Sabina Culver 25/09/23
Scientists have yet to confirm what we know in our hearts – that lunch is the finest of all the meals – but it can surely only be a matter of time. It is a meal that is supremely versatile: a quick-and-dirty lunch can be truly satisfying, and lift your spirits, whilst a long lunch? Well, with the entire afternoon (and evening) stretching ahead of you, it’s a time of infinite promise, infinite possibility, infinite martinis. Whatever your culinary needs, enjoy this cross-section of some of the finest places to go for lunch in London, guaranteed to leave your heart (and, crucially, your stomach) full.
Jump to: Cheap & Cheerful Lunches | Lunch To Turn Into Dinner | Great Set Menu Lunches
Humo | Mayfair
HUMO is now one of our go-to restaurant recommendations for any time, any occasion. Cosy booths for two? Check. Subterranean chef’s table experience? Check. Utterly captivating lunch spot? Check. Book a stool up at the counter to watch chef Miller Prada and his tightly knit team tame the flames of the open fire to turn out a repertoire of smoke-infused dishes, from a pot of cauliflower baked under the ashes and smothered in black truffle to lemon meringue pie, scorched not by something so uncouth as a blowtorch, but a stick of still-glowing charcoal retrieved from the flames. At £55 for three courses, or £67 for four, it’s a snip for cooking of this quality. And if it’s a lunch that you’re not really expected to return to the office from, go for the enchanting wine pairing – fittingly introduced by HUMO’s sommelier, Merlin.
Details: 12 St. George Street, London W1S 2FB | Book here
A Wong | Pimlico
Image: James Gilles
Despite the fierce competition laid on by the restaurants of Chinatown, Andrew Wong’s two Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant may have the best dim sum game in London. As is the custom, it’s a lunchtime-only occasion where you’re recommended to choose 8-10 dim-sum pieces from the 21-strong menu; starting from baozi (Shanghai steamed dumplings) to crispy prawn rolls, duck yolk custard buns, flaky abalone tarts, wagyu tarts, Chinese pot sticker dumplings…yeah we know, it’s challenge – so to avoid the selection headache, you can take the easy way out and just let the chef arrange a bespoke selection for the table.
Details: 70 Wilton Road, Pimlico, London SW1V 1DE | Book here
London Shell Co. | Paddington
Lunch at London Shell Co. is a meal we can really get on board with: it’s a floating seafood restaurant on the Prince Regent, a rustic blue barge moored alongside Sheldon Square. Lunch cruises depart at 12 noon, Friday-Sunday, allowing you to tuck into five courses while leisurely bobbing along the waterways of Little Venice and Regent’s Canal. Dishes may include a trout sausage roll, Cornish crab, torched sardines and hake with heritage courgette, plus an additional wine pairing if you fancy turning it into a bit of booze cruise. Just don’t go overboard…
Psst… Susceptible to seasickness? Try their stationary floating seafood restaurant, The Grand Duchess.
Details: Moored alongside Sheldon Square, W2 6PY | Book here
Le Gavroche | Mayfair
One presumes that experiences like Le Gavroche – and it is truly an experience as much as it is a restaurant – won’t exist for much longer. It is ludicrously grand – blush banquettes, white linen tablecloths, decanted wine, cloches galore, and that legendary cheese trolley – and it is far too pricey. And yet. And yet. Since the Roux brothers Albert and Michel first flung open the doors in 1967 it has captivated London’s aspirational diners – today, Michel Roux Jr heads up the kitchen (and frequently walks the restaurant floor, glad-handing the regulars) and lunch in London’s first restaurant to receive a Michelin star remains as sought-after an invitation as ever.
Its regulars are a fascinating collection of senior lawyers, bankers, and the occasional actor, as well as plenty of tanned older businessmen, their shirts undone one button too many, and often accompanied by (we must hope) their daughters. The service is utterly frictionless, care of a truly experienced front of house team of the sort you so rarely see in restaurants any more. And the cooking – rich, indulgent, French fine dining with two Michelin stars – will knock your socks off and leave you in a butter-induced coma. Formidable.
Details: 43 Upper Brook St, W1K 7QR | Book here
St John | Farringdon
Whilst nowadays the concept of ‘nose-to-tail’ dining is squarely mainstream (inescapable, almost), it’s easy to forget that the phrase was more-or-less unknown before the mighty Fergus Henderson rewrote the rulebook (and cookery book) by opening St John with wine aficionado Trevor Gulliver. Henderson’s cooking is unpretentious, self-taught, and makes use of a plethora of previously unused and unloved parts of the animal (offal, snouts, and of course the bone marrow that has become one of the restaurant’s calling cards). It’s turned him into a hero for chefs worldwide, and even caused the late Anthony Bourdain to bow down in front of Henderson, a man he considered “the most influential chef of the last two decades.” So, basically, strap in for meat. Lots of it. It pays to be adventurous, so step outside your comfort zone and try the grilled ox heart, the pig’s trotter, and, of course, the roasted bone marrow and parsley salad, washed down with St John’s own wine, and rounded off with freshly-baked madeleines. The human body can’t sustain too many lunches at St John’s, but it should definitely experience at least one.
Details: 26 St. John Street, EC1M 4AY | Book here
Koya | Soho, City, Hackney
There is simply no more satisfying a lunch in London than a bowl of Koya’s signature handmade udon noodles, slurped at the counter of their intimate flagship Soho restaurant. The noodles are so fresh, and of such a perfect, springy consistency, that they can be more or less eaten without any adornment – in fact, it’s possible to order them cold (and you absolutely should). But, on a cold day, it’s impossible to go wrong when ordering from the atsu-atsu section of the menu – that’s hot udon with hot dashi broth – where you can choose from accompaniments including mixed seaweeds, pork and miso, and duck and vegetable hotpot. A bowl that’s good for the soul.
Details: 50 Frith St, London W1D 4SQ | No bookings – find out more here
Xi’an Impression | Holloway
If you fancy a quick Chinese, but you also quite like the idea of it being one of the best meals you’ve ever had, then what you’re after is lunch at Xi’an Impression. You’ll need to find your way to Holloway Road – a short skip and a jump away from the Emirates Stadium, in fact – and then hope there’s space for you in Xi’an Impression’s small dining room. But once you’re in there – hooo boy. It’s street food from Xi’an City, and it’s mind-blowing stuff. And thanks to the no-fuss setting, it’s also possibly the best value lunch in London.
The hand-pulled noodles – their speciality – are the sort of thing you’ll find yourself talking enthusiastically about to strangers in the street. Try them with beef in sesame and chilli oil. Try them with tomato egg sauce. Whatever you do, try them with stir-fried chicken (you’ll have to pick out the bones – it’ll be worth it). But then of course you’ll need to leave room for their dumplings. And their minced shredded ‘burgers’. Essentially, you’ll need to come back.
Details: 117 Benwell Road, N7 7BW | No bookings – find out more here
Arcade Food Hall | Tottenham Court Road & Battersea
Arcade Food Hall defies the laws of London lunch physics by being an extremely popular food hall and yet not having any queues. It’s cunningly managed to do that by having a scanner code on each table where you can simultaneously browse the menus of 11 of its globetrotting restaurants (smashed burgers and honey chicken sandwiches from Manna, tacos from Mexa, shawarma from Shatta & Toum) and staff will then bring your order straight to you. Perks of living in the 21st century, eh? Separated from the rest of the pack on the upper mezzanine level is the 12th restaurant, and the jewel in Arcade’s crown, Luke Farrell’s Plaza Khao Gaeng, an ode to Southern Thailand. There’s also a games room with pool, ping pong and arcade machines – which is loaded with Friday ‘working lunch’ potential.
Details: 101-103 New Oxford Street, WC1A 1DD | Book here
Tacos Padre | London Bridge
Tacos for lunch is always is a good shout; even more so if they’re from this Borough Market taqueria where the meats for ribeye carne asadas and pork cochinitas are marinated and slow-cooked for days on end, and the rubs, sauces and the tortillas themselves are all made in-house. Drinks-wise, keep the momentum going and try out the margaritas in flavours like mango & morita chile or mezcal & rhubarb – those are also always a good shout.
Details: Borough Market Kitchen, Winchester Walk, Jubilee Place, London Bridge, SE1 9AG | No bookings
Blacklock | Soho, Shoreditch, City, Covent Garden, Canary Wharf
If you come back to the office after lunch later and sweatier than usual, then you’ve done Blacklock right. While you could order a huge dry-aged steak with beef-dripping chips or the signature plate of chops scorched with a 200 year-old clothes iron and we wouldn’t fault you for it, there’s also a few hand-held items designed specifically for lunching carnivores short on time; a pork belly bun wrapped in crispy crackling or a steak sarnie that sees tender sliced hanger steak, topped with bone marrow, finished with watercress, and thrown into a ciabatta roll. It’s all just over a tenner too, so throw in a Blacklock beer and you’ll still be within decent budget.
Details: Various locations | Book here
Padella | Borough & Shoreditch
It’s one of the best Italian restaurants in London, so it’s probably going to cost a fortune right? Right? Well no, surprisingly, the tagliarini with dried chilli, garlic and pangrattato will set you back a mere £9, and the other handmade pasta – all of which you can see being made fresh in the window – like the pici cacio & pepe, and the fettucine with Cobble Lane-cured nduja only fall a slither over a tenner. One thing: try to sneak out of work early, as the queues for the midday rush aren’t for the faint-hearted.
Details: 6 Southwark Street, SE1 1TQ | No reservations
E. Pellicci’s | Bethnal Green
“Oi! D’you mind budging up? Say hello to Maureen!” So goes a fairly standard interaction at E Pellicci’s in Bethnal Green, the oldest family-run Italian café in London. The tiny, Grade II listed space – its beautiful vitroglass fascia, wooden marquetry and formica tables still miraculously intact – is now run by a third generation of Pelliccis, who bark affectionately at the many regulars (a wondrous combination of market stall traders, semi-retired East End villains, hungover students and elder millennial hipsters) and greet fascinated newcomers with familial warmth. Once you’ve come for your first massive all-day breakfast, or some cannelloni accompanied by Mama Pellicci’s enormous hand-cut chips, you’ll know you have to come back. Maureen used to go out with one of the Krays, by the way – but she’ll tell you all about it…
Details: 332 Bethnal Green Road, E2 0AG | For more information, visit their website here
Looking for more inspiration? Check out the London Sandwich Bucket List and our Cheap Eats Guide
Sager + Wilde | Hackney & Bethnal Green
Come for the wine, stay for the wine. That’s not to say Sager + Wilde – which has evolved seamlessly from ‘plucky East London newcomer’ to ‘well-loved institution’ – doesn’t offer a hugely tempting food menu; it absolutely does. But, whether you’re hunkering down in their original Hackney Road outpost with some small plates (think duck rilletes and charcuterie), or in their buzzy Paradise Row railway arch with a hearty main course (lamp with goats curd, bavette steak, or their smoked eel(!) cacio e pepe), it would be a real shame not to sample one of their knockout wines. Their list is spectacular, their prices are reasonable, and their waiters are knowledgeable. Lunchtime magic that you just can’t bottle.
Details: 193 Hackney Road, E2 8JL | 250 Paradise Row, E2 9LE | Book here
Compton | Clerkenwell
Breakfast at Compton, lunch at Compton, dinner at Compton… that’s one way of filling out an itinerary for the perfect day in Clerkenwell. It’s the successor to The Modern Pantry in St John’s Square and has filled those big boots rather commendably, offering up a versatile menu that sees belter dish after belter dish – anything from gin-cured salmon with caviar and potato salad to anchovy-stuffed fried olives, barbecue king prawns with chilli garlic oil and Cornish day boat fish. They have a deli section too, in case you want to bring back some of their focaccia sandwiches, pastries, cured meats and cheeses (and you will).
Details: 47-48 St John’s Square, Clerkenwell, EC1V 4JJ | Book here
Cafe Deco | Bloomsbury
Inviting a friend for lunch at Cafe Deco has the domino effect of starting a bit of a lunch chain, where your dining partner tells their dining partner, and then a few months down the line everyone in the restaurant unknowingly has a connection to one another. It’s the product of one those power food and drink couplings, between Anna Tobias (ex-head chef at Rochelle Canteen) and the wine wizards of 40 Maltby Street. In stylishly muted café surroundings, Tobias serves a seasonally charged menu of hearty, delicious things like Sicilian John Dory with wild fennel and borlotti bean stew; mushroom and buckwheat-stuffed cabbage rolls; and smoked eel, leek and parsley pie. When you next get invited for lunch here, just remember that you’re the bon vivant that started the trend…
Details: 43 Store Street, London, WC1E 7DB | Book here
Quo Vadis | Soho
To lunch in London’s grande dame, Quo Vadis, is to love it. The Dean Street institution – a place where reality goes to loosen its tie, put its feet up, and then have a massive negroni on a Tuesday afternoon – is the product of two rare and beautiful things: the hospitality of the Hart brothers, restaurateurs whose powers are continually growing (with Barrafina, Casa Pastor and The Drop, they are seemingly colonising Coal Drops Yard – which is all the better for it), and the world-class cooking of the buoyant, flamboyant, Jeremy Lee. Lee’s seasonal menus change on a near-daily basis, but there are always magnificent pies, phenomenal salads, and his now internationally-renowned smoked eel sandwich – a must-try even for eel avoiders. The larger, buzzier dining room is upstairs in the members’ club, so snag yourself an invite – or, perhaps after that second negroni, throw caution to the wind and become a member…
Details: 26-29 Dean St, W1D 3LL | Book here
Rochelle Canteen | Shoreditch
‘What are all those civilised grown ups doing in a former school bike shed?’ you may ask. Only enjoying one of the finest lunches in London, mate. Though the location was once a bike shed, the Rochelle Canteen experience is more country garden, with a menu that reads like it could have been grown right there. Here, laurelled chefs Margot Henderson (incidentally St. John co-founder Fergus Henderson’s other half) and Melanie Arnold’s number one priority is making sure they have the morning’s freshest available produce ready for their daily-changing menu – think Welsh pork belly with fennel, or a pumpkin stuffed with barley and wild mushroom. Paired with a glass of wine and some sunshine, a school lunch doesn’t get much better than this.
Details: School House, Arnold Circus, Shoreditch, E2 7ES | Book here
Sabor | Mayfair
Sabor feels less like lunch in London than a family get-together in Spain – which is to be expected as it’s the first solo restaurant from Nieves Barragan Mohacho (before this, she was the tour de force running the kitchen at Barrafina Dean Street for eight years). The two-floor set-up offers a number of different but equally rewarding dining paths; you can use up your week’s worth of luck and try for a seat at the counter where seafood sourced from their own in-house fishmonger leads the way, round-up a gang at El Asador upstairs where wood-fired dishes like Castilian suckling pig take up half the table, or perch yourself at the bar and do the classic thing by overindulging on tapas and sherry. Either way, there’s no bad seat in the house.
Details: 35-37 Heddon Street, W1B 4BR | The counter and the bar are walk-ins only, you can book the El Asador area here
The Wolseley | Mayfair
The Wolsley Wolsely Wolseley. An absolute pain to spell, but an absolute pleasure to dine in. Normally when you’re talking about restaurants with a view it’s about how good the vantage point is to the Shard and the rest of London’s skyline, but here the view is all about the inside; a blockbuster brassiere crossover between British heritage and 1920s European glamour with black and white marble, towering columns, leather banquette seating and suited staff. Lunch can be whatever you want it to be; from salt beef & mustard on rye to schnitzels, Hungarian goulash or goujons of haddock. There’s even a caviar-dedicated section with a £67 lobster and caviar omelette that you can joke about ordering. Joke about ordering…
Details: 160 Piccadilly, W1J 9EB | Book here
The Quality Chop House | Clerkenwell
Here’s a restaurant that knows its value. The Quality Chop House is an old working man’s eating house in Farringdon – a 153-year-old one at that – which has reinvented itself as a smartened-up British restaurant. Lunch is good value at £29 a head and consists of three courses; a starter (say celeriac soup with vanilla brown butter), a main (like schnitzel holstein) and a dessert (Dorset apple cake with calvados cream). The menu changes every two weeks to give you enough time to digest the experience, miss the experience and come back for an entirely new experience. Their wine bar, Quality Wines, is next door as well (not to give you any grand ideas of sacking the rest of the working day off..).
Details: 88 Farringdon Road, London, EC1R 3EA | Book here
Forza Win | Camberwell
Once in Peckham, now in Camberwell, Forza Win has retained its two core values of serving fresh pasta (the current rigatoni with yellow peppers, pine nuts and basil, is a formidable challenger to the other fresh pasta spots in London), and offering copious amounts of wine. And there’s no finer spot for a weekday lunch in South London, thanks to a set menu that brings you three courses for £20.
Details: 31 Camberwell Church Street, SE5 8TR | Book here
Trishna | Marylebone
£40 for a two-hour eating voyage down the Indian seaside? That’s not a dodgy travel ad, but the essence of lunch at the Sethi siblings’ Michelin-starred Trishna (and it’s £45 if you can’t resist adding an extra dish). It’s one of the best Indian restaurants in London, found right in the heart of Marylebone Village, where for lunch you have the pick of many of their prized dishes like the duck chutney seek, shahi salmon tikka and fig and cardamom kheer, at a snip of the price.
Details: 15 -17 Blandford Street, Marylebone Village, W1U 3DG | Book here
Scott’s Richmond | Richmond
Johnny Stephens Photography
Seafood spot Scott’s offers everything you could need for a really fancy meal out – live jazz on Wednesday evenings, a terrace that looks right onto the river, and stunningly glitzy interiors. And at lunchtime, you can indulge in a surprisingly good value set menu, with two courses for £29.50 and three for £34.50. Will you need three courses? We’ll let the fried Baron Bigod with rhubarb compote settle that one for you…
Details: 4 Whittaker Avenue, London TW9 1EH | Book here
J. Sheekey | Covent Garden
There is indeed something very fishy going on behind J. Sheekey’s unmistakable red facade on St Martin’s Court, proudly bearing the same old-school Victorian charm it had when it first began shucking oysters for hungry theatre-goers in 1896 (though its had a fresh lick of paint since). The lunch menu is a catch at £33/£39 for two/three courses where you can choose between Cornish sardines, sea trout and steamed Shetland mussels or a pan fried fillet of sea bass, and on Sunday it all comes with a free side of live jazz. One of London’s seafood restaurants worth shelling out for…
Details: 28-35 St. Martin’s Court, WC2N 4AL | Book here
Hackney Coterie | Hackney
Wines from small-scale producers, unique small plates put together with zero-waste principles, abstract art on the walls and an industrial interior with the exposed ceiling pipes and brick walls to go with: there’s a good game of hip restaurant bingo to be had at Hackney Coterie, as well as one of the most interesting lunches in East London. If you like trying new things, then you’re also in good company: head chef Giuseppe Pepe (who has worked at Pidgin and Casa Fofò) changes the set menu every couple of weeks to keep things seasonal and fresh – you might encounter anything from a crispy saffron risotto cake to grey mullet crudo dressed in candied tomato dressing and fig leaf oil, all priced at a reasonable £20 for two courses.
Details: 230 Dalston Lane, E8 1LA | Book here
Apricity | Mayfair
Long, drawn-out lunches feel less guilty when they’re at Apricity. That’s because the restaurant in Mayfair employs a circular economy where absolutely nothing is left to waste, from the chairs you sit on (up-cycled from old Coke bottles) to the cocktails (created with trimmings from the pudding leftovers). The £39 lunch set menu includes a starter and a main – maybe Brambletye tomato with tomato emulsion followed by slow-cooked pork collar with kimchi and smoked mayo – but desserts like the Esmeralda milk chocolate baked mousse are wholly worth adding on as an extra. Just because the restaurant’s frugal, doesn’t mean you have to be.
Details: 68 Duke Street, Mayfair, W1K 6JU | Book here
Fallow | St James
When considering how to do your best for the planet by living more sustainably, it’s pretty much imperative that you eat at Fallow as often as you can. It is, after all, a sustainability-focussed restaurant where seaweed dangles from the ceiling, and co-owner chefs Jack Croft and Will Murray (who met while working together at Dinner by Heston) make sure to use of every inch of their ingredients in dishes that never fail to leave your table in silent awe. There are glorious things to be had with ingredients that in anyone else’s hands would sound totally unappetising, from leftover cod’s head dressed with sriracha butter sauce and green onion oil; to an incredible Chelsea tart made using Kappacasein Dairy’s surplus whey; and the mushroom parfait (made from puréed shiitake mushrooms that grow in a giant dish suspended above the kitchen). The benefit of this tightly-run ship also rubs off on your wallet – a three-course weekday lunch here comes in at £40. The only problem is that after eating here, every other lunch in London has an almost impossible act to follow…
Details: 51 Haymarket, SW1Y 4RP | Book here
Fancy eating earlier in the day? We’ve got you covered with our guide to the best brunch in London…
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