Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Leon - cheerful grazing

Leon is a cheerful Mediterranean influenced chain which is fast conquering London. Sadly the menus in the Spitalfields branch no longer seem to be glued into a random selection of comic books and almanacs. But the rest of the charm is still intact, with empty paint buckets turned into stools, an eccentric collection of books in the corner, warming red banquettes and twinkling tea lights. In the summer, you can sit "outside" in the indoor Spitalfields market (and bemoan how commercialised the place has become, how much better it was in the good old days and how sad it is that Spitz had to close). But on a chilly, drizzly autumn days, inside offers the perfect cosy haven for lingering over drinks (1-litre bottles of larger are £6-ish)and mezze. The portion of chargrilled chorizo (£ 4.30) came on a bed of juicy green olives, but we could have easily devoured more than the four slivces offered. Garlic flat bread (£2.50) went well with the silky houmous (£2.20)and was generously covered with fresh parsley - though for my tastes it could have done with a much bigger garlic kick. Sesame chicken wings (£3.70) and Moroccan meatballs in a tomato sauce (£3.50) were pretty good, and I particularly liked the crispy patatas bravas (£3.20). There is also plenty in the pudding menu to tempt even those, like me, without much of a sweet tooth - from the lemon and ginger crunch to the bitter chocolate tart. Yet more proof that chains can do food, drink and atmosphere very well - it's just a shame that so few bother.

Leon, Spitalfields Market, 3 Crispin Place, E1 6DW; Tel: 020 7247 4369; Tube: Liverpool Street;

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