Fast food generally equals something not very good for you, doesn’t it? But LEON is a breath of fresh air in the ‘fast food’ market, providing healthy meals that are quick, very tasty and don’t leave you piling on the pounds.
The first one opened in 2004 in London’s Carnaby Street and there are now many stores around London, including places where good food is frequently difficult to find, such as train stations and airports. It is equally good for an office worker needing a quick, but nutritious, lunch, or for a casual lunch on a weekend.
I have visited several stores over the last couple of years and the food and service has been consistently good, and gluten free is clearly marked on the menu boards. Wheat free, vegetarian, and vegan is also clearly marked. This review is of the store on the Strand, central London.
The restaurant is nicely decorated and does not have the canteen feel of American style fast food chains. Good music is also played!
The gluten free options are many, and frequently is something served with rice, such as falafel, or a curry (meat or veggie). The menu changes with the seasons, so you might not get the same thing each time you visit. For the gluten eaters, there is a good selection of wraps and also a couple of burgers.
The ‘hot boxes’ meals are, unsurprisingly, served in a cardboard box and you eat with plastic cutlery. I have had dinner several times at Spitalfields, and then we were served on plates with metal cutlery – so slightly less casual at dinner time!
Below are the Thai Chicken Curry and the veggie Leon Gobi lunchboxes (both gluten free).
They both had lovely flavours with a bit of spice, and you also get some greens to balance everything out. The Gobi had cauliflower, carrot, sweet potato and peas on brown rice, with rocket and wedge of lemon. The meals are not huge, but a perfect size for lunch and you can make it more filling by having some fries (also GF), a side salad or some dessert in the form of a slice or frozen yoghurt.
I was amazed to see a huge display of biscuits and slices which were ALL gluten free :-). I asked to take a photo for the blog and the friendly chap that had been serving us offered me one to try for free! The only non GF biscuit was wrapped and out of the main case (see bottom right of photo) – a new experience for someone used to looking at the many things they can’t eat!
End 2016 update: the biscuits are no longer all gluten free 🙁 – please double check when ordering.
I chose the ginger and lemon slice which I took home to have for afternoon tea. I think it was a great choice as it had a lovely chewy texture and of course a strong taste of ginger and lemon, two flavours I really enjoy. As I bit into it, I was worried that it may contain oats (which I don’t eat), so I looked it up on the website, which showed the full ingredients and fortunately it was oat free!
If you want to try and replicate Leon food at home, you can buy their cookbooks at the restaurant (I have also seen them at some White Stuff clothing stores). These recipe books could also make a good presents, but note they are not 100% gluten free.
At the end of 2014 Leon were trialling ‘GFC’ (gluten free chicken) which is a bit like KFC – see review here. I don’t think it has made it onto the menu though!
Check the website for the full menu and opening hours of the store you wish to visit. As a general rule of thumb, they are open 7 days for breakfasts until quite late in the evening (eg 8-10pm). On the weekends they open a little later and close earlier – around 6pm on a Sunday. Heathrow stores are an exception, which open very early and close late.
Leon is in the UK Chain Restaurants listing (one of around 50 chains in the UK that have a gluten free offering).
For more London dining options, please check the following links:
- London restaurant reviews
- 100% gluten free London
- Chain restaurants offering gluten free options
- Brasserie Blanc
- Marks & Spencer
- Visiting the UK (train stations, airports, label reading etc).
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