You could stuff yourself to the gizzards at London’s best restaurants, but your wallet would feel decidedly limp afterwards.
Because no matter how good that wagyu beef topped with truffle and gold leaf is, the bill for it will leave a bitter taste in your mouth.
Thankfully there is a way you can dine like a king on a reasonably well-paid pauper’s budget. All you need to know is when and where to find the best set menus, which we’ve done for you:
Closest tube: Tottenham Court Road
Price: £60 for two (minimum order for two)
This Japanese fusion eatery is from the brains behind Bone Daddies (delicious, reliable and cheap ramen eats). It’s not as high-end as some of the other options on this list, but given that it’s the brainchild of ex-Nobu (which although now is the Lindsay Lohan of expensive sushi joints - washed out and overpriced - was once a celeb hot spot) chef, the food is undeniably good. Their all day tasting menu (£60 for two) serves up eight dishes including wagyu beef tartare and their signature kinako french toast with matcha soft serve. Dropping £30 is basically a bargain, so if you feel like that gives you some wriggle room, add the sake taster to go with it for another £35.
Available all day every day; bonedaddies.com
Closest tube: Oxford Circus/Piccadilly Circus
Price: £30 for two (minimum order for two)
Yes, dim sum is often best consumed in a large group so you can order countless dishes and pass out later in a carb and sodium coma. But Yauatcha’s delicate, melt-in-the mouth morsels like buttery venison puffs and mushroom spring rolls with truffle are worth the more sophisticated affair. Their Taste of Yauatcha menu will land 8 courses for two on your table, plus tea for £30. It’s available at a bit of a weird time (clearly intentional on their part), 2-6pm Monday to Thursday, but if you can hold on for a late lunch, it’s worth it.
Taste of Yauatcha menu starts again in Jan 2017, Monday-Thursday 2pm-6pm; yauatcha.com
Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester
Closest tube: Green Park/Hyde Park Corner
Price: £60 per person
You know when Google gives you the £ sign to indicate how much of a hit you’ll take? This places fills up all four of them and then some. But then again, it does hold three Michelin stars. Luckily their set lunch hour menu (12-1:30pm) is a way to taste what’s on offer for a cool £60pp. You get three contemporary french courses (amuse-bouche and mignardises - ridiculously fancy petit fours - too), two glasses of wine, half a bottle of mineral water and coffee or tea and the menu changes every Wednesday. Compared to three courses on the a-la carte menu for £100, you’re making quite the saving. Just don’t turn up in your Nike’s, ripped jeans and beanie. There’s a dress code specifically against those garms.
Begins again in January 2017, following the Festive Lunch Hour Menu (on until 23 Dec), Tuesday-Friday, 12pm-1:30pm; alainducasse-dorchester.com
The Sanderson Restaurant
Closest tube: Oxford Circus/Tottenham Court Road/Goodge Street
The Sanderson is a bit weird. The first thing that happens when you walk in is an unadulterated assault on your eyes in the form of The Long Bar. But once you get past it, physically and emotionally, there’s a much subtler restaurant filled with showy types but also good food. The set menu offers three course for £28 with a distinctly British vibe. Think salt baked beets with goats curd and rump beef. They often offer a free cocktail with the menu too for events like The London Restaurant Festival. And where The Long Bar falls short, the outdoor courtyard makes up for it.
Set menu is available for lunch and dinner; morganshotelgroup.com
Closest tube: Covent Garden
Price:£26pp for two courses, £29pp for three courses
It was in Jamie Oliver’s kitchens that Gregory Marchand gained the nickname ‘Frenchie’. Because he’s French, obvs. English wit may have convinced him to head back to France for a bit, but he’s rocked back up in Covent Garden and brought simple but hearty sharing dishes with him. Literally. There’s ox heart as a starter on the lunch set menu, which goes for £26 for two courses or £29 for three. If offal isn’t your thing don’t worry, there’s are other options like rabbit ragu, fresh fish and Woolley Park chicken (super high quality organic birds).
Available Monday-Friday, 12pm-2:15pm; frenchiecoventgarden.com
Closest tube: Green Park
This is about as far as you can get from your local curry house. It’s been consistently rated as one of the best restaurants in London (it was the first Indian restaurant to win the National Restaurant Awards) and holds a Michelin star. You’d be lucky to get a reservation from 7pm onwards in the evening but you’re in luck if you’re an early bird. Not only are you more likely to get a table, their early evening menu is a steal at £35 for 4 courses – fantastic value when you consider mains come served with Dal Lasooni, Aloo Methi, a bread basket and Basmati rice.
Available Monday-Thursday 5:30pm-6:30pm & Friday-Saturday 5:30pm-6:00pm; gymkhanalondon.com
Closest tube: Various locations
Price: £25pp for two course, £28pp for three courses
London’s best known steakhouse is so for a reason. The plush bottle green chairs and exposed brick walls are the perfect setting for chowing down on exceptionally good meat, dry aged for 35-55 days (depending on the cut). Their Express Menu varies from branch to branch (check the website for details) but the offer is always the same – two courses for £25 or three for £28. Starters include bone marrow with onions and potted beef with yorkshire puds, and main steaks vary from rump, ribeye and fillet. It’s worth checking out their Sunday lunch too, roast beef (obvs) and all the trimmings for £20.
Available Monday-Saturday 12pm-3pm and 5pm-6pm; thehawksmoor.com
Closest tube: Angel
Price: £15pp for two course, £18pp for three courses
Opened by the former Chef Director of Polpo (wildly popular Venetian tapas-type restaurant), this cosy restaurant (there’s only 40 covers) does what Tom Oldroyd does best - small sharing plates of the freshest produce. Influenced by the flavours of Italy, Spain and France the set menu (two courses for £15, three for £18) changes every day but you always have the choice of three options for each course. It’s previously featured the likes of chicken liver parfait, cornish crab tagliarini and apricot and almond tart. The early evening set menu finishes at 6:45pm so if you’re at a loss as to what to do with such a sated appetite, you can always head to the King’s Head Theatre pub five minutes up the road for some live jazz.
Available Monday-Saturday 12pm-3pm and 5pm-6:45pm; oldroydlondon.com
Closest tube: Oxford Circus
Price: £35pp for two courses, £40pp for three courses
Sketch is probably best known for its weird egg-shaped toilet cubicles, which sound cool but are more like peeing in an ambient portaloo. Toilet talk aside, their set menu is a great deal for a menu that would usually set you back an eye-watering amount - the restaurant is famed for being one of the most expensive in London. The gourmet rapide lunch menu in the lecture room and library gets you a selection of four starters (including vitamins and detox…), a main (think roasted monkfish) and a trio of desserts (kind of a surprise) for £35 for two courses or £40 for three. Whack on half a bottle of water (yup) and half a bottle of wine with three courses and it will take you to £53, which at Sketch is still incredibly reasonable.
Available in Dec from Monday-Friday, 12pm-1:45pm. From January 2017, Tuesday-Friday 12pm-1:45pm; sketch.london
Closest tube: Green Park/Tottenham Court Road
Hakkasan is to Cantonese food what Gymkhana is to Indian cuisine. Walk into the darkened restaurant accented with blue lights and you’ll feel as far from Chinatown as possible. Considering a selection of four dim sum would set you back £18.50 off the a-la carte menu, the Taste of Hakkasan set menu is a steal at £38 for three courses plus a signature cocktail. You get the dim sum selection to start, followed by a choice of nine mains (the Chilean seabass is a highlight) which all come with jasmine rice and vegetables, and a selection of desserts.
Available Monday-Friday 6pm-6:30pm, Saturday and Sunday 5pm-6:30pm; hakkasan.com
Sake No Hana
Closest tube: Green Park
Owned by the Hakkasan group, they describe themselves as ‘modern authentic Japanese cuisine’. Similarly swanky interiors but considerably less colourful, the restaurant boasts traditional Japanese tables and seating where you take off your shoes and sit cross legged on cushions. But for those with less flexible hip flexors, there are normal tables too. The Taste of Sake No Hana menu starts you on soup and tempura (arguably some of the best in the city), then gives you a choice of expertly executed sushi rolls followed by a char-grilled main (salmon, chicken or veg) and a signature dessert for £35pp.
Available Monday and Tuesday lunch and dinner, Wednesday-Saturday 6pm-7pm and after 10pm; sakenohana.com
Closest tube: Oxford Circus
Price: £25pp for two courses, £29.50 for three courses
You’re supposed to feel like you’re walking into a Parisian bistro at Little Social, what with it’s hardwood chairs, cosy booths and ox-blood banquettes. The food may nod to its design influence, but it feels very British. And a lot more casual than its counterpart, Pollen Street Social across the road. We’re talking rock oysters, guinea fowl pot pie and apple and blackberry crumble all available on the pre-theatre set menu. Two courses will set you back £25, three will nudge it up to £29.50 but given starters alone average at £14, it’s a very good deal. Pair with some of their stellar cocktails and you’re fixing for a solid pre-fixe.
Available Monday-Saturday, 12pm-2:30pm and 6pm-6:45pm; littlesocial.co.uk
Closest tube: Leicester Square
Price: £17.50pp for two course, £19.50pp for three courses
This ain’t your average Peruvian restaurant. The food is presented so beautifully that you can’t even scowl at the girl next to you ‘Gramming the shit out of it. And the descriptions of the dishes are so elaborate we wouldn’t be surprised if you need to re-read a few times to make up your mind. On the set menu alone there is raw chunks of sea bream freshly marinated in traditional tiger’s milk, marinated chicken skewers with sun-dried chillies and oregano served with eco-dried potatoes and Peruvian shortcakes with strawberry filling served with purple corn sorbet and more at only £17.50 for two courses and £19.50 for three.
Available Monday-Friday 5pm-6pm; limalondongroup.com
Fera at Claridges
Closest tube: Bond Street
Chances are you’d struggle to get in in the evening now that it has a Michelin star, which is just as well because their lunch menu is the only way you’ll get the bill without your very happy stomach suddenly hitting the floor. For £42, you get two options for each of the three courses including torched and cured Cornish mackerel, oyster, kohlrabi and marigold, and Copas chicken, celeriac, caramelized buttermilk and horseradish. It’s worth it just to find out how pineapple weed ice cream differs from your standard pineapple.
Available Monday-Sunday 12pm-2pm; feraatclaridges.co.uk
Closest tube: Knightsbridge
Price: £18pp for two course, £21pp for three courses
Located in The Mandarin next door to Harrods you’d expect the clientele and prices to be on the more expensive side of things. Or at least pretending to be. Only it turns out that lunchtime is actually very reasonable on the swanky side of London. Two courses of this slightly Americanised French faire is £18 on the bouchon menu, £21 for three including tea and coffee. Choose from three options for each course, including squash soup with a truffle marshmallow, mussels in a creamy parsley sauce finishing off with a chocolate creme brulee. Just get your wallet to the safety of the tube afterwards.
Available Monday-Sunday 12pm-6:30pm; barboulud.com
Closest tube: Goodge Street
Price: £35pp for lunch, £59pp for dinner, £75pp for seven courses
Dabbous is notoriously difficult to get into, it’s been a London heavyweight for years. So when people do get in, they’re after more than just one course. Which is why the restaurant only offers tasting menus - £59 for a Michelin-starred three course dinner, or £75 for a seven course tasting menu. The lunch and dinner set menus are exactly the same but you can get the lunch one for £35, featuring salmon tartare, grilled lamb and chocolate soaked brioche, interspersed with mash and gravy. If you’re feeling slightly more adventurous the current menu also boasts a unique avocado dish - ripe avocado in a chilled fig leaf broth, almonds and basil.
Available 12pm-12:15pm, 6pm-9:30pm; dabbous.co.uk
Closest tube: London Bridge
Listen, there are edible candle sticks on the tables here. Beef dripping candle sticks. That melt so you can dip bread into them. We’d go for those alone. So just as well they’re part of the set lunch set menu (£39) which is decidedly cheaper than the dinner menu (£110). Presented in chapters from the sea, the land and the end, expect to see razor clams, scallops, venison and candy floss all land at your table as you all let out oh’s and ah’s at the ridiculously precise presentation. And make sure you set some time aside, the dinner menu is a night out in itself, taking 3.5 hours for a table of two. So you’ll need to take a long lunch if you’re taking advantage of the cheaper price.
The set lunch menu is available from January 2017, Tuesday-Thursday 12pm-2pm. Dinner is available from Monday-Saturday 6:30pm-9pm; restaurantstory.co.uk
Closest tube: Clapham North
Price: £25pp for lunch, £20pp early dinner, £45pp seven course tasting menu
The Manor is features some of London’s cutting edge cooking made famous by the likes of Shoreditch’s Clove Club in the least cutting edge place in the city - Clapham. That said, the benefit of that is the prices are a good chunk less than their edgy counterparts. A palatable £45 for seven plates is hardly something to complain about. Especially if those plate consist of the likes of smoked cod, venison haunch and artichoke ice cream presented in ways that are Chef’s Table levels. That doesn’t mean it’s all white tablecloths and pompous waiters, think more farm house in the manor with rustic tables and chairs and industrial lighting. If you’re after even more of a deal, there’s a four course mid-week lunch for £25 and a early dinner menu (three plates and a glass of champers) for £20.
The tasting menu is available Tuesday-Sunday 6pm-10p while the mid-week lunch option is available Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 12pm-3pm and the early evening menu on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 6pm-7pm; themanorclapham.co.uk
Pied a Terre
Closest tube: Goodge Street
Price: £29.50pp for two courses, £37.50pp for three course and £54pp for three courses with wine
This restaurant is a dinosaur in terms of London’s food scene, having been open since 1991. So to still be relevant is a testament to the Michelin-starred dishes it puts out with flawless precision. Modern French is the name of the cuisine game here and they have the self-proclaimed best value menu du jour in the city. There are three bargain options for lunch - £29.50 for two courses, £37.50 for three and £54 for three courses, half a bottle of water and half a bottle of wine, all options accompanied with canapes. Salt baked celeriac, hazelnut and truffle or parmesan dumplings, sweetcorn, chanterelles and (more) truffle are just some of the options.
Available Monday-Friday 12pm-2:30pm; pied-a-terre.co.uk
Closest tube: Piccadilly Circus
Price: £23.95pp for two courses or £27.95pp for three courses
Decked out with Damien Hirst mobiles, larger than life spoof Hemingway poster it’s easy to get distracted from the menu at Hix, particularly if you’ve had a few of the cocktails with a suitable kick. Which is exactly what the doctor ordered for fancy Sunday lunches, which the Soho haunt has on offer in the form of a fixed menu. For £23.95 for two courses or £27.95 for three, you can feast on a choice of starters, followed by roast sirloin of Glenarm Estate beef, roast Swainson House Farm reared Indian Rock chicken (?!) or Lyme Bay cuttlefish as a main. Top it off (if you can) with apple pie, Peruvian chocolate mousse or cheese.
Available Sundays 12pm-6:30pm; hixrestaurants.co.uk
Closest tube: Hoxton (overground)
You can turn up in your trainers to Brawn, but be served incredibly good food by a talented chef hidden in what looks like your standard neighbourhood bistro. The Sunday lunch set menu (which changes every week), at £28 a head for three course sees you filling up on generous portions of organic produce with house touches (like vinegar made in the kitchen). Dishes have previously included duck rillette and braised lamb neck. The descriptions are simple but the flavours are much more than what appears on the menu.
Available Sundays 12pm-4pm; brawn.co
Closest tube: Temple
The ROKA family is known for melt-in-the-mouth Japanese plates served up beside killer cocktails. But they’re also known to set you back into last week. Sure, there are tasting menus at the original Charlotte Street branch but they start at £88pp. It’s the Aldwych branch where you can find some real value, with a lunch and early evening menu for £33pp. That’ll get you green tea, starters in the form of kimchi and gyoza, sashimi, tempura and a robata main followed by a dessert from the a-la carte menu.
Lunch available Monday-Friday 12pm-3:30pm, early evening menu available Monday-Saturday 5pm-6:30pm; rokarestaurant.com