Combining eating healthily with eating out can often prove pretty tricky, with the one “light option” on an otherwise decadent menu sounding about as appealing as a cardboard salad, so it’s always refreshing to find a restaurant that makes healthy food its main focus. And when the food tastes good, I’m glad to be able to write a restaurant review to sing its praises. Relative newcomer Hot Pink Grill in Wimbledon is just such a place, and is perfectly located for combining with a trip to the cinema or even the local theatre. On the Saturday evening of our visit, the front room of the restaurant was just about full, and when we first walked in my dining partner and I thought that we might not get a table. We needn’t have worried – Hot Pink Grill is deceptively large. Although just one is visible from the street, the long, narrow dining room actually stretches back through three rooms. The décor is simple; stripped wood panelling alternates with painted blocks in muted shades of green and red on the walls, and tables are illuminated by retro style low-hanging lampshades. The atmosphere is relaxed, with mellow tunes from Mumford & Sons providing a pleasant level of background noise.
Having shown us to a table right at the back of the restaurant, our friendly waitress explained the menu to us, and told us that we should go to the counter when we were ready to order. The concept at Hot Pink Grill is simple: for a single price of £9, £11 or £13, you pick one of three variations of beef, chicken, fish or veg; pick your side dish; and pick your sauce. My dining partner went for half a chicken, with a side of sweet potato wedges and coleslaw, and Spicy Pink sauce (£13), while I opted for salmon fillet, also with a side of sweet potato wedges and coleslaw, and Hot Pink Pesto (£11). Presented on metal trays lined with Hot Pink branded brown paper, with the main given pride of place on a plate, and sides and sauce served in dainty separate bowls, both of our meals were excellent. My dining partner’s half chicken was tender, lightly seasoned with lemon and thyme, and must have come from an impressively sizeable bird. Our only slight quibbles were that the skin could have been crispier, and the half chicken was missing its wing. Since Hot Pink Grill don’t serve wings separately, and would therefore have no need to siphon them off, we thought it was a slightly odd thing to leave out. The Spicy Pink sauce was a variation on piri piri, with a tangy, dry heat and distinct a chilli kick that went very well with the chicken. My salmon fillet was perfectly cooked and simply delicious and the Hot Pink Pesto was a brilliantly fresh, intensely basil-y accompaniment. As for the sides, the sweet potato wedges were delicately salted and meltingly soft, with a rich flavour and creamy texture despite the apparent lack of any butter or oil, while the coleslaw was pure and refreshing with julienned carrot, cabbage and red onion lightly coated in a slightly lemony, mustardy dressing and just a hint of mayonnaise.
After our healthy mains, my dining partner and I felt like we could justify having dessert. I thoroughly enjoyed the warm apple and sultana cake, accompanied by “skinny” custard. The cake’s sponge was wonderfully light and subtly flavoured with cinnamon, though it didn’t contain quite as many pieces of apple as I would have hoped for, while the custard was deliciously creamy – had it not been advertised on the menu I’d never have guessed it had just 150 calories. My dining partner’s dessert of honeycomb cheesecake was at the other end of the spectrum in terms of decadence – the texture was rich and velvety, the biscuit base wonderfully buttery, and the cake was topped with fabulously crunchy chocolate coated honeycomb pieces. This really was heaven on a plate. Not convinced that custard or frozen yoghurt would really complement the cheesecake, my dining partner was particularly impressed that filter coffee (or indeed any hot drink) was offered as an alternative accompaniment within the dessert’s £5 price tag.
As for drinks, Hot Pink Grill offers just one wine of each colour – all are sourced from Bordeaux, and available in 175ml, 250ml, 500ml or 1 litre carafes. I decided to try the white, which was quite enjoyable – pale, dry and fresh with slight herby notes. The only disappointment was the glass I was given to drink it from – a regular water tumbler. Call me a traditionalist, but I really believe that wine tastes best in a wine glass. Although the tumbler came from the fridge, it quickly warmed up in my hand, whereas I could have held a wine glass by the stem, helping to keep the wine cooler for longer. My dining partner, meanwhile, thoroughly enjoyed his Hot Pink Lager – proudly brewed in accordance with the Bavarian Purity Law, this was a hoppy tasting beer which was not too gassy. Service at Hot Pink Grill was excellent – all of the staff we interacted with were very friendly, not to mention enthusiastic about the food. I can’t ignore the fact that the food at Hot Pink Grill is all stuff you could cook quite easily at home if you wanted to, and there will surely be some people who would rather choose something a little less simple for their dinner out. But there is something to be said for having simple food cooked for you. And Hot Pink Grill can’t be faulted on value – two tasty courses and a drink came in at just £21.50 per head – so their overall score is a well-deserved four Forks-Up.Hot Pink Grill 86 The Broadway Wimbledon London SW19 1RQ T: 020 8543 6066