Leon Naturally Fast Food - Book Review
“Leon” was founded by Allegra McEvedy, Henry Dimbleby, and John Vincent, and voted the “Best New Restaurant” by judges Rick Stein, Gordon Ramsay, Nigel Slater, Heston Blumenthal and Jay Rayner in the 2005 Observer food awards.
This book achieves the almost impossible. Not only is it an artistic explosion of lovely scrapbook design but it is absolutely stuffed to the brim with practical information and ‘cook me quick’ recipes.
Satisfyingly weighty, this book is a riot of colour from the off, with endpapers featuring a photographic collage of the Leon team.
Tasty, accessible and innovative are a trio you don’t encounter too often. But Leon’s food genuinely ticks all three boxes, with the bonus of a consistently health-conscious approach. Naturally Fast Food is split into two sections- ‘Fast Food’ and ‘Slow Fast Food’- dishes to prepare at leisure, then heat in a hurry after a long day.
Despite its coffee-table aesthetics, this book’s not a showpiece. As Henry comments in the introduction, it should end up careworn, splattered and sticky (although I personally cannot abide that happening with my books, you get the gist). And with recipes for everything from breakfast banana splits to potted meat, to Keralan inspired curries, this shouldn’t be a tall order. It’s mouthwatering stuff, from summery green sunshine salads to comforting winter pot roasts.
Recipes are delivered in signature style, friendly and chatty, with tweaks and anecdotes littered throughout. A friendly tone pervades, with family and loved ones contributing their own dishes and comments, perhaps most notably from Henry’s mother Josceline Dimbleyby (or ‘Jossy’ as she’s affectionately referred to throughout).
The atypical layout and format serve to keep the content fresh and inspiring, but the book manages to remain both navigable and a pleasure to use. The ‘bonus features’ at the back are a joy- themed party menus, musings on food issues, customer ‘wishes’ placed in a chest of drawers at the Ludgate Circus branch- even a sheet of stickers.
It’s clear that Naturally Fast Food is a book borne of a love of food which does both the consumer and the wider world a little good. It’s wholly englufing and fabulously entertaining, but the advice and content is rooted in the practicalities of everyday life and the struggle to eat a sensible diet.
As the book itself proves, a balanced approach is always best.