My first-ever visit to Crussh at Jubilee Place in Canary Wharf got off to a slightly hysterical start. In the course of making arrangements via e-mail, Michelle’s typing error had transformed MD Chris Fung’s name into Chris FUN. ”You’re kidding – he must be a real fun guy!”, I quipped, not realising until Chris replied “I am kinda, actually! But the name is Fung with a G” that he was also on the e-mail distribution list. Oops. One of those “planet earth, swallow me now” moments. Good thing Chris has as much of a sense of fun as his misspelt name suggests…
Crussh started life as a smoothie and juice outlet on Cornhill in the City of London in 1998 at the height of the juice fad. Founder James Learmond was frustrated by the lack of healthy lunch options in the City and so decided to start his own. Competitors may have come and long gone, but Crussh seems to have gone from strength to strength, with 25 outlets in London today selling not only juices and smoothies but also salads, wraps, soups and more substantial healthy take-away meals. Much of this expansion has taken place under the leadership of MD Chris, originally from Hong Kong but who grew up in Australia, who joined us for lunch during our visit. Chris’s enthusiasm for his product and the Crussh brand is infectious. Every time one of us tried a dish, we’d look up to find him grinning at us in expectation and asking@ “So – do you like it?”. This is a man who’s confident of the quality of what he sells, and with good reason.
The company bills itself as the UK’s leading smoothie company and won the 2011/12 Best Lunch Retailer in the UK Smoothie Awards – so this is evidently no idle boast. Crussh is also a very eco-friendly company, constantly looking for ways to reduce the impact its packaging has on the environment. Paper pulp from sustainable forests and environmentally friendly soya inks are now being used by Crussh for its promotional materials; the food and drink comes in paper containers; and there’s not a shred of polystyrene to be seen. Crussh is also introducing a recycling scheme for all the Crussh juice bars and to encourage customers to recycle their rubbish, plus investigating a special new biodegradable cup made from cornstarch. The company has partnered with carbon management specialists Carbon Clear to help support two projects that not only benefit the environment but also local communities in India and Central America.
The Jubilee Place, Canary Wharf branch offers take-aways to the vast daytime population of Canary Wharf, to be enjoyed at their desks as they keep the economy ticking over – but for those who want to linger longer there are sleek, pale wooden tables as well, lit with natural light from large skylights above. Bonus points to Crussh for using sustainable – and beautiful! – bamboo for their tables. The outlet itself is bright and eye-catching, with the orange of the logo carrying through the decor, punctuated by the splashes of vivid green provided by the pots of wheatgrass. Chris had told us (me, Michelle, Margot, Sarah and Solange) “come hungry” – and it soon became apparent why. I had expected a review of a smoothie, soup & salad restaurant to be a relatively brief affair but as soon as I saw the menu, I knew I was sorely mistaken.
As the company started off by selling juices, it seemed only fitting that we should start with them too. On the menu were solo juices made from a single fruit or vegetable (such as orange, apple or carrot (starting at £2.60 for a small); as well as combo juices (starting at £2.95 for a small) in an intriguing array of flavour combinations. The best thing about all the juices is that they are fresh pressed before your very eyes, with no added sugar and no added preservatives – not a claim all “fresh” juices can make. I tried the apple juice (wonderfully cloudy and as refresing as biting into a fresh apple!); the Clean & Lean combo (apple, melon & cranberry) which appealingly melded the tartness of cranberries with the sweetness of melons; the Tropical Crussh (apple, pineapple, ginger & coconut milk – and do I recall poppy seeds??) which was deliciously spicy and thick and creamy – more on the smoothis contunuum than juice; and my favourite – the Pear & Ginger Cleanser (pear, ginger & cucumber) – probably not to everyone’s taste as it contains a good dose of ginger, but I loved it as it reminded me of a non-alcoholic version of a Pimms cocktail!
From there we moved on to the Healthpots – snack sized pots designed to curb your hnuger pangs while still delivering a nutritional punch. The tuna lean bean healthpot (take-out £2.25, eat-in £2.70) was probably what I would have chosen on an average weekday and was packed not only with tuna but also chickpeas, kidney beans and balsamic vinegar to add texture and flavour – like the delicious love child of tuna and three-bean salad! Similarly successful was the roasted aubergine and chia seed, coriander & feta healthpot with a tahini dressing (take-out £2.25, eat-in £2.70) – the coriander added freshness while the aubergine and feta added satisfying body, and the tahini tied all the flavours together. But my favourite healthpot by a country mile was the seriously awesome beetroot & apple hijiki healthpot (take-out £2.50, eat-in £3.00). At first glance, all you see is a layer of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and cashew nuts – but dig deeper and you find what appears to be beetroot noodles and chunks of apple. In fact, these are a combination of vermicelli and strands of hijiki seaweed, dyed purple by the beetroot. The seaweed is absolutely addictive with its slippery yet crunchy texture and pairs fantastically with the nuts and seeds. I would like to have this delivered to my desk every day for lunch, please…
Next, we moved on to the rather dazzling array of salads. I had requested to try the NY:LON Cobb salad (take-out £4.20, eat-in £5.04) – a substantial bowl including lettuce, chicken breast, avocado, bacon, hard boiled egg and baby corn in a delicious Caesar style creamy dressing. Probably not the lowest fat option on the menu (!), but delicious and filling. The super greens salad (take-out £4.05, eat-in £4.86) was another hit, packed with superfoods like broccoli and edamame, paired with lettuce, French beansm cherry tomatoes, radish and toasted almond flakes. I loved its fresh green crunch and the light, Asian-inspired soy sauce and yuzu dressing. Another hit was the quinoa & black barley superfoods salad (take-out £4.05, eat-in £4.86) with spinach leaves, quinoa, Feta cheese, black barley, seeds and a palate-tingling lemon dressing. I loved the nuttiness that the barley and quinoa imparted, and the lemony dressing was literally a wake-up call to your tastebuds. Also tried but not photographed were their outstanding wraps. Having tried all sorts of wraps from all sorts of outlets, I feel qualified to say that these were some of the best I have had. The tortillas themselves were full of seeds and moist; the ratio of filling to tortilla was good; and the fillings themselves were delicious. We tried the tarragon chicken and red pepper wrap (Take Out £3.60 Eat In £4.32) which was filled to the brim with moist chicken breast meat, tarragon leaves, red pepper and mayonnaise. Tarragon is so seldom seen in a sandwich and this combination was a rare treat. The other wrap I tried was the hugely popular sweet potato falafel salad wrap (Take Out £3.35 Eat In £4.02) filled with crunchy & spicy sweet potato falafel, coriander, hummus and vegetables. This was filling and terrifically tasty without being at all greasy or rich – definitely a winner in the wrap Olympics!
From there, we moved on to sample some of the hot dishes on offer. First up was a selection of Crussh’s three flavours of zero noodles – made from yam and so called because of their ultra-low calorie count. All three flavours (tofu, chicken and prawn) are priced at £4.95 and are pretty hefty portions for that price. Each consists of a broth base containing noodles, vegetables, and the main ingredient. I did not try the Zero noodles with ginger miso tofu but I loved the umami-rich Zero noodles with ginger teriyaki chicken which was redolent with the flavour of coriander leaf. My favourite, however, was the Zero noodles with lemongrass tom yum prawns which had an astonishingly gingery kick that would warm the cockles of your heart on a wintery day, and the fattest, juiciest prawns I have seen in a very long time. A bargain at £4.95 if you ask me.
This was followed by a selection of their excellent stews, all of which can be served in on rice in a tall cup to take away. The original size (£5.65) is positively enormous – definitely big enough to share; while the more manageable petite size clocks in at £4.45. We tried the meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce with creme fraiche (delicious with a rich tomato sauce and good meat used in the meatballs); green Thai chicken curry (lovely and quite sweet, but with a good, hot spicy kick!); the butternut squash & chickpea curry (rich, spicy, and the perfect antidote to boring vegetarian food); and the Mediterranean lamb stew (sizeable chunks of flavourful lamb in a gently spiced tomato sauce). All four the stews were impressive in terms of their fresh flavour and generous size.
Of course, we could not come to Crussh without trying at least one or two smoothies – but these were to be smoothies with a twist! On their standard smoothie menu (starting at £2.95 for a small), you will find the crushberry blast – a heavenly combination of raspberries, blueberries, apple, banana and yoghurt. However, the berry smoothie we were served was developed for Crussh’s outlet at Boxpark (London’s first pop-up mall) and has a special added ingredient: vodka. I loved the berry flavour and rich colour, but I thought it could have done with a little more vodka – no use serving an alcoholic smoothie if you can’t taste the alcohol! The other smoothie we had was similarly alcoholic but far more refreshing: the Detox Cactus made of agave cactus, pineapple, lime, banana, pineapple juice & yoghurt – with added tequila. I loved the freshness of this drink, and how subtly noticieable the tequlia was. I would happily order a jug of this on a summer evening!
And last but not least, Chris persuaded us to try one of the Crussh booster drinks – specifically a wheatgrass shot (£1.75 for about 30ml). Wheatgrass is rich in chllorophyll and Vitamin B12 and is billed as a superfood that detoxifies the body and prevents cancer – neither of which has been conclusively proved. However, what I can prove by empirical research is that it is the greenest thing I have ever put into my body – an intense shade of emerald that smells like the freshly cut lawns of my childhood. Surely this much greenery has to be good for you?? The taste is rather similar to the smell – a pungent stemmy green flavour that hits the stomach like a firework and has been known to cause headaches and nausea – be warned! It is apparently best consumed on an empty stomach to minimise the risk of the latter, but I am greateful to say that even though all of us drank our shots on a considerably full stomach, no ill effects were recorded! I also liked the idea of serving it with an apple slice, to bite into and mask the intense aftertaste of the grass. LIke tequila and lemon, only healthier
I have to admit that Crussh totally surpassed my expectations. I realise that part of it was Chris’s engaging personality and infectious enthusiasm, but I was also impressed by the breadth of their menu selection, and the freshness and quality of everything we ate. Although you could argue that the juices are not the cheapest, this should be offset against the fact that they are squeezed to order and contain nothing but fruit. And when you look at the prices of the Healthpots and the stews, these seem positively cheap, compared to, say, an overpriced sandwich for a weekday lunch. I would definitely recommend Crussh not only to those working in Canary Wharf, but also to weekend shoppers in the Jubilee Place mall who are looking for a lunch that will be enjoyable but still let them fit into their skinny designer jeans
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Liked: the overall food quality, the great value healhpots, the smoothies
On a scale of 1 to 10: 7 out of 10
DISCLOSURE: I enjoyed this meal as a guest of Crussh.
Unit 21 Jubilee Place
Tel: 020 7 519 6427
Fax: 020 7 519 6428
On Friday 22 June I will be speaking as part of a round-table discussion entitled “British Blogging Now” at the Britmums Live 2012blogging conference in London – and there’s still time to register!
Have you booked your ticket yet to hear me speak at theSouth African Food & Wine Blogger Indaba in Cape Town, South Africa on 24 June? I am speaking on “Ethics, etiquette and why we blog”, as well as presenting two photography workshops – one on getting your camera off the auto setting, and one on Photoshop/post-processing together with the talented Alida Ryder of Simply Delicious. Buy your ticket today - they are selling out fast!