Grön Kafé - Scandinavian kafé culture comes to Leeds
- Credit: Will Stanley
Award-winning Leeds chef Matt Healy shares some Scandi secrets for a healthier New Year
Oakwood isn’t Oslo but now, thanks to a local chef’s innovative approach to food, the Leeds suburb has adopted a Scandinavian kafé culture.
Grön Kafé is the latest addition to the city’s burgeoning independent dining scene, offering a menu of vegetarian and vegan-friendly dishes created by the man who gives his name to Matt Healy x The Foundry in central Leeds.
Reflecting his love of healthy living, fine food and good coffee, the new eatery offers balanced breakfasts, energy-boosting brunches and late afternoon pick-me-ups. But what actually constitutes the Scandi way of eating in his eyes?
‘For me, the Scandi eating concept means clean, fresh ingredients,’ said Matt, who took the Newcomer of the Year title at our recent Food & Drink Awards. ‘The Scandi diet is rich in good fats, protein, and vegetables. It packs a flavourful punch with herbs and spices, including chives and fennel, which are very common in Nordic dishes.
‘If I had to choose, I’d say my favourite dish on our menu is the smoked haddock fishcake, artichoke purée and fennel salad. Our head chef Natalie Firth came up with it and it’s a real winner. Our vegan and gluten free pancakes are awesome too.’
Recent research seems to confirm that a Scandinavian diet rich in fatty fish, root vegetables and rye bread is among the healthiest in the world. In Sweden, for instance, obesity levels are as low as ten per cent, while in Britain the figure stands at a weightier 25 per cent.
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Scandi food tends to be simple and cooked from scratch. There isn’t a strong fast-food culture, ready meals are virtually non-existent and most families still sit down together to enjoy their supper.
While the Mediterranean diet has long been touted as the way of eating healthily, the Scandi or Nordic diet is now being hailed as a healthier, more convenient and equally tasty alternative by scientists and foodies alike.
Nestled snugly among Oakwood’s parade of independent retailers on Roundhay Road, Grön, an old Scandinavian word meaning ‘to grow’, boasts a varied morning-to-evening menu, including soya yoghurt with fresh local honeycomb; buttermilk pancakes; tomato tartare with capers and home-pickled cucumber; butternut risotto with kale; smoothie bowls with seeds and fresh fruit; and sourdough with a variety of toppings such as truffled scrambled eggs, cambozola cheese and crayfish cocktail with a Henderson’s Bloody Mary.
‘I wasn’t necessarily looking to move in this direction but an opportunity presented itself,’ said Matt. ‘We did a bit of research which showed there weren’t many places offering a vegan or veggie-heavy menu, so we decided to fill the gap in the market.
‘It also helps that we’re surrounded by great independent venues in Oakwood, all offering something a little bit different to their brilliantly eclectic customers.’
The kafé has partnered with Chapel Allerton’s Wayward Wines to offer a carefully selected wine list and, across the menu board, ingredients are sourced locally wherever possible, including from North Star Coffee Roasters and Birdhouse Tea Company.
‘Our coffee offering is insane,’ said Matt. ‘Our general manager Ste Thomas makes wonderful coffees using locally-sourced roasts that cater for all.
‘We also don’t charge extra for milk alternatives. During our research, we saw that alternatives such as soya and oat milk came with a surcharge and would cost someone who buys coffee daily around a week’s wages every year. No one should be penalised for having a special diet.’
The look of the kafé is clean and sharp, with a live moss wall and a pink ‘Keep it Clean’ neon to echo the eclectic theme at Matt Healy x The Foundry.
At the end of the day, however, Grön is about food, not décor. So, what lessons have Matt and his team learned from our healthy European cousins – and how can we incorporate them into our own daily diets?
‘There’s no denying that many people are actively cutting down on their meat consumption and, through Grön, we want to prove that vegetarian and vegan dishes serve up just as much flavour,’ said Matt. ‘To that end, we’ve created an all-day menu of options to tickle every tastebud and set you up for the day.
‘Key lessons from the Scandi diet are to keep it clean but tasty, focusing on foods with as little processing as possible and going heavy on the vegetables. They’re so versatile you can keep trying different things in the New Year to keep your health kick interesting.’
If you are one of the many aiming to pack your plate with health in 2019, we wish you ‘lykke til’ (Norwegian for ‘good luck’). May the Norse be with you!