Fast Track: Fast food

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The Independent Culture
Forget hazelnut lattes, skinny cinos and triple expressos, think Moroccan chick pea, spicy sweet potato and smoked haddock. The craze usurping the trendy coffee bar is the soup bar. Yes, you heard it, soup

Soup bars have already firmly established themselves in the lives of New Yorkers. And now, as with all obsessions from the epicentre of fads, London is bracing itself for the invasion. Perhaps it is due to a backlash from overdoses of Colombian coffee beans, or maybe the public are tiring of ciabatta and Parma ham sandwiches.

Naturally, the Nineties reincarnation of soup is less Ena Baxter slaving away over her stove in Scotland and more young taste dictators devising exotic combinations. Soup nourishes and offers a myriad of possibilities for flavour combinations. It an ideal alternative for those on fashionable, food-combining diets, with a relatively low calorie count compared to the carbohydrate-packed bread.

Already the concourses of Euston and Victoria railway stations are host to take-away ventures from the New Covent Garden Soup Company. The stores are proving a runaway success, selling up to 1,000 cups a day.

Janie Dear is one of a group of four behind Soup Opera, a like-minded venture, due to open their first branch in Canary Wharf in April. Dear, herself a former-City high flyer, is confident that office workers are ready for a change.

The quartet is setting out to reinvent soup, giving it a more contemporary edge. Soup Opera will offer a choice of 10 soups a day ranging from heavier stews to lighter gazpacho-style soups, served with a roll and, perhaps, a cookie. The emphasis is on fresh ingredients, a changing menu and a variety of flavours ranging from spicy soups to more familiar favourites, such as tomato or leek and potato. Says Dear: "One thing you won't feel is hungry afterwards."

You may not find yourself nipping out for an 11 o'clock fix of vichyssoise, but you may agree with the Mock Turtle in Alice in Wonderland , who sang: "Who would not give all else for two pennyworth only of beautiful soup? Beau-ootiful Soo-oop, Beau-ootiful Soo-oop!"