Saturday 14th January. The day I met my idol, Kayla Itsines. It was so surreal and I had no idea what to say! But luckily I made friends in the queue and we all supported each other (and calmed each others’ nerves). It was lovely to experience the BBG community that Kayla has created and to meet her in the flesh was a dream come true! Here’s my goofy happy face for us all to laugh about:
Not only has she created this incredible community and made fitness and healthy living accessible to so many women, regardless of previous experience or lifestyle, but she’s also become a great role model for learning to love yourself, exercising because you love your body not because you hate it. 2017 is going to be the year to body confidence she says, and I surely hope so.
Anyway, enough about that. Food time!
A few simple Google searches was all I needed to come across this exciting new development residing in Birmingham’s recently refurbished New Street Station. Leon restaurants offer healthy, simple fast-food with the view to making it much easier to eat well on the high street than currently tends to be the case – ‘why can’t fast food be good for you too?’ Exactly.
Leon are so dedicated to being as healthy and good for you as possible that they work with resident nutritionists to ensure the menu caters for gym bunnies and couch potatoes alike, as well as for every possible allergy or dietary requirement you can think of (well, that I can think of) be it wheat free, gluten free, dairy free, vegan, vegetarian, nut allergies and even low glycemic load for diabetics. The same applies to their children’s menu where the focus is on keeping sugars, salts and saturated fats to a minimum, which I think is absolutely fantastic! Surely the best way to get into a healthy lifestyle is to start off young so it becomes natural habit? (I know, I feel sorry for my future children too).
Besides their impressive – and thus far unique, in my experience – dedication to nutritionally-balanced food that’s super good for you, it was their equally unrivalled dedication to sustainability and eco-friendliness which really drew me in. As a very keen geography graduate I’m all about sustainability where possible and so are these guys; they are founding members of the Sustainable Restaurant Association (awesome) which helps restaurants learn to source their ingredients, engage with local communities and manage their environmental impact in an environmentally and economically sustainable manner.
Turns out that restaurants account for almost half of what British people spend on food, which is a hell of a lot when you think about it! However, this means that if we take action to encourage restaurants to become more sustainable in their behaviours and practices, this will eventually permeate through the food chain and have significant positive impacts on the way food is farmed and the way we consume. Which can only be a good thing! I mean, think about it: if we spend over half of our food money on eating out, just imagine what the impact of the restaurant industry is on food production and the food chain as a whole. When you go to a restaurant you want everything on the menu to be readily available, right? All that food has to come from somewhere. Let’s not get into the whole global food crisis thing because that’s another debate for another day, but if we can make small changes in the way we shop and eat and manage our food sources then this can have a huge impact and ultimately help to secure our foodie future.
Now, obviously there’s also a big focus on recycling, water saving, waste management and energy efficiency but I could go on all day. Let’s get to the food itself. As per usual, my mother chose something I could happily dip into as well: the Sweet Potato and Falafel Hot
Box which also contains chickpeas, a grilled red pepper and lots of herbs and spices to form this kick-ass Middle Eastern style classic. The falafel was soft and crumbly but not too dry, the flavours were perfectly balanced and to be honest it was an absolute joy to eat.
For my brother: the Chicken Burger composed of a chargrilled butterfly chicken thigh, an assortment of fresh salad and an olive oil mayo in a sesame seed bun. He also chose the baked fries to accompany this and I can’t even describe how good these were – like nothing you’ve ever tasted before and something I’d go as far as to say you shouldn’t die without trying. Much healthier for you than normal fries due to the baking rather than frying and they’re sprinkled with a special Leon seasoning that is just a taste sensation. Every time I visit Birmingham from now on it won’t be complete without some of these fries!
Moroccan Meatballs Hot Box was my father’s wise choice, where grilled meatballs in a spiced tomato sauce met Italian brown rice, toasted seeds, fresh herbs and a lovely fresh coleslaw. Baked fries made another appearance here and much to my delight, my father & brother couldn’t manage to finish both portions… What a shame! All the more for Charles. My actual main course, however, was a perfectly spiced Sweet potato, Kale and Okra stew in a spiced peanut butter sauce – a modern twist on a West African classic that was an absolute dream in a box. A fully recyclable box, of course. I would happily eat this over and over again; even just the rice was a job very well done. This recipe actually features in their new cookbook Fast & Free which I’m now seriously tempted to buy – if so, keep an eye on the Instagram for my attempts at recreating this.
We also had a couple of smoothies to go with our meals – whilst my dad tortured me with every sip of his Camden pale ale (Dryathlon hurts when eating out, I’ve discovered, but if you’d like to donate you can do here!). The Clean Green Shake was really nice, sweeter than I anticipated but not sickly by any means. I’ll go for that next time I think! This time I had opted for the Blueberry & Elderflower Kefir smoothie which was nice and tasted very good for you, I’ve read up a little about kefir before, but I did prefer the green shake to be honest. I’m just more of a sweet person, it’s a personal thing. I did indulge in a couple of their sweet treats to take home later which were delicious – a pistachio and sweet potato Fronut and a type of healthy brownie thing. Yum.
Overall it’s a 9/10 from me, only deducting a point because I would’ve liked my table wiped down before sitting but I guess that’s fast food. There are so many things on the menu I want to try, I’m really hoping that Leon comes to Cardiff pretty soon so I can do! They’ve said their vision is to have one in every capital city so let’s keep our fingers crossed people… Definitely recommend!
Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,