Leeds restaurants: Meet the woman behind Le Chalet on Park Row where customers are royalty

At this French tea room, bakery and restaurant, customers are treated like royalty.

By Abbey Maclure
Saturday, 2nd April 2022, 4:30 pm

Le Chalet is constantly evolving around its diners wants and needs, offering a diverse menu that spans breakfast, lunch, dinner.

Nermine George opened the Park Row restaurant in 2013 and oversees the kitchen and front of house, as well as designing the menus.

Born in Egypt, Nermine left her corporate career as a sales manager to open the establishment and draws parallels between French and Egyptian food.

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Nermine George, 47, is the owner and head chef at Le Chalet tea rooms, restaurant and bakery on Park Row (Photo: James Hardisty)

"In Egypt, food is a gathering, it’s a celebration," the 47-year-old said.

"You always cook more than you need because you expect anybody to come round.

"And French cooking takes time, it’s a slow process. Every good thing takes time - like good relationships.

"It’s a celebratory meal, you sit down and you enjoy it slowly with other people.”

Le Chalet serves food inspired by the French countryside, from croque monsieur to smoked salmon galette (Photo: James Hardisty)

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Le Chalet offers a range of premium teas and food inspired by the French countryside, from croque monsieur and smoked salmon galette to a classic French onion soup.

The restaurant has become famed for its French-inspired afternoon teas, with a choice of sweet and savoury treats including ratatouille and mussels mariniere.

Leeds is very competitive," Nermine said.

Nermine's classic French onion soup (Photo: James Hardisty)

"I love that Leeds is always pushing the bar higher. It's a city inundated with restaurants so you have to find a way to be different and stand out.

"Good food and good customer service isn’t enough, you have to find and supply to a gap in the market.”

There is something for everyone at Le Chalet; cheese nights where raclette is melted on a grill at the table, bottomless brunches for the party crowd and create-your-own breakfasts.

There's plenty of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options on the menu, as well as the option to tweak most dishes to dietary requirements.

Customers are royals here," Nermaine added.

"We have feedback cards from customers and a lot of them say, ‘I felt like the queen’. I love that we make them feel special and good about themselves, they’re looked after.

“The menu and everything we design is built around the customer. We listen to the customer, we’re not just led by trends.

"Our menu is very diverse so that everybody can find something in it.

"We try to use the best possible ingredients and keep it really simple."

When the first lockdown was imposed, Le Chalet had a fully-stocked restaurant for Mother's Day.

The food was sold to their regular customers to enjoy at home and after they begged for more, the restaurant later started at-home afternoon teas - selling 100 in one day during the VE Day celebrations.

It was a difficult time, but Nermine stayed firm with her ethos of being led by her customers, keeping the connection going through multiple lockdowns and emerging busier than ever on the other side.

“Maybe I’m an adrenaline junkie," she laughed.

"I love the challenge of the kitchen, when you get orders in and you work out a plan to serve everybody in good time. I love that mental work - it’s not just physical work, it challenges your brain and motivation to deliver.

“Whatever life throws at you, you have to adapt to it."

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