I’m going to break my own rule today. Unusually, I want to tell you about a couple of cafes I visited that aren’t in Sheffield. I wish they were though, as I fell in love with both of these places and can’t wait to go back.
We took the boys on a magical mystery trip to London at the bank holiday weekend to see the fabulous Lion King musical and the long awaited (for them) Harry Potter studio tour. We also took in some of the classic London sights like Big Ben, Ten Downing Street, Covent Garden, and we explored every inch of the Science and Natural History museums. We had the most fantastic weekend and it was punctuated by some highly researched dining experiences that I planned carefully to fit in with our hectic schedule. Even in London, you really have to do your research to avoid disappointment and stress at mealtimes.
The first place is a chain Vietnamese street food cafe called Pho. We went to the Spitalfields one, but there are a dozen others in London. Our closest up north are Manchester and Leeds.
I was delighted to find Pho is accredited by Coeliac UK, which of course gives that crucial level of confidence in their food and understanding of gluten, cross contamination etc. And the majority of the menu is gluten free (even the prawn crackers – possibly unique in my experience of GF eastern dining out).
For starters, we shared some rice paper rolls and some pork and lemongrass balls, which were served quickly and tasted amazing. Both came with a peanut sauce and a nuoc cham sauce for dipping. (Nuoc cham is based on fish sauce and lime, and I can’t describe it without it sounding gross, but it tastes fantastically sweet and salty.)
For mains, I had a Vietnamese chicken and vegetable curry, which I loved. The flavour reminded me so much of the Japanese Katsu curry that I can’t eat because of the panko breadcrumbs, so it was a real treat. Hubby chose Pho Xao, a fried rice noodle dish with chicken and prawns – also delicious.
The kids’ menu was great and also mostly gluten free. It contained some interesting dishes for the boys to try instead of the usual depressingly dumbed down kids’ choices. This made things nice and easy, as well as bringing the cost down, as we normally avoid kids’ menus if possible. Boy one had fried rice noodles with chicken and sugar snaps, and boy two had another portion of the pork and lemongrass balls as he enjoyed them so much. This time he even got stuck in to the lettuce!
I enjoyed this meal so much, I really want to go back there. Simple, fast, fresh and utterly scrumptious, and made all the sweeter by a large glass of pink. 🙂 Pho – Sheffield needs you.
So, on to my other recommendation. Leon is another fresh fast food chain with dozens of outlets across London and a few popping up outside the capital (Manchester, Birmingham and Oxford so far…)
Leon isn’t accredited, but has a fantastically clear labelling method for some of the common allergens, as shown in the picture below, and offers a great selection of gluten free options.
We enjoyed sharing a few dishes here, including some Sicilian chicken meatballs in a tomato sauce with pesto, Moroccan meatballs with a crunchy slaw, spicy tomato sauce, chopped herbs and aioli, and a Chicken and chorizo box. All were served on Italian brown rice, which has a lovely nutty taste. We were also able to eat the baked fries, which was a real treat, although we undoubtedly didn’t need them with all that rice!
There were also a few GF puddings on offer. We sampled a vegan billionaire slice (lovely and not too sickly sweet), a chocolate brownie and a lemon and ginger crunch slice. These went down nicely with the kids, unsurprisingly.
The food at Leon was served almost instantaneously, and would be great for takeout as well as eating in. In fact we went twice on our trip, as we had planned to visit the South Kensington branch but also had a quick stop in the Euston station branch the next day! Partly because I forgot to take some snaps of the food the first time, but also because we knew it was fast, nutritious and reliable. Leon would be a great addition to Sheffield.
I will be keeping my fingers and toes crossed…