Our food is central to everything that we do in LEON. We believe in sourcing great ingredients that are good for both you and for the planet.
On this page we talk about our food principles and values, some of our sustainable suppliers, animal welfare, the proportion of meat on the menu, our food waste, and our sustainable food innovations.
We love bees. And we love their honey, which is rich in vital life-giving nutrients. But not all honeys are created equal; the best ones are the raw, unheated, unprocessed ones. That's why we use raw, organic honey from a British company, Hilltop, based in Montgomeryshire, Wales. It has been harvested from wildflower meadows and trees in certified organic lands in Europe. It maintains its nutrients and is possibly the purest way to eat honey as neither the bees nor the flowers they gather nectar from have been exposed to harsh chemicals.
At LEON, we believe that the future of the planet depends on protecting the bee population and we love that Hilltop works with the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust, giving 5% of their profits to help bees and other wildlife across the region. They run an 'adopt a bee' scheme, to feed bees and help them to survive the winter months.
To read more about our honey, have a look at our blog post.
We currently source 2 types of fish for our menu:
Wester Ross value its salmon welfare. Being hand reared means that it is the salmon farmers, not machines or cameras, who are out on the water every day to feed and observe the fish. The salmon are certified Freedom Food, a rigorous animal welfare standard of the RSPCA, and are also certified by Friend of the Sea. The farm has been endorsed by the Scottish Industry Code of Good Practices.
In summary, The Marine Conservation Society's 'Fish to Eat, Fish to Avoid' scale ratings are:
You can see the full rating definitions here.
We started the process to remove nitrates in our chorizo. We worked closely with our supplier to produce a chorizo which fits with our values of ingredient quality and taste. It took considerable time, resource and a lot of tastings, but we’re proud to say we got there in the end.
The LEON chorizo is made from pork which our supplier sources locally from farms in Catalonia. It is not only free from nitrates but is lower in salt than its commercial cousins. It contains only six ingredients: pork, garlic, cayenne, paprika, pepper and salt. It is baked on site in Catalonia by our farmer friends who then allow it to dry naturally before shipping it directly to us.
Sourcing Chicken has been one of the hardest things that we have had to deal with. We now use Red Tractor accredited chicken and visit the farms twice a year. We agree that they will give us a list of the sheds and we can pick sheds at random to visit. So the visits are effectively unannounced.
When we first opened, we had free-range chicken on the menu. We then moved to Freedom food as free-range was pushing us into a price bracket that was making us exclusive. We have always wanted to make it easy for everyone to eat good food and this means we have to be competitively priced.
But soon freedom food also began to become a problem. It was increasingly hard for us to get a reliable supply and the price increased considerably. A substantial number of our customers were complaining about our prices and the size of dishes. Meanwhile our main competitors were using Red Tractor, Brazilian chicken, or chicken from Eastern Europe. We asked ourselves three questions:
As we said above, we visit the farms on which our chickens are reared and believe the farmers are excellent. The standards are higher than some of the Freedom Food chickens we have seen in the past. We will continue to visit them (unannounced) twice a year.
We constantly work to reduce the number of vehicles involved in our food supply chain.
We base our menu primarily around the Mediterranean diet, focusing on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seeds and unrefined cereals. We believe that a diet rich in vegetables, with the occasional bit of meat, is the way to go.
Even sustainably sourced meat has a higher carbon and water footprint than most vegetarian or vegan alternatives, and we have been looking at the proportion of meat free items on our menu, consistently raising our percentages across the board.
As of April 2018:
* Entire menu refers to Breakfast items, Lunch & Dinner items, Sides, Snacks & Cakes.We will continue to monitor our percentages across the board, in order to give choice to customers and to increase the sustainability of our menu.
Because we make our food fresh daily, we sometimes have some left overs.
We actively monitor any food which is wasted in our restaurants, and have a series of procedures in place to improve and minimise these amounts. Every day our managers look at our sales of each item for the day before and try to best predict the amounts that our kitchen teams need to prepare. We train our chefs thoroughly in food levels, and actively work every day towards lessening any waste across our business.
Any food waste leftover is sent to anaerobic digestion in order to create green energy, but ideally we want to eliminate the waste in the first place, and find a better way to deal with any leftovers.
If you know of a charity near to any of our restaurants that would like to pick these up, please let us know.
Over the years we have experimented with novel ways to use up food that would otherwise go to waste. We created a Salmon & Egg Salad using rapidly chilled eggs leftover from breakfast that day, and only created as many salads that we had eggs for. We also created ‘Smashed Browns’, taking perfectly edible fries that would go to waste, and turning them into crispy hash brown bites. The best days were the days that we couldn’t make any at all! We are always on the lookout to make new and exciting dishes with the planet in mind. Keep an eye out.