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Friday, November 30, 2007

That elusive fifth flavour

On paper, the new (ish) restaurant chain Leon seems like a Good Thing. It uses organic food, makes it fresh, offers a comfortable space to hang out in that is open all day and serves coffee, food and beer at any time.

So far, so good.

Their fresh lemonade is nice and their coffee not bad. And all of their food is entirely unappetising to me. I felt like a complete grouch as I scanned the menu. For main courses, they have dishes served either with pilaf rice or wrapped in flatbreads. I asked - the pilaf has raisins in. Not for me.

The flatbreads fail to rise above the usual sodden boringness of most wraps; trying them once was enough.

The board above the service counter promised sesame chicken wings as a special - this sounds more like it. Unfortunately, it's misleading. They're not available. So I settle for houmous and flatbread. (Free, the server assures me, which is a relief, because I would have stormed out if they had tried to sell me a pot of houmous with nothing to dip in it.

The houmous, it turns out, has large amounts of lemon zest in. Again, not for me. But it did make me feel better, because I realised exactly what it is about the food that I don't like, without being able to say that it's not good food.

There is no umami flavour to anything I have ever eaten at Leon. If it were just salt missing, I could probably just shake salt on and be comfortable with it, but umami is harder to introduce.

The flavour palate is entirely tilted to the sweet/sour/bitter end of the spectrum. There is little saltiness and no umami in Allegra McEvedy's cooking. For lots of people, that's not a problem - the Man is very enthusiastic - but if you have a savoury tooth, it's no fun at all.

Insult to injury: the Man offered me his chocolate brownie as consolation. I waved it away, because even looking at it I could catch the whiff of orange in it. Truly Leon is not for me!