“Naturally Fast Food” chain LEON is ready to raise the curtain on its brand new all singing restaurant in the West End first thing on Monday morning, and last night myself and my pal Milly went to the launch party in the heart of Theatre Land!
Located on London’s iconic Shaftesbury Avenue opposite the greatest theatres in the country, the new restaurant will be serving up the full LEON menu, from breakfast through to dinner and all the bits in-between, but with a West End twist! In homage to their showbiz neighbours the team will not only serve, but sing for customers.
The forty-strong team come from all over the UK and are all ages and stages, but are united in their hope that performing at LEON will help propel them on to the West End stage and beyond. It is essentially a way for these talented theatre hopefuls to audition for those in the theatre industry who will inevitably pop by to fill their bellies between rehearsals.
Milly and I arrived at the incredibly packed out restaurant and were instantly handed a welcome glass of prosecco as we stepped into the busy upstairs dining room. The place follows the standard decor of every other restaurant in the LEON group, however there are a few subtle stylised differences, for example, there is a red carpet rolled out as a permanent fixture which takes customers straight to the tills where they can order plenty of delicious and quick dishes, and a lift otherwise known as The Royal Box which takes customers down to the “lower stalls” – the West-Ended name for the tables and seating in the basement.
Desperate to try as much of the food as possible, we practically stalked the waiting staff as they handed out small pots of the food that will be available to purchase from Monday. Starting with a pot of the Sweet Potato & Okra Stew which was warming, creamy and full of fresh vegetable flavour, followed by the Chicken Satay pot which was also packed with bold flavours (considering it was such a small portion) with a lovely variation of textures from both the chicken and the vegetables hidden within.
Once our bellies had started to fill, the entertainment for the night began. The cast comprises drama and musical theatre students (past and present) and others with no formal training but who secured a spot on the team when it became clear they had undiscovered talent. After a quick speech from the owner of LEON, the cast began to take it in turns to perform to the crowd.
All have a range of personal favourite tracks; everything from Queen’s ‘Somebody to Love’ and Sinatra’s ‘That’s Life’ to West End classics like Les Miserables ’I Dreamed a dream’. When the restaurant opens on Monday, Guests can expect a live track every two to three songs and can watch as team members switch from taking orders and making coffee to moving around the restaurant, performing live.
Cast members have all had professional head shots taken by Theatre Land photographer Manuel Harlan and these will fill the ‘Hall of Family’ picture gallery and populate the bespoke restaurant page online as part of plans to help promote the team members. LEON also give team members professional vocal training, quarterly master classes to prepare for successful auditions and time off to attend auditions.
And the talent really is undeniable. The performances left Milly and I with goosebumps and that warm feeling I always get in my tummy when I go to the theatre. One performance of the Dream Girls song ‘Listen’ left me promising to myself that any children I bare will be pushed into musical theatre as soon as they exit the womb, so I can vicariously live out my own missed dreams of theatre stardom through them!
What I love is that drama and theatre students have for years found themselves working in cafes and restaurants to tie themselves over between acting jobs, rehearsals and auditions, but now LEON is bridging the gap and allowing the job to also be the much needed platform that could see these theatre dreamers shoot to stardom! At last night’s launch, Cameron Macintosh was in attendance! – now aware of the array of talent available, he insisted he would certainly be returning. How many other cafes offer such a huge opportunity?!
Other well known faces and personalities in the world of performance included Strictly Come Dancing stars Anton DuBeke and Dave Arch Band singer Lance Ellington, who gave a great performance while the cast prepared for their ensemble performance.
— LEON (@leonrestaurants) February 9, 2017
I absolutely adored our evening at the launch of LEON West-End – luckily my new office is just a 3 minute walk from here and also conveniently located for Milly too, so we’ve found our perfect new lunch-time rendezvous spot.
I love that i’m going to be able to experience a bit of the West-End on my lunch breaks, like a miniature matinee for those with only a little time to spend. I love that this is taking a fast food restaurant and making it exciting and different – not just another monotonous chain branch. I love that it is providing opportunities and recognising the vast amounts of undiscovered talent in London. I love that the food is decent, fast and with good ingredients and variety, and I love that LEON is making the magic of the West End available to everyone.
LEONWestEnd opens first thing on Monday morning, with live performances starting from lunchtime every day.