I’ve eaten my way through the LEON Autumn menu so you don’t have to
It’s a great concept “naturally fast food, that both tastes good and does you good”, so I can see why people were hyped that LEON was coming to Brighton. The restaurant chain focuses on seasonal, fresh, nutritious, fast food and opened back at the end of September with an ‘all guns blazing’ PR push – its team cycling around the city handing out vouchers and free ice lollies, as well as outreaching to local bloggers, like myself.
Since the big bang launch, I’ve visited five times. Each time making a concerted effort to find something different from the snazzy digital menu boards, in order to get a clear picture of LEON’s whole offering.
Working my way through breakfast baps, salad boxes, hot boxes, wraps, burgers and a number of side orders and drinks I’m now ready to give you my thoughts.
Total cost: £12.70
- Chargrilled Chicken Aioli Hot Box – 629 calories, £6.95
- Baked LEON fries – 302 calories, £2.20
- Blueberry Elderflower Kefir – 173 calories, £3.55
My first visit didn’t impress. There was a lot of rice used to fill up the box and I felt LEON could have been a bit more generous with the chicken pieces, which were moist but small. It was also bland, possibly due to the reduced use of salt. On the other hand, the slaw in the box had a great crunch to it indicating it was freshly made that day. Inside the box there was also a wedge of lemon to add more flavour if you wish too – a thoughtful extra touch. I wasn’t a fan of the baked chips but I’m not a fan of birdseye waffles, which they were similar to. The Blueberry Elderflower Kefir was a strange drink. A watery, milky mix with a fizz to it with very little blueberry flavour to it. Needless to say, it didn’t do it for me.
Total cost: £7.60
- Fish Finger Wrap – 681 calories, £4.95
- Sweet & Salt Proper Popcorn – 129 calories, £1.05
- Sparkling Orange and Mango Drink – 73 calories, £1.60
This was almost a winner but unfortunately, the lady serving me that day incorrectly told me there would be ketchup in the wrap. Once back at work and tucking in I realised there wasn’t. Where food is concerned it’s always best to manage my expectations, not raise them, so I was pretty disappointed to find this wasn’t what was promised. Instead of the LEON-made ketchup that’s in other dishes, there was a homemade tartar sauce, which, give it its dues was well flavoured but wasn’t what I’d wanted. The portion of the fish finger swaddled within the wrap was generous and overall filling enough for lunch. It kept its heat well too, even after a 10-minute walk back to the office. The ‘proper corn’ was delicious.
Total cost: £3.75
- Egg & Bacon Breakfast Bap – 467 calories, £3.75
On my way to work and shockingly hungover I remembered LEON was open for breakfast from 7:30am – recovery plan sorted. My body was craving salt and carbs, so I ignored the healthier breakfast options such as porridge and yoghurt and went straight for the bacon and egg muffin. It was inoffensive but nothing stand-out. The distinguishing factors being the 50/50 white and wholemeal toasted bap, the addition of a few leaves of spinach and the LEON-made ketchup. Mind you, I’ve had much nicer toasted breakfast baps with handmade ketchup around the corner at Cafe Coho.
Total cost: £9.55
- The Chicken Burger – 460 calories, £5.75
- Baked LEON fries – 302 calories, £2.20
- Sparkling Apple Juice – 73 calories, £1.60
It’s hard to believe that this has fewer calories that the Chicken & Aioli Hot Box – but it does – that’s rice for you. It also happens to be one of the tastiest dishes on the menu. The butterfly chicken thigh was as moist as anything and the accompanying olive oil herb mayonnaise was as punchy as promised. This I will go back for again.
Total cost: £10.45
- LEON x Gizzi Chicken Satay Salad – 313 calories, £6.45
- Orange and Mango Juice- 73 calories, £1.60
- Fresh Slaw – 134 calories, £2.40
The flavours were very good in this last salad box and just like the hot box slaw, the salad was crunchy and fresh. However, I was left feeling hungry, despite ordering an extra side dish. The fizzy orange and mango juice were much tastier and healthier alternatives to a Coke or Fanta.
RATING: Must Go | Worth A Try | Give It A Miss
SCORES ON THE DOORS: Awaiting inspection
I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t eat here again because admittedly, it is convenient and fast most of the time. There are also one or two dishes I did really enjoy. However, you can get far bigger and better value salads at my two favourite independents, Eat Naked and Foodilic. Both of which are within 10 minutes from LEON and will always be my first choice for that sort of food centrally in town.
The promo video claims food within 45 seconds and the majority of times I’ve visited that has been true, except my last visit when there was a huge Deliveroo order, meaning I had to wait 10 minutes. The staff are friendly enough when not too stretched, but I really don’t understand why they make one poor member stand by the door and greet people – it’s unnecessary and just makes me uncomfortable.
Saying that LEON still does a lot of things right and it’s good to see it’s leading other chains by the right example, offering healthy alternatives, Rainforest Alliance Certified, Organic and Fairtrade coffee and a menu that caters well for vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and nut-free diets.
Need to know:
71-74 North St, Brighton, BN1 1ZA
What’s your opinion of LEON? Do you welcome it or do you stick loyally to your independents? Leave me a comment and let me know. And, if you found this review useful at all please hit the heart button below to let me know.
*Disclaimer: I was given vouchers to review LEON and I paid for my breakfast bap myself, but as always my opinion isn’t swayed by freebies and you are getting my honest view on the whole experience.