The Willow Restaurant Review – A Ground Breaking Health Concept
I met Ped Milichamp a few years ago on a photoshoot when he was the creative director of Mens Fitness magazine. So when he contacted me and invited me for lunch to talk about his new role as head of creative & operations at Bluesky connextions, promoting a new concept restaurant ‘The Willow’, in Kingston, I jumped at the chance to taste the food and talk through this ground breaking ‘tri-health’ concept.
As is suggested, this is a three pronged commitment to health. The Willow is not just a stand alone restaurant, but is linked to the integrative treatment clinic called, Irrefutable Health, where the plan is to offer a wide range of treatments encompassing functional medicine, nutritional therapy, chiropractic, podiatry, medical herbalism and clinical psychoneuroimmunology (cPNI), among other disciplines. As soon as a clinic session ends, within a few feet of treatment rooms, patients can relax and enjoy everything The Willow has to offer, whilst learning about how what we eat effects us.
Ped’s passion for this stemmed from his personal battle with ME/CFS and fibromyalgia and how changing his diet improved his health. He says:
“After six years of struggling to find a way through ME/CFS and only receiving generic ‘advice’ from my GP and consultants at the hospital, I had resigned myself to a life with aches, pains and chronic fatigue.
But my time as Art Director at Men’s Fitness magazine finally showed me how the right kind of training – tailored for me and my body – combined with the support of a nutrient-dense and macro-balanced food plan – could help me overcome my health issues and get my body functioning properly again.
Sean Lerwill, an ex-Royal Marines Commando Officer and Physical Training Instructor, knew that his proposed resistance training program (combined with HIIT) went against the advice of my health consultants and, given that I hadn’t even picked up a dumbbell in my life, it was going against the grain… but the results were immediate – within days my symptoms alleviated and continued to keep at bay throughout the 10-week body transformation.
My time with Men’s Fitness and overcoming my health issues led me to join the team at Tri-Health Group. There was no hesitation. My experience serves as evidence that treating someone as an individual (and not accepting pharmaceuticals every time you go to see your GP) and fuelling the body in the right way can go a long way in someones recovery.
What works for some people doesn’t necessary work for others so that’s why an holistic approach to treating individuals, grounded in Functional Medicine, is at the core of what we are about at Tri-Health Group. This is the first of its kind here in the UK, totally unique and has the mission to provide a template for healthcare of the future. Our ethos is to bring together a holistic synergy between:
- Fantastic, nutrient dense food
- The collaboration of multiple health care disciplines.
- As a community based centre for people to educate themselves and to propel their personal health transformations.
It is food, education, and health care as each of us deserve it.”
The Willow is a truly unique offering. It’s a fully gluten-free pub and restaurant – and that includes all the beers too. It sits alongside the Irrefutable Health clinic, and above Bluesky Connexions, where they plan to run practitioner training courses, as well as numerous nutrition and lifestyle events for consumers. ‘Food as medicine’ is The Willow’s ethos, doubling as both a local and a destination venue, where ‘real food for real people’ is served up in a relaxed social environment. The Willow’s delicious and nutritious dishes have also been created to reflect specific dietary needs (gluten-free; dairy-free; lectin-free; low FODMAP; detox; elimination) and all are coded within a specially segmented menu that the consumer can easily navigate through.
All the ingredients on the breakfast, lunch, dinner and bar menus have been carefully selected to create paleo and keto-styled dishes, with a strong focus on seasonality, using local suppliers where possible. Even the beverage offering at the bar has been selected in a bid to set a new standard. You’ll find a range of organic and biodynamic wines with zero or low naturally-occuring sulphites, award-winning gluten-free beers, spirits from small-batch producers and cocktails with a ‘healthy’ twist. And the coffee and tea connoisseurs won’t be disappointed either. Our lovely friends at coffee @33 in Brighton have created an exclusive Willow blend in their micro-roastery, and Tea People has created a Willow breakfast tea. Bringing in suppliers direct has been one of the things I personally have loved the most on this project. Direct trade, ethical and sustainable – all fundamental to supplier selection.
The menu is varied and interesting. For starters we ordered their signature ‘Rainbow salad’ which not only looked beautiful but was so delicious and a kale and avocado salad which was so simple but unbelievably good. Then for mains we shared grassfed steak with roasted parsnips tomatoes and shitake mushrooms and halibut with a macadamia nut dressing served with crumbed cauliflower, samphire. The main courses were good decent sized portions, no cordon bleu here (also the kids menu has non of that chicken nugget crap that treats children as second class citizens just good fun food like cajun salmon fish fingers and falafel burgers.. you get the picture).
Then on to desserts and we had a tasting plate to get a decent measure of the delicious fare. I usual swerve this course and at most have a spoonful of someone else’s but here I tucked into carrot and courgette cake, blueberry& pistachio ‘beer’ brownie and flour less chocolate cake. All stunning in taste and presentation.
This restaurant is on par, if not better than any high end place I have been to. The Willows’ health conscious umbrella does not jeopardise its foods flavour. In fact, the food’s natural beauty shines here and has to be experienced. I cannot wait for this unique idea to become more mainstream.
The Willow, 16 The Triangle, Norbiton, Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey, KT1 3RT