The daily grind wears us all down. The wake up, commute, work, commute, make dinner, make lunch, wind down, bed routine is one that I, for one, resent. However, for someone who is deeply suspicious of shop-bought sandwiches (ask anyone who knows me well), preparing my breakfast and lunch for the next day is a necessary evil. So what if there was an alternative to late night toiling in the kitchen, or bleary-eyed 6am searching in the fridge for something fast, fresh and nutritious? It seems my question has been answered in the form of Wahu Express Food Bar, Manchester's newest city centre eatery.
Wahu, conveniently located on Spinningfields' The Avenue, officially opened its doors on Thursday and focuses on providing city-dwelling-and-working-folk with something different - the chance to 'fill up for the day' on healthy, satisfying meals. Breakfast, served until 10.30, includes just the sort of nutritious options (Protein Porridge £2.45, Egg White Omelette £3.95) any personal trainer would approve of, whereas the Lunch Boxes require you to choose a base, grilled protein, extras and dressing, for £5.95. Dinner is served from 4pm, and again, a range of flavours are available within the rice, salad, pasta and wraps categories (from £4.95).
The choose-your-own concept is not unique, but what Wahu does differently is to offer the kind of food that I would make myself. As something of a health food buff, I'm very aware of what's in my food, and what I put into my body, so Wahu is exactly the kind of 'fast food' I would go for. We weren't able to construct our own boxes at Wahu's official launch (not surprising, as this would have resulted in a flock of dithering, indecisive guests, myself included), but the friendly young servers swiftly assembled us a Morrocan Lamb salad and a Teriyaki Beef rice box from the five options available.
We both enjoyed our boxes. My lamb was tender and tasty, atop a bed of crisp mixed salad leaves and drizzled with a light, fresh and flavoursome tzatziki. Mr Nicole wolfed down his beef, murmuring approval and requests for additional beers between each mouthful. We accompanied our Dinner Boxes with low-calorie beverages - Mr Nicole found the low carb / no sugar Saint lager too light-tasting to replace his usual beer, but I enjoyed the prosecco, thrilled to later realise that it too was a light option - with all this virtuous salad and low-calorie sparkle, I was practially polishing my halo (ahem).
Later into the evening, I was able to grab a quick chat with Jamie Barr, Wahu's enterprising founder, keen to pick his brains about his new venture. 'Wahu is all about providing healthy, balanced choices to young professionals', he told me. 'I played a lot of sport at university, but when I started my career I struggled to maintain that healthy lifestyle - I was always grabbing food on-the-go'. And this is where Wahu is different: Jamie believes that rather than worrying about counting calories (and all the sugar added when the fat is removed in so many 'healthy' pre-packaged foods), people can make sensible choices with the right balance between protein, good carbohydrates and plenty of fresh vegetables.
The 'Made Fresh, Made Fast' tagline doesn't really do it justice - there really is a paucity of fresh, fast, and truly healthy food options in Manchester, and Wahu fills the sizeable gap. Customers can takeaway (and probably eat at their desk, the scourge of modern professionalism) or eat in, and enjoy the vibrant, hip design - the colourful chairs, foliage wall and the clean lines of the service area making me yearn for such features in my own kitchen. I asked Jamie about the meaning behind the name: he spent some time on a Hawaiian island where people gather to grill their food on the beach, and Wahu literally means 'social gathering'. Judging by the extensive outdoor seating area (and crossing my fingers for continued sunshine and warmth), I think Wahu Express Food Bar, with its tasty and nutritious design-your-own meals, will soon be Spinningfields' favourite place to meet up and re-fuel.