The Marvellous Metropole, Llandrindod Wells

I recently stayed at The Metropole Hotel in Llandrindod Wells on business and felt it worth writing something about. I’d definitely like to return!

The hotel itself is family-run and has been in the same family ever since its conception in 1896, which these days is something very special! This old Victorian building in the lovely little spa town of Llandrindod Wells has a truly rustic charm with creaking stairs, great grand mirrors and ornately decorated wallpaper and is 4* rated, deservedly so. The rooms were a good size (from my experience), the service was very friendly and accommodating and the food was very good. There’s a spa where we took a lovely dip in the hot tub – could use a lick of paint here or there but the facilities were of a good standard and it fit the bill well for a relaxing swim & soak before dinner. Everything else such as the sauna and showers appear to have been renovated in the last few years; there was also a small gym room, mostly cardio machines but there seemed enough weights for a decent mini session.

Primarily, let’s get back to the food.

As part of our stay we had a 3 course dinner in the award-winning Radnor Miles Restaurant which is dedicated to using only the freshest organic, local produce – music to my very ears! I’ve spoken before on the importance of using local, fresh ingredients and I love that in Wales we’re in the prime environment to do so.
Of the options (click here for the menu we had) my choices were as follows:

Chef’s Homemade Soup of The Day
– which was Sweet Potato. Smooth, refreshing and light yet good, full-bodied flavour (as sometimes I find potato soups can be a little bland); this was the perfect starter to whet the appetite and leave me looking forward to the courses to come. It also went superbly with the accompanying buttered brown roll (or two), but what soup would be complete without a bread roll anyway.

Fresh Pasta with Prawns – again very fresh and well seasoned, plus it’s always a bonus for me when the prawns are already shelled as I’m not great at the whole taking its face and legs off thing… However, as lovely as this main was, I slightly regretting choosing something as heavy/large. Pasta is easily one of my all time favourite foods and I regularly choose it when eating out, yet it runs the risk of being a little too filling and leaving you struggling to find room for dessert which, if you’ve a sweet tooth like me, is not what you want. Nevertheless, it was a very tasty pasta and had it not been part of a 3-course deal I’d certainly choose it again.

Warm Sticky Toffee Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce (and ice cream) – honestly, it’s rare that I ever choose a dessert that doesn’t involve ice cream. Or, more often than not, I’ll ask for ice cream to be added on as well as I did in this case. Both the dessert and the starter were lovely and warm without being too hot, yet not the kind of warm when you’re worried it may have just been reheated. This was all fresh and fantastic. As a result, the butterscotch sauce ran off the top and around the sides with a delicious viscosity and the ice cream began to soften quickly, just as it all should. It tasted lovely, although could have been a little more moist; myself and two of my colleagues agreed that sadly, it just didn’t quite top the sticky toffee pudding we had at The Hilton bottomless brunch a few months ago.

All in all, however, it was a very tasty, good quality, fresh meal produced to a high standard. The service throughout our dinner – and throughout our entire stay – was impeccable and attentive to our every need. The restaurant itself was also an appropriate temperature, something I’ve not mentioned in previous posts but recently came to my attention as a definite influential factor in the enjoyment of a meal and/or experience, especially if you feel the cold like me it can be distracting or even off-putting. Following the meal, we marched back to Spencer’s Bar and Brasserie where I continued to make good use of the gin collection on offer, comprising the Warner Edwards rhubarb gin I’ve become rather fond of, which I was very pleasantly surprised with – a big selling point for my wanting to return next time I’m in Mid-Wales.

I’d definitely recommend The Metropole if you’re in the area, it was a very enjoyable stay from start to finish and personally it ticked all the boxes. Great food, nice spa & gym, comfortable room, bath, well-stocked bar (although this is likely because there’s not much else in Llandrindod Wells) and very helpful, highly professional staff. The only criticism I did have was there seemed a distinct lack of power sockets in my room, but you can’t have everything and sometimes it’s nice to unplug!

Have you stayed here before? What did you think? Let me know in the comments or on social media!

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

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Boozy Bottomless Brunch at The Hilton, Cardiff

A few weeks ago I broke my Bottomless Brunch virginity at The Hilton, Cardiff and it was such a good deal I felt it worth shouting about. We went for a work friend’s birthday (because who doesn’t love bottomless prosecco?!) and we were pleasantly impressed by how attentive all the servers were, not once did our prosecco actually get to the bottom of the glass before being refilled – ideal! From when all guests sit down you have 90 mins to take full advantage of the free refills to the best of your ability and we were determined to do just that. (So much so that it became an afternoon of day-drinking in the sunshine afterwards but what can I say, make the most of our youth!)

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There isn’t just prosecco at this Bottomless Brunch, Grey the Hilton’s restaurant also offer two courses within the deal, some savoury and some sweets. You can even pick two of the same if you wanted to, we’re not here to judge. My first choice was the crushed avocado & chilli onimg_5388-1 rye toast with a poached free-range egg. The rye toast was thick and delicious and not too overpowering or heavy, whilst the avocado and egg were perfectly balanced in flavour and, as always, really complimented each other. This is already one of my favourite weekend breakfast/brunches and this was no different, I’d definitely have it again. It was a fairly small portion, more so than if you were ordering in one of Cardiff’s many brilliant breakfast spots (Juno Lounge, The Pot Bistro, Society Standard just to name a few) however this was part of a two course brunch so room was needed for more…

Next, I chose a sweet as my second course and had the warm sticky toffee pudding with local sea salted caramel ice cream. Sticky toffee pudding isn’t honestly something I usually go for, I’m often more of a img_5391gooey chocolate brownie or as-much-ice-cream-as-you-can-eat kind of girl, but this dessert restored my faith and really hit the spot. It was delicious! There was the perfect amount of toffee sauce in my opinion (it was smothered in it) and the pudding wasn’t too hot, just the right temperature that it went perfectly with the ice cream. My only slight critique with this dish was that the actual plate it was served on didn’t quite lend itself to scooping up every last bit of ice cream/sauce, perhaps something with steeper edges might’ve been more appropriate.

All in all, we all had a great time and enjoyed our meals – even more so the prosecco! We worked out that we must’ve had somewhere between 5-6 glasses each in the 90 mins, (it was hard to tell as they were topped up before being fully emptied) which equates to just over a bottle each. The bill was £30 each for the two courses and the ‘bottomless’ prosecco, which we found very reasonable. This was perfect for a girls’ outing, the restaurant was full of hen do’s, birthdays and groups of women celebrating various occasions, and I will surely be doing it again the next time I find good enough reason to! (Although, do we really need any excuse?)

Have you tried this bottomless brunch? Or have you any others you’d recommend? Let me know!

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Fancy food in Penarth etc.

I’d read somewhere about Etc, Penarth before but hadn’t got round to visiting them yet. Last week, however, my boyfriend decided to splash out on date night and booked us in for our first visit – what a treat it was.

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A friend who’d been there told me it was ‘very gold’ and upon entry I saw exactly what he meant, but it wasn’t the tacky kind of gold-plated everything you sometimes see; in fact it was all very tasteful, classy and complimented the already-very-impressive (decorative and functional) champagne cabinet fantastically, giving a shimmering effect and a warm-feel to the place overall. Particularly exciting were the fire features outside, reminiscent of a warm holiday evening somewhere in continental Europe (rather than an unusually warm Welsh summer phenomenon). As soon as we walked in the service was brilliant, staff were very attentive to our needs and I was glad to have a window seat with none of that awkward squeezing-past-your-table-in-a-rush business you get in some places that can be a bit uncomfortable – plus, prime position for people-watching. Everyone was enjoying their meals and having a great time, it was a great place to be. And then, we ate…

It’s rather a rare occurrence when I’m spoilt for choice in restaurant menus, but eventually we decided on fishcakes (salmon and prawn served with ‘ocean pearls’) and scallops (glazed with coconut milk and topped with laver seaweed) for starters. Both were very well presented and both the perfect amount so as to leave plenty of room for dinner. The flavours balanced brilliantly, we had nothing but praise for either dish, in fact the scallops may have even been the best we’ve had yet!

Next, after some deliberation, we chose our mains: crab meat linguine with a chilli and cherry tomato sauce and confit duck leg with parsnip purée, a range of vegetables and pineapple jus. Both were well balanced and generously portioned! Sadly I couldn’t finish all mine (as I wanted to leave plenty of room for dessert) although it’s worth noting that this was the nicest crab meat I’ve had yet, it’s been a bit hit & miss for me in the past. The duck also seemed light but well-done, flaking off the bone nicely in the 5 minutes it lasted on the plate before being scoffed away with glee.

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Finally came the show-stopper, the one we’d all (us and the ladies next to us) been waiting for: the volcano. After years of watching Masterchef I’ve seen so many sweat, cry, agonise over and triumph the complexity of the coveted chocolate fondant, yet this was my chance to finally try one for myself for the first time. Very glad it wasn’t me making it. Moreover, no dessert in my eyes is complete without at least one scoop of ice cream, yet this volcano went one step further and boasted a steaming pink foam that spilled over and gave the erupting volcano effect that was so exciting. Needless to say, the foaming pink cylindrical nature of this was far too entertaining for all the wrong reasons (head over to Instagram to see the video), but it did taste rather nice in addition to the rest of the plate, almost strawberry milkshake-like. On the other side of the table sat the vanilla panna cotta with fresh berries and a raspberry coulis, another first but for my other half this time. This was also was very much enjoyed and well presented.

All in all, we had a fantastic evening at Etc, Penarth and I really would recommend it if you fancy a treat or something a little fancier for your date night (we love any excuse to get dressed up!). It is a bit higher in price than your standard evening meal but we felt this was deserved, not only for the food but for the atmosphere, service and experience overall. For a truly perfect finish, you could even go for a gorgeous evening stroll around your favourite Penarth viewing spot or the harbour like we did.

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Pigging out at The Pickled Radish, Llandaff

I’d heard tell of The Pickled Radish in Laleston before but hadn’t yet got round to trying the nearest one to me on Llandaff high street. A few weekends ago when my parents were visiting and we were catching up with old friends, it seemed like the perfect time to try somewhere new.

Inside The Pickled Radish the décor portrayed a rustic, slightly edgy/hip but still very comfortable feel and despite my initial table cock-up the staff were great and found us another tableFile_000 (67).jpeg right away. Obviously I’d looked at the menu before we even entered the restaurant so knew exactly what I was after and had been looking forward to it all day, as I do with most food outings where possible (means you can enjoy more of the experience without having to pour over the menu, plus it’s fun to get excited!). Overall however, there seemed a good selection on the menu including Welsh lamb and some other locally sourced ingredients, a great touch – instant brownie points from me. From a pescatarian perspective, there were a few options; the delicious-looking wild beetroot & Brecon Gin cured salmon or a Welsh goats cheese & onion tart (both starters); but in terms of mains there were only really mussels (which I do love but for me, personally, nothing quite beats The Hashery so far for freshness and flavour) and a mushroom pasta dish (which I don’t love, sadly). If you do like mushrooms though you won’t be disappointed, my mother had this dish and said it was delicious!

After tasting a lovely warm squash soup appetiser, I chose the Fancy An Indian as my starter; scallops, coconut, fennel & onion bhaaji’s and several different seasonings – I have to say, it was fantastic! The bhaaji was my favourite although very small; the scallops were so soft and cooked to perfection it was a delight to eat and to look at, decorated with lovely edible flowers which seem to be all the rage at the moment. My mother had the Green Peas & Ham which was a pea veloute with a little ham & spring vegetable bon-bon and some cutesy decorations – very well enjoyed and even more fun to watch our friend serving us pour it onto the plate!

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Falafel & halloumi burger

For mains came my saviour from the chargrill menu: the falafel & halloumi burger with chilli mayo in a brioche bun. I’m sure you can recall from my last post that I always get halloumi when it’s available on a menu, well this was no exception! And this definitely competes with the other halloumi and veggie burgers I’ve had in the past, great balance of flavours & textures and really hit the spot without being too much to handle. The triple cooked chips on the side proved to be a bit too much for myself but hey, the cheese was the important part for me… Other mains in the group included Welsh lamb rump, Sirloin steak and the wild pasta already mentioned. Everyone enjoyed their meal with no complaints, meat well-cooked to our tastes and we’d all be very happy to visit again, only wishing we’d had enough time to stay for a dessert as they all looked very tempting!*

All in all, it was a delicious meal and our service throughout was impeccable. We were served by the acting manager who’d come in from the Laleston branch at short notice, but fair play to him he couldn’t do enough for us! Very friendly and personable too. The only thing to note here is that we were dining at 5.30pm due to a concert in the evening, so we were the only people in there most of the time which may have skewed our experience slightly. Despite this, I look forward to returning – I’ve got my eye on the afternoon tea menu, maybe a few of those desserts too…

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

*NB: We paid in full for our meal and the restaurant were not aware I’d be writing about them.

Summer is coming and The Hashery’s got some brand new summer sizzlers!

The Hashery has been an independent foodie favourite of mine since its opening last December on High Street in the centre of Cardiff. Home to burgers, cubanos, mussels and cocktails this place hosts a friendly and relaxed atmosphere with some cool artsy decorations such as comic book style wallpaper and a confessions wall by the bar (dangerous, I’m sure). Recently, it’s seen a surge in popularity since the launch of its lunchtime deal; £7 will get you any main and side, including a classic mussel pot – which for the quality of their mussels is an absolute bargain!! Although the majority of the menu remains below the £10 mark, making it a city centre steal at any time of day.

Summer is now coming on fast (we hope, although the weather can’t seem to decide) and this means one thing – summer menus! This week myself and some other lucky bloggers got a first taster of the fresh new delights launching at The Hashery on 24th April. Here’s how it went…

File_001Firstly, prosecco on arrival. Big tick. What could possibly be better? The dimmed and fairy lights always make it feel cosy to me and with the impressive spread laid out in front of us, we were sure to be in for a great evening.

First tasters were the mezze board and mozzarella sticks: fresh bread, carrot and celery sticks and a homemade hummus dip made for a delicious mezze, much better than any of the times I’ve attempted homemade hummus! (Although I will keep trying…) As for the mozzarella sticks – these could very well have been the star of the show. Whilst presenting the food to us, co-founder Sean Hill explained that from their previous experiences in the restaurant industry food waste had been a recurring, shocking problem. Consequently, when opening The Hashery it has been a key focus to reduce the amount of food waste and to ensure locally and responsibly sourced File_008ingredients, making the freshest and best possible dining experience. Big kudos in my opinion; these are things I consider to be so important, for many reasons, and it makes me so happy when restaurants themselves feel the same way.

The menus have therefore been designed so that all ingredients are used in more than one dish – what does this mean for the mozzarella sticks? Nachos that don’t quite make the grade to be served as part of a nacho dish, having been chipped or damaged in some way, get ground up to form the breadcrumbs for the mozzarella sticks, giving them a unique and truly incredible crunch. I mean, seriously good. I don’t often order mozzarella sticks in a restaurant but I’ll find it hard to visit The Hashery again and not order a portion all to myself – and why not! Honestly, don’t knock ‘til you’ve tried.

Next newbie on the menu: due to the incredible success of the courgette fries on The Hashery’s original menu, they’ve introduced pickle fries in order to revamp (and reuse, reducing waste) the humble pickle so many of us overlook and/or carefully pick out of a burger. Some weren’t so keen on this idea, but having given them a go I can confirm they were actually pretty nice – although personally, the courgette fries still come up trumps.

File_000 (1)One of the key specialities of The Hashery (and my personal favourite) is the mussel pots; they’re so fresh you’d think you were in Cornwall or by the sea somewhere and so so tasty because of it! The new pot on this summer menu is The Orchard and as per usual it was super fresh and super tasty, I really can’t recommend the mussels enough. I still stand by the statement in my first post about these guys; these are the best mussels I’ve yet had the pleasure of devouring in my 22 years on this Earth. So good that tearing up the bread and absorbing every last possible mouthful of the glorious sauce these beauties come in isn’t even a question: it’s a must. I already want more just thinking about it…

The new summer menu also has some tantalisingly good-looking meat-eater options available: an absolutely huge beast of a burger called Dead Man and the only burger of theirs over the £10 price mark (modelled by co-founder Oscar GarciaFile_002 (3) in the photo). TWO homemade 6 oz patties, two lots of American cheese, pulled pork, crispy onions and your usual lettuce & tomato are crammed into this beast, however, and I’m sure I spotted an onion ring in there somewhere too. Although I couldn’t try this personally I heard no complaints from others around the room, so I imagine you get a good deal for your money’s worth. The other new meat option is a super fresh minute steak (and steak sandwich) which, as the name suggests, is cooked within minutes and served straight onto your lucky plate. These steaks are no exception to the local, responsible sourcing rule might I add, so definitely worth a try if steak is your thing.

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“The tart that’s bound to finish you off…”

Next, Sean introduced us to the “the tart that’s bound to finish you off”… to which he was referring to tiramisu, but needless to say that got some of us giggling away as a personal highlight of the evening. Desserts have made their debut on this new summer menu: Hashery brownie, salted caramel cheesecake, churros (brilliant! Who doesn’t love churros?!), market strawberries ice cream & cream (again, yay for local sourcing!), and our tarty friend the tiramisu. And boy, was she boozy! This was another dish like the mozzarella sticks that I normally wouldn’t order in a restaurant, yet have now been converted by The Hashery folks. Definitely worth a try, I fully intend on returning to try some of the other desserts as they all sound delicious!

Cocktails were the perfect end to the evening. And to any evening, in fact. The other main speciality of The Hashery besides their marvellous mussels is their 2-4-1 cocktails all day, every day for only £6.95; this is where co-founder Barnaby Bell comes into his element. Whilst some particular cocktail connoisseur friends of mine haven’t been so impressed as myself here before, I feel pretty confident that these new offerings will bring them around, especially sat outside in the summer sun looking out onto Cardiff Castle and people-watching all the passers by. The new and improved cocktail menu has now been colour-coded by main ingredient i.e. gin, vodka, tequila etc. making it easier than ever before to find something for everyone.

Summer Garden and Respect Your Elderflowers tasted smooth and refreshing whilst P.I.M.P My Pimms had a cheeky something extra on your usual summer sipper. Electric Tea is one I’d recommend having had it a few times now: rum, tequila, vodka, triple sec and blue curacao – sounds like a lot but it really does zing! Plus, 50p from every purchase of this cocktail goes towards charities supported by the lovely guys at The Hashery, what a great idea!

File_007 (1)Veering away from the 2-4-1 menu we have the Bulldog Margarita which was unlike anything I’ve ever tried before and something I would seriously recommend as a brilliant pre-drink; a frozen margarita, heavy on the tequila, with two coronas artfully resting against the sides of the funky skull fishbowl. It was buzzing and it was brilliant, in my opinion. If you love tequila you’ll LOVE this! Finally, I had the absolute pleasure of trying one of the dessert cocktails: lemon meringue cheesecake. I’ve never had this kind of cocktail before so didn’t know what to expect, but I certainly wasn’t disappointed! Very sweet with a milky, creamy texture and some crumbled biscuit on top it was a lovely finisher to a great evening. (Top tip for extra fun: if you want a real palate cleansing kick just ask about the special shots…)

The Hashery continue to impress me every time I visit, both in terms of brilliant food and attentive customer service. Sean, Oscar and Barnaby are always more than happy to help in any way they can. This new menu definitely got me feeling the summer vibes and I for one can’t wait to be sat outside in the sunshine enjoying my brand new mozzarella dippers with a delicious mussel pot and some summer cocktails. I really hope you do the same!

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

P.S. Shout-out to my new blogger friends Sheri & Charlotte, lovely to meet you both!

Meat the new kid at 156

File_000 (50)Today marks the official opening of Meat at 156, City Road’s newest independent burger bar; I seriously recommend you get yourself down there. Great burgers and even better milkshakes, this is one to watch!

We arrived at the bloggers launch event on Saturday night not knowing what to expect (this was my first launch event, scary but exciting!) and boy were we impressed. Very welcoming and super friendly, the staff were great fetching us anything and everything we needed. First of all we tried the milkshakes: mine was a bubblegum and my flatmate went File_005 (9)for Oreo, both were incredible! Just the right amount of creamy thickness without feeling like a dairy overload, mine was wonderfully sweet and bubblegum-like without tasting sickly, it was brilliant! The only thing could’ve made it better was the addition of some bubblegum flavour millions sweets and that would be the dream… My flatmate went for the Oreo milkshake to begin and this, again, was amazing. Often you can find that Oreo milkshakes are too bitty with biscuit chunks and these can be too big to fit in the straw etc (all together a bit of a faff) but this wasn’t the case at Meat at 156. These were ones that Kelis was talking about… hands-down the best milkshakes we’ve ever had and would 100% go back again for these alone – honestly go give them a try!

Next was a burger and chips each: The Texan consisted of a beef patty with cheddar cheese, hickory BBQ sauce and fried onion rings – it was a beast! The meat was succulent and all the ingredients worked perfectly together I’m told, so top marks for this one. Mine was a Meat At Signature burger with two Quorn patties, American cheese and the Meat At signature sauce. Deeelish.
I’ve always wondered why restaurants don’t seem to serve Quorn, I’d rather that than some of the sad excuses of veggie burgers I’ve had before (you know, the ones that are literally just some potato and frozen veg shoved together in breadcrumbs), I think it’s brill! The signature sauce had little bits of coleslaw-type crunchiness in it and definitely made the burger, I can’t figure out what exactly it was and I don’t want to, just trust me it was lush. Will definitely be having again! The chips came along in cute little baskets and were just the right kind of skinny fries without the excessive saltiness that you can sometimes get from certain popular fast-food restaurants (not naming any names). Also, you can’t beat a cracking coleslaw on the side. Altogether, despite normally being a sweet potato fries fan all-the-way, this really hit the spot.

File_003 (11)Speaking of fries, the dirty fries next appeared on our table. A plate of them covered in a cottage-style cheese that I was a big fan of, BBQ sauce and some smoked paprika for a bit of spice. Following burgers and milkshakes, the other speciality of this brand new hotspot is steaks and I’m told they’re incredible. Perfectly tender with a great range of sauces available, they arrived on a platter with grilled tomatoes, a grilled mushroom, a corn on the cob and another basket of fries. My Quorn substitute was two Quorn patties and two spicy Quorn sausages and went really well the black pepper sauce, although corn on the cob is one of my all time favourites so this kinda stole the show for me for this course! Seriously though, if you’re a steak fan this is 100% worth a try!

And for the grand finale: dessert. Now this, was a dream. The chocolate brownies [photo above courtesy of the Meat at 156 twitter – I was too busy scoffing it down] had a crumbly outside and luxury gooey soft centre, making them perfect for everyone no matter your texture preference (mine was gooey, my flatmate’s was crumbly). Served with a side of smooth ice cream you’re onto a winner! Alternatively, if you’re not a chocoholic there was also a lovely warm sticky toffee pudding that contrasted perfectly with the ice cream to leave me very happy indeed and verrrry full! Would definitely recommend.

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Myself enjoying the food! (Excuse rabbit hands)

All in all, it was a great evening of great food, I definitely walked (waddled) away about four times the size! If you’re after somewhere new and a bit different then try City Road’s latest, it opens officially to the public tonight! Great burgers, great steak, the best milkshakes. What’s not to love?!

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Kayla meet & greet and a healthy fast-food treat @ LEON

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:

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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.

IMG_0675.JPGLeon 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.

img_1766Turns 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 andimg_9123 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.

fullsizerender-5For 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,

Charles xx