Eat well at Leon – be healthy and happy.
That’s right, a new dinner menu and publishing the nutritional information of their food in the same month: has Leon been channeling my thoughts? When I read about it in Restaurant magazine I was thrilled. I eat at Leon for lunch often, and now that they’ve launched a new menu for dinner, it will be one I frequent in Spitalfields in the evenings as well.
About six months ago, I wasn’t surprised when I couldn’t find any nutritional information for Leon’s food, as it’s a trend that is catching on a bit more slowly than it has in America. There are many people who have a strong opinion against this kind of thing, but I make no excuses for appreciating (and often requesting/demanding) it. I like knowing what’s in my food, and yes, more often than not, I like keeping track.
Call it boring if you like, but actually I think it makes things more interesting. It means I have to try to eat food which is healthy and tasty, and when you’re eating out that’s not easy to do. It means I have to get creative and sometimes be a bit picky. It’s all in the name of eating good food and being healthy, because unfortunately I am just not one of those people who can eat whatever they want and claim they don’t care about what its doing to their body. There, I said it. And now that that’s out of the way, to the point: Leon’s food.
The new dinner menu at Leon comes along with details of its nutrition so I was very happy to give it a go, with the man himself, Henry Dimbleby (Co-founder and CEO). The atmosphere at dinner is chilled-out, warm and friendly, less frantic than the normal lunch hour service. The menu is made up mostly of grazing dishes: one of my favourite ways to eat because it means you have to share. Anyone who’s ever eaten with me, or eaten in front of me even, knows that I don’t deal well with people who don’t share food.
You can either order the dishes separately or go for one of the two set menus (Feasting Menu at £25 for two, or the Classic Menu for £23). The food has a Mediterranean theme, with an English twist, and it is really tasty. I love it because it reminds me of my mom’s kitchen – healthy food that is prepared well and doesn’t taste like you’re sacrificing anything. And the best part about the mix of small dishes is that you can get a taste of everything – if you’re watching what you eat, have a bit of the chorizo and halloumi, and dig in on the broccoli, brown rice, hummus and sunshine salad.
With small dishes like Moroccan meatballs, chilli con carne, hummus, brown rice and garlic and chilli broccoli, the food is great for the Winter months as its warm, filling and won’t weigh you down. And if you order the Classic Menu, you can be sure you’ll get at least 2 or 3 of your daily serving of veggies. Not to mention the hummus with whole chickpeas is the best hummus I have eaten in the UK (something is wrong with the hummus from supermarkets in this country).
Many of the dishes (yes, the whole dish) come in under 250 calories and even the really yummy ones only go up to about 400. Ok, the halloumi cheese is over 500, but there’s a lot to go round and is meant to be shared.
Leon doesn’t just focus on calories – they publish information about dairy, wheat, gluten, fat and most importantly how much energy the food provides. It is really a comprehensive and easy-to-understand list of what goes into their food and how it will affect you and your body. It’s not in your face at the restaurants, but if you want it you can find it on their website.
I like Leon because I can eat out and eat well, frequently without feeling unhealthy. Of course it can’t compete with the big boys in terms of fine dining, but I don’t think it’s trying to. If I want a really nice, indulgent meal, there are places for that. But if I want a lunch or dinner I can trust, Leon ticks all the boxes.
*photos courtesy of Mathilde Delville