REVIEW: Leon Restaurants, Brighton

smoothies and salad boxes - Leon restaurants brighton

It's a fact that Brighton is 65% Perspex now. Most of the openings of late have been the chain restaurants, descending on us like a swarm of money hungry locusts from the Capital. Some have been more welcome than others, but there is no denying that our high street seems to be changing quite dramatically.

Wading through the burgers and faux street food press releases, I was reasonably pleased to see that Leon had secured a site at the top of North Street. I have a couple of their recipe books on my shelf and always liked the quirky brand and tone of voice. And I totally agree with their core ethos - why the hell shouldn't fast food be nutritious and fresh?

I'm out and about a lot these days and it is quite hard to stay healthy on the fly. One of my current design clients are nutrition-focussed and you can see from their support forums, people really struggle with grabbing healthy food on the go, particularly for snacking. This is where Leon may be a high street saviour. Their breakfast pots; the black bean & avocado or poached egg pots tick the protein hit box and the porridge pots are a great shout for slow-burn nutrition. Also if you have kids this is a useful pit stop - their chargrilled chicken super pot is an ideal mini lunch for my toddler. Add in some toast and hummus and you practically have a feast for them.

And on the face of it, I'd eat everything on the menu - the salad boxes are all interesting (Super Clean Quinoa, Hot Smoked Salmon, Chargrilled Chicken salads) and the "hot boxes" will call as the weather cools; think chicken curries, lamb kofte and there are also wraps and a chicken burger. They have made the menu easy to navigate if you are looking for particular dietary criteria too. 

I tried the Original Superfood salad first which many have used as inspiration. Surprisingly filling, I love crisp broccoli with peas and cucumber - so refreshing. These greens love mint and parsley and this salad had plenty. It wasn't padded out with too much quinoa and the seeds added even more texture. Sadly it only had two brown pieces of avocado in it which let it down. 

On another day I picked up their collaboration salad with Gizzi Erskine. It was chargrilled chicken and satay sauce served with spiralised carrots, daicon and sweet potato. Again, this was pleasant to eat, colourful and full of good textures but I was expecting a little more va va voom, it all looked a bit deflated in the box having suffered under the hot lamps.

My sweet potato falafel hot box on another day was full of beautiful ingredients; a crunchy slaw, brown rice, herbs and four of the falafels. Somehow none of the flavours were stand out. There was little seasoning, no acidity...it was a bit boring.

Drinks, however ,were great on all visits. I love the fizz of kefir (some hate it!) and so bloody good for your stomach. The blueberry and elderflower flavour made this my ideal "milkshake". The Kermit green clean shake was also good and filling with avocado, spinach, apples and coconut water. 

At the end of the day this is a fast food joint, the illuminated light box menus, the self serve trays but it's been nicely done. If the middle classes did fast food - this is it.

As an accessible grab and go option, Leon fills a gap in the market for Brighton. The food wasn't quite as good as I had hoped, maybe my expectations were a little too high, but it lacked a little freshness and punch and I can think of a number of our independent places that do this better and at a slightly more affordable cost (Eat Naked, Smorls, Iydea, even Namul (bimimbap but fresh and healthy)). Caught in the centre of town though, and with the span of opening hours from first thing until 10pm, I can see myself visiting again but it's not a place I would go out of my way for.

leonrestaurants.co.uk
75 North Street, Brighton
BN1 1ZA

I was sent vouchers for review. Words and thoughts, as always, my own.