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Eat, pray, heal



Spa cuisine is the new mantra for healthy eating. Luxe turns the spotlight on some of the places where the food is as delicious as it is beneficial.

Roll over aloo paratha; avocado toast is here. The eating habits of urban Indians have changed in the last few years. People are swapping cheesy pizzas for smoothie bowls and food with activated charcoal — including dishes such as millet risotto and sorghum bread — are much in demand in restaurants that focus on health.

Healthy eating has been taking new turns. While largely rooted in fitness, it now encompasses wellness to help people feel good physically as well as from within. And helping them in this is a food genre called spa cuisine.

Contrary to popular belief, spa cuisine does not comprise flavoured detox waters and leafy salads or dishes offered in spas. It is a term for food which would help a person detox and feel rejuvenated. There is no place in spa cuisine for refined, artificial or processed ingredients; it emphasises on wholesome nutrition and the use of local and seasonal ingredients.

“Fresh, locally harvested and seasonal foods have their full flavours intact which are released when they’re eaten,” says Nikhil Kapur, MD and founder, Atmantan Wellness Centre, a luxury wellness destination near Pune. These organic foods are nutrient dense and pack in more antioxidants than their chemically treated cousins, he adds.

The food seeks to strike a balance between flavours and goodness. “From weight loss, improved energy, mental clarity to organ cleansing and gentle detoxification, this kind of wellness cuisine helps ensure many personal benefits while retaining flavours,” says Steve Jeisman, group director, Alila Experiences, of Alila Hotels & Resorts. He points out that hotels across the world are increasingly focussing on the food and beverages section of spas, besides their wellness treatments.

Elixir of life: Tropical mint drink with celery, cucumber, spinach, pineapple and lemon

The move towards the cuisine is spurred by the trend worldwide of people choosing healthy habits. In India, the rich tradition of Ayurveda helps, as it offers wellness alternatives, and the variety of regional produce available in the country makes cuisine of this kind more accessible and diverse.

Increasingly, people are also taking off on wellness holidays, promoted by wellness destinations and hotels. And restaurants across the country are offering a wholesome fare that incorporates raw, vegan and gluten-free options. Restaurateur Sonal Barmecha says in 2015 she started focusing on organic food and supporting local farmers by buying raw ingredients directly from them. Today, her restaurant Santé Spa Cuisine in Pune has expanded with an outpost in Mumbai that opened recently. The menus include energetic beverages, ragi-based pizzas and charcoal infused dim sums, among other options. Another popular food trend is a smoothie bowl, a thicker version of a smoothie, which can be topped up with granola, nuts and other super foods.

Diwaker Balodi, executive sous chef, Ananda in the Himalayas, a luxury resort near Haridwar, adds that good wellness cuisine has to address the requirements of a customer, such as what food suits a person and what doesn’t.

The experts also point out that wellness food can be delicious as well as healthy. Have a blueberry chia smoothie at breakfast after a relaxing spa treatment, and you would agree.

Here’s our pick of where you can sample some of the best spa cuisines in the country:

Ananda in the Himalayas, Tehri, Uttarakhand

This luxury spa destination focuses on fresh, natural foods low in fats and calories and on whole grains, fruits and vegetables and lean proteins. The menu keeps out anything that contains artificial salt, colours or preservatives. Local produce is used for health and taste. Among many such ingredients are the Himalayan wild jamun, Himalayan jackfruit, local plums, golden raspberries and local millets and grains. Menus are also crafted to suit individual dietary needs.

Chefs use organic produce grown at Ananda’s own farms near Dehradun, while Ayurvedic herbs from the garden are added to enhance metabolism and improve a customer’s health. Signature dishes include the Garhwali thali, influenced by the local hill cuisine and said to boost immunity.

Taj Wellington Mews, Mumbai

All things healthy: Super food salad at Taj Wellington Mews (Mews Cafe) Mumbai   –  WASEEM KHAN


“Our menu is in sync with the Taj’s wellness brand Jiva Spa, which has its roots in the philosophy that Jiva or ‘life force’ is the bedrock of wellness,” says Chef Shrutika Koli, sous chef, Mews Café, Taj Wellington Mews. At Mews Café, they have a curated menu categorised under ‘wellness dishes’, offering a mix of healthy yet delicious fare. These vary from detox or organic juices, a variety of salads comprising super foods and oven cooked / grilled meats and herbal teas. Signature dishes are super food salad, buckwheat and avocado salad and herb-scented salmon.

Atmantan Wellness Centre, Pune

Eat the rainbow: ChickenBowl at Atmantan Wellness Centre


At Atmantan, overall wellness is a focal point and this extends to the fare on offer. The ingredients — lettuce, bottle gourd, zucchini, pumpkin and so on — are all fresh and locally harvested. They also make their own cottage cheese every day. Signature dishes include raw okra salad, roasted pumpkin and coconut soup, eggplant and zucchini parcels and raw cocoa mousse.

Alila Diwa Goa, Goa

Most of its dishes are cooked with ingredients that are locally sourced. Their own organic garden provides the kitchen with tomatoes, chillies, curry leaves, mango, papaya, banana, basil, radish and other vegetables. “Our spa cuisine offerings can be tailor-made to suit an individual’s dietary requirements and health plan,” says Jeisman.

Dishes are cooked with local coconut and jaggery, jackfruits, wild red rice, amaranth and fresh local fish, such as mackerel. Signature dishes include asparagus upma, avocado chilled soup, crab, egg and pumpkin cake and beetroot and sweet potato pudding.