In a world where prices seem to be increasing daily, going out to eat can be a conundrum. One one hand, you don’t want to shut yourself away in your flat and never do anything fun; on the other hand, costs can spiral quickly when your date wants a three-course lunch, or that one mate orders steak when everyone else has gone for pasta.
The solution? A good quality, great value set menu. You can budget in advance, then sit back and let everyone order whatever they like (just get to the wine list first). Read on for our pick of the best set lunch menus around.
Not only is a set lunch a great money-saving Cheapo hack in its own right, it can also be a way to get into that hot new restaurant that doesn’t have a dinner reservation until 2025. Cue Fallow, shining star of delicious sustainability, whose à la carte has a couple of main dishes that cost more than their whole three-course set lunch menu. Yet for under £35.00 you can tuck into Sea Bream Crudo, Turnip, Almond & XO followed by Mussels, Smoked Bacon & Pickled Lemon and then Raspberry Ripple, Thyme & White Chocolate for dessert.
Price: 3 courses for £34.00
Noble Rot Soho
Fabulous restaurant on Greek Street on the former site of the Gay Hussar pub, a old favourite of left-wing politicians and prime ministers. With the kitchen headed up by ex-Sardine chef Alex Jackson, expect accomplished seasonal British/European cooking. It’s much-loved by foodies and wine buffs alike, as is the Lamb’s Conduit Street venue; check out the Noble Rot book and latest magazine over the set lunch, which is ridiculously good value. Dishes change regularly but think Salt Hake Salad to start, then Sausages, Lentils & Mustard followed by Buttermilk Pudding & Sauternes-soaked Raisins. Heavenly.
Price: 2 courses for £18.00, 3 courses for £22.00
Available: Monday-Saturday 12 noon-2:30pm
Looking for a vegetarian/vegan set lunch or something for a mixed group? The Bubala Middle Eastern mezze lunch menu consists of nine plant-based flavour-forward dishes including Labneh, Confit Garlic & Za’atar, Charred Oyster Mushroom Skewers, Tamari, Coriander Seed & Agave and Confit Potato Latkes, Toum & Aleppo Chilli. Trust me, meat-eaters won’t complain.
Price: £29.00 per person
Available: Monday-Saturday 12 noon-3pm, Sunday 12 noon-4pm
Mr Ji, Camden
The Soho branch may have closed but Mr Ji is very much alive and kicking in Camden. This experimental East Asian/European restaurant/bar serves up vibrant, modern flavours and has an excellent cocktail offering too. Their Express lunch of one main plus one side is music to Cheapo ears: happily the menu includes cult fried chicken classic The O’Ji as well as Beef in Black Pepper Sauce or Mapo Tofu Wontons, to which you can add fries or salad.
Price: A main plus side for £15.00
Available: Friday & Saturday 12 noon-3pm
Should you find yourself in this notoriously spenny part of town during the week, have we got a Cheapo get-out-of-jail-free card for you. Bao15 is a set lunch (also available as pre-theatre) menu where you can choose one bao, one Xiao Chi and one rice bowl for £15.00; for example, you might have a Beef Shortrib Bao, Taiwanese Fried Chicken & Hot Sauce and Bone Marrow Rice with Soy-Cured Egg Yolk. Add a Taiwanese beer for £3.00 and you’ve still got change from twenty quid. Winner.
Price: 3 dishes for £15.00
Available: Wednesday-Friday 12 noon-3pm
The Holland, Kensington
Recently renovated pub and dining room near Holland Park and Kensington High Street with a stylish country-chic interior. The menu focuses on the best use of British produce and is available for a leisurely 5 hours. Previous menus have included dishes such as Leek & Potato Soup, Confit Chicken Leg with White Beans & Pangrattato and Almond Tart with Chantilly; at three courses for £20.00 in an undeniably pricy part of town, this has to be one of the best set lunch menus around.
Price: 2 courses for £15.00, 3 courses for £20.00
Available: Wednesday-Friday 12 noon-5pm
The Princess Royal, Notting Hill
Another pretty decent window of availability, and you’ll need at least some of it to decide what to order. This menu from renowned ex-Norma chef Ben Tish could be à la carte in many pub restaurants; at the time of writing, it has three starters, six mains, three salads and five puddings. It’s pretty impressive, too: start with a Wild Mushroom and Celeriac Tartare, Winter Truffle, Walnuts & Sage, then perhaps a Marinated Grilled Steak on Focaccia, Tropea Onions and Gremolata followed by Baked Spiced Plums in Syrup, Amaretti Crumble & Blackberry Ice Cream.
Price: 2 courses for £25.00, 3 courses for £31.00
Available: Monday-Friday 12 noon-4pm
Townsend at the Whitechapel Gallery is a stylish dining room, café and wine bar flooded with natural light illuminating the pale wood interior. Equally clean, modern and seasonal is the British produce-led menu from ex Petersham Nurseries and BAO Soho Head Chef Chris Shaw; Tamworth Terrine with Pickled Plums & Mustard, Roasted Courgette with White Beans, Tomato, Basil & Walnut then 70% Chocolate with Raspberries & Honeycomb. Beautiful modern cooking in a gorgeous setting for an absolute bargain – plus a glass of house wine is a paltry £4.00. Definitely one of the best set lunch menus in London for value.
Price: 2 courses for £19.00, 3 courses for £24.00
Kudu bills itself as a family-run restaurant, which is absolutely is; just that the family concerned happens to be Amy Corbin, daughter of hospitality legend Chris Corbin, and her partner, South African chef Patrick Williams; and the restaurant is located in foodie mecca Peckham.
The seasonally-changing menu has a South African slant but is predominantly a list of inventive flavour bombs: think Parmesan Churros & Miso Mayo, followed by Braai Lamb, Smoked Tomato, Courgette & Rosemary and then Salted Chocolate Ganache, Sesame Ice Cream & Chocolate Crumble.
Price: 2 courses for £24.00, 3 courses for £28.00
Available: Friday only, 12.30pm-2pm
Looking for something a bit special but still great value? Check out our list of Michelin-starred lunch deals. Maybe you’d rather eat a little later? How about one of London’s Pre-Theatre bargain set menus?
Finally, if there’s somewhere we’ve missed that you think we should know about, hit us up on Instagram – we always love a new Cheapo find!