The Best Set Menus in London (On A Budget)
If, like me, you want to spend as much of your life in restaurants as possible but exist without an unlimited budget, then I have two words for you: set menus!
Many of London’s best restaurants generally offer a fixed two or three-course meal on weekday lunches, sometimes stretching into the weekend. There are two principal things which are good about a set menu. The first is that they make top restaurants affordable, with a three-course meal generally coming in at around £20 or £25.
The second is that choice is fundamentally overrated, especially when it comes to eating other people's food. Letting chefs dictate the terms of the menu means you're likely to end up eating what they want you to eat. Without further ado — a non-exhaustive list of some great set menu options in London.
Noble Rot is my favourite restaurant in London. The cooking is simple and confident, the atmosphere is wonderful. Its set menu is something to behold. The last time I went I ate salt cod and minced veal and apple pie. The time before that it was a Tamworth pork chop and quince tart. All delicious, all seasonal, all perfectly executed.
It also has arguably the best wine list in the country, if that’s your thing, because it started life as a wine bar. The only drawback there being that I invariably end up spending any money saved by the set menu on lovely alcohol. You can also enjoy Noble Rot’s set menu on a Saturday, which isn’t the case for many restaurants. There are very few better places to spend your weekend.
Disclaimer: The newly opened Noble Rot in Soho doesn’t offer a set menu, so head to Bloomsbury if that’s what you’re after.
Artusi is an excellent and cool (read: chalkboards and pared-back interiors) neighbourhood restaurant in Peckham serving a neat, seasonal menu which could loosely be described as Italian. On Sundays, Artusi offers a three-course menu for £25 which changes every week. It is often excellent and always good value.
Spring is set in a grand old room at Somerset House on the Strand, one of the most gorgeous buildings in London. The restaurant this year had a makeover, and a previously formal setting has given way to a much more relaxed atmosphere, and the previously pricey menu has gone the same way. Now offered is a short menu of Italian dishes which Gignall calls “light, easy, and joyful”— mafalde with n’duja and tomato and ricotta; veal meatballs with polenta; chestnut ice cream. Simple and seasonal and beautifully cooked. At £30 for three courses, it’s very affordable too
Eating a big pile of fries at Brasserie Zedel and washing it down with lots of red wine is one of those pleasures that makes London a city worth living in. The room itself is a huge, high-ceilinged, pink, marble-clad thing of beauty which makes you feel a little like you’re in a camp simulation of 1920s Paris, helped along by the presence of a live jazz band in the evenings. The food is good but not excellent and the overall experience is just ridiculously good fun. My advice would be to order the French onion soup (which is excellent) followed by two prix-fixe courses of steak haché and chocolate tart. At less than fifteen pounds for the whole lot, you really can’t argue with the pricing.
Persepolis is a corner shop in Peckham which contains a rather wonderful vegetarian restaurant its owners call “Snackistan.” Its website will tell you the restaurant offers a “pocket-sized kitchen, 2 hobs, a battered toaster, indolent staff and a third rate microwave,” which gives you some sense of the gentle chaos the place radiates, but doesn’t tell you just how good the food is.
The best thing you can do is order a meze, which comes in at less than £5 per person, and includes a tabbouleh, hummus, falafel, tapenade, salad, dips, pickles and lovely warm bread. Plus what can only be described as a giant Wotsit. Bonus: It’s BYOB.