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Guilt free afternoon tea: The Aberdeen cafe where healthy means tasty

Who says healthy eating is boring: The Key in Aberdeen is where you can enjoy healthy yet tasty food.
Who says healthy eating is boring: The Key in Aberdeen is where you can enjoy healthy yet tasty food.

If a single quote could sum up Jonny Smith’s life so far it would be the Latin phrase “veni, vidi, vici” meaning “I came, I saw, I conquered.”

Tattooed across his chest and in bright green letters on the wall of The Key, the Aberdeen health cafe and wellness facility he co-owns, the quote perfectly depicts Jonny’s journey from professional footballer to health pioneer.

Swapping football studs for an apron, the Aberdeen footballer and his business partner Kenny Swan, a surveyor, are on a mission to dispel the myth that healthy eating is bland, boring and only for elite athletes and instead prove that it’s tasty, fun and for all the family.

Healthy food on the go: The chicken poke bowl is one many delicious and nutritious meals available to takeaway.

Launched in Regent Quay as a health café and wellbeing space with an in-house sports massage therapist, physiotherapist and a cardio studio, The Key has since expanded across the city with premises at Transition Extreme next to Aberdeen Beach, at Westhill Shopping Centre and at No8 High Street in Inverurie.

And with mouthwatering offerings such as satay chicken, burgers (yes burgers), Italian lean meatballs and loaded fries, The Key has whet the appetite of many across the city and beyond since it opened in July last year.

To find out the recipe for The Key’s success, we met Jonny for the low down.

On the ball:  Footballer Jonny Smith’s goal has always been to help people enjoy a healthier lifestyle.

Q: Can you describe The Key and how it all began?

I just thought that Aberdeen was missing somewhere like this.

Myself and my wife Yolanda have two young kids and we found that there was nowhere to go in Aberdeen where families can enjoy healthy food. So it’s always been a dream of mine to open somewhere like The Key.

As fate would have it, I met Kenny Swan, a surveyor, through a mutual friend and it turned out we had the same vision and goals so when the opportunity arose to open at Regent Quay we jumped at the chance.

Sit back, relax and enjoy a dose of healthy goodness at The Key.

Q: How did your journey take you from the football pitch to the kitchen?

Sports and fitness is my main passion in life.

I’ve been playing football since I was six-years-old and ended up at Aberdeen Football Club where I met my wife and settled down.

After leaving Aberdeen FC, I started working in oil and gas. I knew I was lucky enough to have a successful career in oil and gas but it wasn’t something that I was passionate about so when I met Kenny and the opportunity came up it was too good an opportunity for either of us to pass up.

Sea’s the day: The seafood platter is available to takeaway.

Q: What food can people expect at The Key?

We offer fresh, high-quality food, lean meats and also offer vegan options as well. All of our meals are macro balanced and the majority of items on our menu are under 500 calories.

Eat good, feel good: The coconut and mango chicken burger is going down a storm.

Q: What are your most popular dishes?

When we first opened, our burgers were a really big hit. People can’t believe that they can enjoy a burger in a health café but they can as we’re using high-quality lean meats.

The chicken satay is also popular as is the cajun chicken and salmon dishes.

We also do fakeaway events where people can come in and enjoy a healthier take on Chinese/Indian takeaway.

Tasty food with none of the guilt: The delicious thai green chicken curry has been popular.

Q: Can you pop in for breakfast?

Yes, our breakfast options have been very popular especially the protein pancake stacks and fresh smoothies including our detox, energiser and immunity smoothies.

We’re also classed as coffee specialists as we’ve tied in with local roaster Kilted Coffee.

Join the club: The striped club sandwich hits the spot.</p> <p>

Q: We hear you’ve launched a new menu this month, what mouthwatering delights can people expect?

We’re going to be offering a lot of new and exciting things such as guilt-free afternoon tea, sharing platters and takeaway platters for hospitality events.

We’ll also be offering fresh sushi made by our chef and we’ll be creating a ‘grab and go’ section where people can grab fruit pots, smoothie bowls, salads and vegan dishes to takeaway.

We’ve also just taken on a local chocolatier so we will be making our chocolate in-house as well as a lot of our home bakes.

Food fuel: The tuna nicoise salad is one of the Key’s many takeaway options.

Q: Can you describe the atmosphere at The Key?

It’s very relaxed and family friendly. The whole idea is that a busy mum can drop the kids off at school and head to The Key where she can grab a coffee and enjoy a morning fitness class.

Piece of cake: Pop into The Key for a freshly brewed coffee and a guilt free sweet treat.

Q: Can you tell us about your food prep service?

People can order a week’s worth of food so their lunch and dinner is taken care of for the week.

We’ve got a very big food prep menu with dishes like teriyaki chicken and salmon, satay curries with sides like rice and sweet potato.

Roll with it: The sushi vegetarian platter is a sight to behold.

Q: Do you source local ingredients?

We do try to use local when we can. So our coffee is from Kilted Coffee in Mintlaw and we get our meat from JK Fine Foods in Aberdeen.

We also stock Kombucha (a fermented sugary tea) from Raw Culture in Aberdeen and cookies from Cookie Cult.

We also use local bakeries and we’ve also been tying in with Brewdog to offer non-alcoholic beer.

Just brew it: Good coffee is something that The Key knows all about.

Q: The word on the street is that Aberdeen footballers have been fuelling up at The Key?

The most pleasing thing for me is that a lot of the players come in to see us. It’s a place where they can come in, grab a coffee and eat some decent food.

We actually supply the pre and post home and away game meals for Cove Rangers.

Work of food art: Breakfast has never looked so good.

Q: You’ve also had support from a very famous friend?

Calum Best is a friend of mine so when he came up to Aberdeen for an event he was keen to come in.

He’s just a nice, honest guy and he’ll give you good feedback. He’s got businesses similar to this so his feedback is always taken on board.

Famous friend: Calum Best has been very supportive of Jonny’s healthy venture.

Q: Do you think your football and career in the oil and gas industry helped you to achieve your goal with The Key?

Yes, I’ve brought that oil and gas mentality to the hospitality sector in the fact that we try and find solutions we don’t just sit on the problems.

I was at Liverpool Football Club for three years as a kid so I’ve been well disciplined from a young age.

I think you learn things in that environment that you don’t just take on board for your football career but also your work career as well.

Everyone is welcome at The Key.

Q: What’s on the cards for the future?

I just feel that you should always be looking to grow, expand and develop and that is exactly what we’re doing.

We’ve been so lucky that we’ve got such a good team and that’s where we’ve got most of our success from. So we’ve opened our fourth venue and we’re already looking to offer something else and something different.

Life quote: Jonny lives by the phrase veni, vidi, vici, the Latin for ‘I came, I saw, I conquered’.

Visit The Key online, or in person at 65 Regent Quay, Aberdeen.

This article originally appeared on the Evening Express website. For more information, read about our new combined website.