London’s best-value set menus offer meals — ambitious ones, not the sort of thing easily whipped up at home — to soothe the soul, placate menu-induced anxiety and keep the bank resolutely unbroken, with two or three always superb courses for under £30. Eat, drink and be frugally merry.Read More
11 Excellent (Value) Set Menus in London Right Now
Where to eat fantastic food for £30 or less
In the evenings this Kensington legend’s exquisite sushi is out of reach of all but the highest rollers, but at lunchtime things are much more democratic. There’s five pieces of sushi and a sushi roll, a beautifully composed salad and miso soup on offer at prices not far off Yo’s — choose from salmon (£16), tuna (£18) or yellowtail (£20). Say no to soy sauce — the chefs prefer diners to abstain so the flavours can shine through.
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Hereford Road Restaurant
At two courses for £16.50 or three for £19.50, the set lunch menu at this former Victorian butcher is eye-poppingly good value. It’s fairly but not exclusively meaty, with shades of St. John: start with leeks vinaigrette, follow it with whole grilled mackerel with fennel and kohlrabi, and finish up with buttermilk pudding. Get it on Fridays and Saturdays.
Cafe Murano St. James
With its Mad Men-goes-to-Milan vibe, Cafe Murano is great for dazzling a date, or indeed a visiting parent; no scary ferments here. The two-for-£23 or three-for-£28 daily menu, which focuses on a different region each month (currently the vibe is Venetian), is available from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Pick a starter and main or a main and dessert: deep-fried and soused sardines to begin, followed by calves liver in the city’s style or a squid ink risotto with bottarga; or frittole with lemon cream for those in search of sweet.
Fitzrovia’s Bao 15 menu’s concept is simple but sensational: a bao — including the Fitz-only cod in a black bun — a Taiwanese fried chicken chop; and a bone marrow or mapo aubergine rice bowl from 12pm to 3pm, Monday to Friday. Adding beer or wine for £3 still brings this in comfortably under £20 a head.
Not really a menu, but excellent nonetheless. For the price of a soul-sapping salad, smoothie and bag of crisps from Pret, weekday worker-bees in the vicinity of Dean Street can sit down to a daily special (smoked haddock, potato, watercress and a soft egg; Sardinian gnocchi…), plus a glass of wine or non-alcoholic fruit shrub for just £10. Quacking stuff.
Noble Rot Wine Bar & Restaurant
The platonic ideal of a prix fixe at two courses for £18 or three for £22. In keeping with the ‘haven’t we suffered enough?’ mood of the nation, there are no calorie-conscious trifectas paying homage to cuisine minceur at this Bloomsbury haven, as in previous years. Instead find assemblages that reflect the seasons: currently a roast chicken salad with tarragon, and a grilled gurnard with braised courgettes and pink fir potatoes.
Skye Gyngell’s £25 “scratch” deal — three plates created entirely from scraps and offcuts — has had a lot of press, and deservedly so: none of the a la carte menu’s style or substance has been sacrificed in the name of the no-waste concept. Par for the course are dishes like pasta “rags” with a sauce of blemished tomatoes and parsley stems; or a plate of grilled squid with accoutrements made from odds and ends. It’s only available from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., but it’s worth the faff. There’s also a two-course set for £29 at lunchtime, to which diners can add a grand aioli for £15 if in the mood for largesse.
The Quality Chop House
London’s greatest lunch-to-go, the joyfully jaw-busting egg mayo sandwich, can be found in the Quality Chop Shop’s counter. For something a little longer-lasting, take a seat next door and tuck into three courses of trencherman’s fare for £25 — think brown crab rarebit; Mangalitza ham with a fried egg; and an autumnal wild plum fool.
This £25, three-course deal is only available on Sundays — and with so-so gastropub roasts often coming in at twice the price once drinks and something sweet are factored in, there’s really no contest. Mediterranean-inflected and seasonally appropriate is the drill here: the meal might start with hispi cabbage, ham butter and breadcrumbs, move on to spaghetti al’amatriciana, and end with a slice of almond cake and custard.
The one pick on the list that peaks above the pricing parapet, but Seb Myers’s £35 Saturday lunch trifecta is some of the most exciting cooking in the city right now, so it’s worthy. A simple starter, perhaps of panisse with green tomatoes, will precede one of his top dishes — a pork jowl ragout with green beans and walnuts — with the option to add on cheese and oysters and a sorbet come dessert.
The £30 lunch set at Joké Bakare’s Brixton hit offers some of the most thrilling food in the city. Begin with sinasir, a soured brown rice pancake with carrots and mandarin; move on to a comforting, golden ekoki, soft with sweetcorn alongside precisely grilled mackerel; and finish with a plantain and baobab ice cream. If there’s bavette and yaji as a supplement, get amongst it.
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