Norwich: Sumo Salad
Sick of the lunchtime sandwich? Looking for something healthy? A new Norwich venture based on an Australian concept aims to make us falling in love with salad. But will it be up to the British weather? SIMON PARKIN tried it out.
What's your view on salad? A healthy and varied treat or boring rabbit food fit only to garnish the side of a proper main meal?
Opinions vary, but I've always been in the former camp, so I was delighted to see something called SumoSalad recently open its doors in a former shoe shop on Orford Place.
As the name (or at least half of it — we've no idea where the sumo element comes into it, beyond a bloke in a Japanese wrestler suit who helped launch it) suggests they're pushing salad firmly into the foreground. IN doing so they're betting that enough people will share my love of the salad bar.
Behind the venture is former airline commercial manager Mike Dodds who has turned over a new leaf by becoming the first independent franchisee of what is actually an Australian concept.
Having spent six years in Sydney where he worked for Qantas Airlines, he returned to the UK after his wife Helen got a job as a psychology lecturer at the UEA. He has invested about �115,000 of his own funds into the new venture and is helpful it'll take off.
'I am the first independent UK franchise,' he said. 'There is an element of risk involved, but I am confident.'
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I hope it's a success because the more places we can encourage that serve genuinely healthy food the better.
When they say salad, of course, they're not just talking about a few lettuce leaves and tomato. Salad here comes in all its various guises. So you get the choice of pasta salads, potato salad, beetroot salad, noodle salad, couscous salad — you name it. Think of a great salad bar and you get the idea.
They do various options. They do large salad boxes for �5.50, regular �4.50, where you can choose to mix and match from a choice of up to a dozen ready-made options. They include the likes of Chicken Caesar, Tuna Ni�oise and the classic Greek Salad.
Alternatively they have a range of Signature Salads for a more substantial, more expensive �6.50 large, �5.50 regular that take in the likes Vietnamese Chicken, Thai Beef, Moroccan Lamb Salad or Spicy Mexican Chicken.
Then there is the design your own bar where prices start from �3.50 for the basics, with extra charges depending on the extras you want.
The meat or grilled vegetables are cooked to order which is a nice touch. Salads all come in neat little boxes, complete with wire handle. If you'd prefer they also serve salads in wraps and Moroccan flatbreads, and have a selection of ready made sandwiches, plus coffees, smoothies and yoghurts.
We opted for a Falafel and Moroccan Couscous salad and a Classic Greek. Both were packed to the top and you get plenty in a large box. The ingredients were fresh and crunchy, no limp lettuce leaves here.
The Greek salad came with masses of black olives and huge chunks of feta cheese — more than a mouthful, and was the pick of the two. We loved the roasted peppers in the Moroccan salad, but the falafel was a tad dry and tasteless.
For those seeking to be ultra healthy there is plenty of choose from, however some may quibble about just how many calories some dressing-heavy combinations contain. They do however seem to genuinely trying to cover all the boxes for specific dietary requirements.
The eatery itself has a funky design but isn't huge. There is room for just two small tables otherwise its takeaway.
No doubt this will do a roaring trade in the summer months, but what about come the autumn and winter?
SumoSalad started in Sydney, Australia, back in 2003 where, of course, they benefit from plenty of sunshine. You suspect they'll have to diversify into something more warming to see us through a Norfolk winter.
Open: Daily 8am-6pm
Prices: Large salad box �5.50/regular �4.50, design your own from �3.50
Vegetarian options: It's salad, so plenty
Wheelchair access: Yes