LEON Oxford opened on Cornmarket Street last November. The new addition to the city centre brought with it a vision of healthy fast food, that differed from how they saw the rest of the fast food industry: “most fast food makes you fall asleep and wake up fat”.
I’m not much of a Maccy D fan, or a bargain bucket eater, so personally, I was pleased to see this one incoming. I’m also a big fan of chef du jour Gizzi Erskine’s Asian inspired food, and they’ve partnered with her to create a few specials. Poached egg pots, quinoa and kale salads, grains, lean proteins and baked fries fill the menu, along with a selection of ‘free from’ snacks.
One Monday lunchtime in November, standing in a queue of barging people, with a crying three-year-old on my hip, ready to firmly put someone straight on the correct etiquette for queuing (lesson 1: do NOT queue jump. Yes you pretending to be engrossed in your phone), we were ushered inside for the soft launch. Greeted by a throng of eager, sparkly new staff and the familiar above-counter menu of a fast food restaurant, we quickly grabbed a table and made our choices.
Presented with a selection of lean burgers, wraps and salads, we ordered a LEON x Gizzi Chicken Satay Salad, some baked fries, a Pistachio & Sweet Potato Fonut and a Vegan Billionaire to share, plus coffee and a carrot, apple & ginger juice, and a fish finger pot for the little one – which was very literally a fish finger in a pot, a nice chunky one at that. I’ve made the Gizzi chicken satay salad a couple of times at home, and I really like it, so wanted to see how theirs stacked up.
The chicken salad was great, a spiralized vegetable salad with a tangy Thai dressing and pot of satay sauce on the side, ready to mix all together with juicy chicken thigh. It was almost half the size of the one I’d have at home, but enough to make a light meal. The baked fries went down well, with a decent crunch on them due to the additional surface area from the waffle design – I’d happily choose these over fried chips most days.
The fonut, as you can probably imagine, wasn’t amazing. I think with doughnuts, you just want a proper doughnut, healthy versions don’t really work. I kept an open mind, but this one was a bit too dry and joyless. The vegan billionaire, however, got snaffled down so quickly by my three-year-old I barely got chance for a photo.
I’ve been back to LEON Oxford twice since, and both times the staff have been lovely, they were all pretty green on day one, but that’s both to be expected and excusable. The kids corner is a huge help, my three and five-year-olds both played happily there with no assistance required – winner.
The poached egg pot with truffle Gruyère and lemon ginger crunch were both excellent at one of my revisits, I’d order both again. I can see myself returning, maybe not frequently, but certainly periodically.
Becca went back for a working day lunch and chose the chicken aioli hot pot with the recommended pot of chilli. “The chicken was good and flavourful – great to see thigh meat being used instead of the ubiquitous blandness of breast. The brown rice has a good bite, squeeze over the lemon and your chilli pot and that’s a pretty good lunch where you can feel smug that you didn’t succumb to Gregg’s again. Oh, there’s also a side salad of green and white stuff which was fine but I’d exceeded my healthy stuff at that point!”