I first stumbled across Leon a few months ago while searching fervently for somewhere to grab a bite – I had been trekking around Oxford Street to my heart’s content, but was feeling properly famished in the aftermath. For some reason I’ve found the majority of restaurants directly on the main shopping street to be rather overpriced – whereas Carnaby Street, where one of the Leon branches is situated, is actually quite reasonably-priced for eateries.
Ever since my first bite of Leon’s culinary efforts (I’d ordered a delectable fish finger wrap that first afternoon I went there) I haven’t ceased to make at least one visit to the place every time I make a trip to the British capital, and have slowly but surely worked my way through other parts of their delicious-but-guilt-free menu. Here’s an account of my latest visit:
Even before having tasted the food, one can immediately sense that Leon is much, much more than yet another London quick-food chain; indeed, the Carnaby Street cafe (as would presumedly be the case in any of its branches) has an incredibly warm and cozy ambience, the dining area lined with comfortable leather open-booths, atmospheric lighting and wall-adorning photos undoubtedly filled with happy memories and milestones of this nearly-decade-old establishment. Because it was such a glorious, cloudless day when I visited Leon, any customers had the good sense to soak up the sunshine on the outside tables and chairs – leaving me an ample (and rare) opportunity to capture the essence of indoors without disruption!
I had sampled Leon’s chorizo burger the last time I’d ventured into the place, and I’d honestly relished every bite; the sausage they use is sourced from Brindisa, a gourmet Spanish foods group based in London that is renowned for its mouth-watering chorizo (the same chorizo found in Brindisa’s Borough Market grill that featured last year as one of Timeout’s 100 best dishes in London – no mean feat!). I decided to order it again this time, along with a portion of baked fries and subsequently a lemon, lime & ginger quencher – my shopping partner in crime stuck to a sweet treat, choosing a Sweet Sevilla Torta biscuit to nibble alongside a cup of black coffee.
This time round, I was (yet again) far from disappointed – the chorizo wasn’t greasy in the slightest, placed between a 100% spelt bun, and the pickles & rocket leaves that accompanied it gave the burger a somewhat fresh edge. It was quite a mild day in London at the time, and I was rather in need of hydration, so I couldn’t drink the quencher fast enough – I was literally hooked from the first sip, as the addition of ginger and mint leaves to an already-classic combination made the drink even more refreshing. My comrade reported with a beam that the coffee was truly superb, definitely one of – if not the - nicest cup of coffee she’d sampled outside of Italy; and that the torta biscuit was the perfect accompaniment, being unique in that it was flavoursome and yet almost feather-light.
It truly seems the case that whenever I walk into Leon, I’m always guaranteed a filling yet healthy lunch that’ll give me the stamina sufficient to see through the rest of the day’s plans. I’m really looking forward to sampling some un-tried dishes during my next visit – the halloumi burger and sweet potato falafel wrap are majorly high on my wishlist (another important note to make is that Leon also has a kids menu that, from what reading suggests, gives a good balance of nutritional but child-appealing food, making the place a great family-orientated spot to make a pitstop at too). It’s wonderful to have a fool-proof eatery to fall back on wherever I find myself in London, as its various branches offer the same ‘naturally fast food’ philosophy that immediately caters to foodies and calorie-counters (and those who are a combination of the two), with the brand’s website not only highlighting if any dishes are gluten/wheat/dairy-free and low in saturated fat, but also giving the entire list of ingredients and statistics of every single product on offer! If you needed any further evidence of how natural and genuine Leon’s food & beverages are, then this is the ultimate testimony – the company’s ethos is to provide as hearty and wholesome a meal as possible to its customers, and isn’t going to hide behind any misleading barriers (that any food chains with questionable methods would utilise) in the process – why would it?
You can find a plethora of additional info on Leon’s website “here”, as well as receiving up-to-date notifications via its Facebook page. Interestingly enough, you can even find some Leon cookbooks outside of their cafes – I even stumbled across some for sale in Avoca Kilmacanogue in Co. Wicklow! Regardless of where you live, however, you can purchase any Leon paraphernalia on the website’s ‘Little Leon Shop’ “here” and start re-creating those coveted dishes to your heart’s content. Making it your regular go-to cafe in the city would definitely have long-term benefits – clock up enough stamps in a loyalty card and you can enjoy any side dish, coffee, cake or the like on the house! ♥