Eating Well This January: Eating Out

OK, so I’m going to assume that a lot of you are like me in that you may have over indulged a little over the Christmas break; am I right? Well if you’ve done that then you probably also spent most of the Twixmas period trying to eat all the bad things left in the house before January arrives; still on track? Now it’s time to admit that you’ve started making strange noises when you raise yourself out of a chair and to do something about it.

I’m not into that ‘New Year, New Me’ bullshit but I do believe that making lifestyle changes can provide a good platform to being a bit happier and a bit healthier. So, I’m on a quest to find ways to eat well but improve my health at the same time.

Mrs Munkee and I have opted to give the paleo diet a try. Now, I’m not usually a fad-follower but I want to get my mission into print then I will feel more obliged to stick to it and will be publically shamed if I fail! I do want to be clear though: this does NOT mean that I will be neglecting my duties as a Food Adventurer. Instead, what I want to do is find ways to eat great food that fit within the parameters of a healthy lifestyle and food routine.

Please don’t be alarmed though. January’s blog series won’t be preachy and I won’t be turning into a spandex-clad-Mr Motivator-look-a-like. It’s just another leg to my Food Adventure.

Vigour Kitchen, St Helens


I don’t often get the opportunity to do a review of a business that’s on my door step but when I do I get very excited. St Helens, unfortunately, isn’t known for it’s food. It doesn’t boast a wealth of independent, vibrant eateries. The last St Helens haunt that I reviewed has already been sold and is due to re-open under new ownership. So when I found out about Vigour Kitchen opening in the town centre I was very excited.

Rating: 9.5/10

First Impressions

The MOFI (moment of first impact) of Vigour is incredible. The décor is industrial yet homely with a buzzing atmosphere set against a backdrop of exposed brick and strip lighting. The large tables encourage conversation and a relaxed ambience.

The thing I appreciated the most about the aesthetics was the transparency. The kitchen is open and visible with the culinary skills laid bare with pride. A good kitchen and a confident kitchen has nothing to hide and it should add to the theatre of a great eatery.


The service is impeccable. The staff are knowledgeable and take the time to walk you through the menu choices and some of the intricacies that make Vigour work.



Vigour’s menu is like its food: simple and well done. It has a strong range but not too much choice so that you’re over faced and left questioning the quality and freshness. All the ingredients are sourced locally and it even has a seasonal element to the menu.

Protein Box

Now, this isn’t in anyway a unique idea but it’s easy to get it wrong. Poorly cooked veg or a protein caked in sauce can ruin the impact of a healthy DIY protein box. Vigour managed to avoid all the pitfalls and give a strong element of ‘build-it-yourself’ in the choices available.

Shakes & Smoothies

I love a good shake but it’s hard to avoid the stodge. That being said, I think I’ve fallen in love with The Monkey Nut Smoothie. So much so that I’m tempted to start a petition that Vigour should rename it The Northern Munkee Nut Smoothie!

Overall Experience

Fantastic. I was looking for a way to still feel like I was eating out within the restraints of my lifestyle changes and I definitely found that.

Verdict – in a word, Vigorous! This is exactly the sort of place St Helens needs to raise the profile of the town and to improve the quality of food on offer. I was speaking with one of the owners Scott and his philosophy was: ‘I just want people to realise that healthy food doesn’t need to be bland’.

Now it’s over to you St Helens. Get out and support your town and make this place work. Put down the pasty from the Pound Bakery and get yourself to Vigour!


Northern Munkee.


Superseed Granola Breakfast

Product Review: Troo Foods Granola

This is a breakfast-inspired blog and one that is close to my heart as I started off life in the commercial world working for one of the biggest breakfast food companies in the world.

They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day but it is fast becoming the most forgotten meal of the day. I’m not suggesting that the trend is that people have stopped eating breakfast; however I am suggesting that it’s not a meal any more. The days of sitting around the table to eat breakfast are all but gone except may be on weekend, instead people are yearning for a more convenient and faster way to consume their morning meal. This trend has contributed to the success of cereal bars, breakfast biscuits and breakfast drinks.

I am a big believer in market innovation to drive interest and new shoppers so there’s no doubt that the explosion of on-the-go options has driven the category forward but I want to see innovation driven by creativity not convenience. The Grocer published a great article this summer in their breakfast feature which demonstrated some inspirational developments including a fresh take on black pudding!

There is a ray of hope for the breakfast occasion that’s being driven by health conscious audience as demonstrated in Eat Yourself Skinny’s blog.

Granola is playing a key role in this new movement with its versatile uses we just need more market innovators like Troo, a fresh granola subscription service, to come to the party…

Troo Superseed Granola

Rating: 8.5/10


Now it’s safe to say that I have never seen granola packaged like this before, but I have to say I love it. The ‘sealed-in-freshness’ appeal of the coffee-style packaging really adds to the appeal and branding. I also think the faintly stamped roundel calls up connotations of adventure and the exotic. I would question how this packaging would translate onto a retailer’s shelf (mainstream or specialist) as it isn’t clear what the product is or what it’s unique selling points are. However, as something that is intended to be received in the post I think it’s brilliant.


£6.99 (monthly subscription)– this is definitely market appropriate. A mainstream granola or cluster-based cereal can cost up to £4 for 200g so I have no issue with being charged a slight premium for a far superior product.


This is fantastic! The granola delivered a fantastic juxtaposition of textures and flavours from a generous blend of sweet, soft fruits and crunchy nuts and seeds. These notes were interspersed with a smooth, creaminess that developed from the oats and milk.

The final twist in the journey that this product took me on was an overarching cinnamon burst that held all the individual components together with a soft, sweet warmth. What a brilliant way to start the day!

Verdict – in a word, kick-starter! Breakfast doesn’t have to be a functional time of the day as there are now so many options available to us. As a foodie make a promise to yourself that you’ll plan your breakfast meal with as much consideration and care as you do an evening meal just once a week. Try something new, something healthy and treat yourself to a food smile at the start of the day!


So all that leaves me is to ask: what’s your favourite way to eat granola? Come on folks, leave me a comment below because sharing is caring.

Also, before you go take a look at my blog on another fantastic granola I reviewed earlier in the year; it offers something completely different to Troo but is just as inspiring!

Northern Munkee.