Turning over a new leaf as lockdown ends

Becky Alexander's salad from Leafy.

Becky Alexander's salad from Leafy. - Credit: Becky Alexander

It is so nice to be writing about a new place opening up – somewhere you can just walk inside and buy food! That you don’t need to order in advance! Ah, like old times.  

Leafy is a Scandinavian-style salad bar in Christopher Place in St Albans. Bright and welcoming, you head to the large salad counter on the left, where you are talked through how to build your salad. 

Service was friendly and helpful, and I was guided along the counter (you start at the far end), first choosing my leaves, then carbs, protein, more vegetables, toppings and seeds, and finally a salad dressing.

The assistant preps the salad for you, so it’s all very hygienic, and everything goes into a generous sized bowl made from recycled sugar cane fibres. You then move along the counter, order drinks (they do coffee, teas etc), tap your card, and are on your way. Easy! A really nice alternative to queuing up in Pret or wherever for a salad.

Inside Leafy in St Albans.

Inside Leafy in St Albans. - Credit: Leafy

Leafy is the brainchild of Swedish-born Johanna Zissman: “My inspiration for Leafy has come from the Scandinavian love of health-conscious food.

"Even though we've so far obviously only had a fraction of the passing trade we would normally have, we can already tell that this is a concept that is going to be popular with St Albans people as we've had so many lovely comments from our customers, and have already fed a lot of people!” 

So, what was the salad like? You get a choice of prepped kale or mixed salad leaves to start, then you can choose a carb, including pasta, freekeh or quinoa. You can then add a protein choice from falafel, flaked salmon, tuna, chicken or ‘oomph’ (which is vegan and made from soy and flavoured with teriyaki sauce).

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You then add more vegetables such as roasted cauliflower, butternut squash, edamame beans, tomatoes etc. There was hummus, feta and chickpeas in there too, so not sure why some are in this section and others in the protein section, but it all sort of comes together, as you move along.

You then add seeds or tortilla chips for ‘crunch’ and finally, you choose a little pot of dressing, and there was a nice range of lemon and basil, ‘Asian’ (which had honey and soy in it), balsamic etc.  

The basic price is £7.50, which is what I paid for the bowl you can see in the photo. I chose mixed leaves, freekeh, oomph, butternut squash, chickpeas, edamame beans, sunflower seeds and Asian dressing, and it all went well together and was a very generous bowlful.

The ‘oomph’ was firm, with a texture similar to chicken thigh – I chose that as had never tried it before. It’s a great option if you want to cut back on eating meat, as it really did remind me of chicken, but if you don’t like meat ‘substitutes’, there are plenty of other more classic vegan options like falafel, quinoa and hummus. If you add ‘extras’ such as avocado and hummus it would take the bowl price quickly over the £10 mark. 

Shelves on the opposite wall are filled with food/home gifts, such as pretty bars of chocolate, cooking ingredients, hand wash, hand cream etc. I was surprised not to see more foods, snacks and groceries, but it is early days so maybe that will expand.

I think they could also do more smaller snack pot ideas for children, or grab-and-go options, but perhaps they want to keep the concept simple and focus on salads for now.

One of the things I like about places like Parker & Vine over in Harpenden is that they also do a good range of breads, bakes and groceries, alongside their salads, so perhaps Leafy might expand their range further, as it is quite a large shop. I think the plan is to use the space for seating when allowed, they may just stick with the salads and hot drinks. Soups and hot salad options might be good for colder months too.  

It's great to have a new lunch place in the city centre, and I’m sure those working and shopping nearby will flock to it. I’d like to see an even bigger range of products for regular locals, but they’ve only been open two weeks so I will give them time! It’s so great to have a new place open, and I hope they have a really busy year ahead.