffy, with protein-packed flavours such as hunter beef, chicken, mushroom and cheese. The desi omelette brings back memories of Sunday morning family brunches.

All breakfast items come with a freebie: a complimentary fruit bowl to start your day just right, but only up until noon though.

There are quite a few salads options as well, all of them simple and surprisingly fresh and tasty.

The garden and fruit salad with chicken, dried nuts and dates is a dish from a healthy heaven and comes in a bowl big enough to convince you to skip a subsequent meal.

Topped with sliced bananas and a ring of dates, pine nuts and walnuts, tackling the first layer of the dish reveals a scrumptious medley of char-grilled chicken, fresh seasonal fruit and garden vegetables. The combination is so powerful it does not need any salad dressing or spices at all and the hearty portion is enough for two people.

For a more filling meal, the restaurant has a selection of steaks and accompanying sauces. The most popular are the black pepper steak, the Mexican or the beef steak with mushroom sauce. The black pepper is an all time classic, the mushroom sauce is simple and lightly spiced, while the Mexican sauce is hotter and tangier, a spicier version of salsa.

All steaks are served on a wooden chopping board and come flanked by vegetables and golden, fried chips. Sautéed carrots, green beans and gourd become the perfect, crunchy side to go with the meat.

The small restaurant is frequented by gym goers and people looking for a healthy bite. Talha Ahmed said he came to the restaurant after the gym, “This is exactly the kind of place I need: I wanted more green vegetables and protein in my diet, but cooking healthy meals for yourself is a hassle.”

The entrepreneur behind juicy gossip, Izzah Ahmed, said she had started the restaurant because she felt there were no places catering to people who wanted to eat healthy.

“I would drive around Islamabad looking for a good juice place or a light bite to eat and all I could find was artificial flavours and food loaded with oil. I knew there was a niche right there, waiting to be explored,” she said.

Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2015