When the clock strikes 11am (ok, 9am) we can’t help but think about what we’re going to eat for lunch. But with the thousands of lunch spots on offer in London, it’s not always an easy decision to make. Whether you need to organise a big team lunch or you’re simply looking for a spot of alone time in the afternoon, we round-up the best cafes, restaurants and market stalls to visit for the best cheap eats for your midday meal.
(Main image: Rex Features)
Princi, Central London
Great for: authentic pizza
Upmarket Italian deli where you won’t feel awkward plonking yourself at the window and spending a solo hour watching the world go by.
135 Wardour Street, W1F 0UT, princi.com
Orchard, central London
Great for: excellent sandwiches and people watching
For delicious veggie fare that won’t make you feel you are missing out. You can eat in or take away but, if you want to eat there, arrive early and savour your spot – it’s hard to get one but worth the wait.
11 Sicilian Avenue, WC1A 2QH, orchard-kitchen.co.uk
Brawn, East London
Great for: lunch meetings
Set on Columbia Road, this outstanding restaurant does a great lunch menu with dishes under £10. A perfect spot for a lengthy lunch meeting which might, just, extend into early evening. (But note, they are closed on Mondays for Lunch).
49 Columbia Rd, E2 7RG, brawn.co
Nusa Kitchen, East London
Great for: imaginative soups
Think soup is a boring and uninspired lunch option? Think again. At Nusa you will find some of the most delicious soups in London, all with a Singapore twist. Opt for Sri Lankan cashew nut or Lemony Chickpea and spinach, though whatever you go for you are guaranteed to be pleased.
9 Old St, EC1V 9HL, nusakitchen.co.uk
J+A Cafe, East London
Great for: peace and quiet
Set down a sleep courtyard in Clerkenwell equidistant from Old St and Farringdon, this family run café offers home-made stews, pies, salad and quiches to eat in or takeaway. Perfect for a bit of peace and quiet in the middle of a busy day, and we recommend it for an after work pint too.
1+4 Sutton Lane, EC1M 5PU, jandacafe.com
Euphorium Bakery, Around London
Great for: fresh bread
Since opening its first store on Upper Street and summoning Hampstead locals with the smell of freshly baked bread, the cafe has multiplied across the city and their "Food to Go" range is also available in selected Tesco stores. It's our go-to place for hearty savoury quiche and tartlets and their chunky soup of the day is served with fresh bread and butter.
Various locations, Euphoriumbakery.com
Kati Roll, Central London
Great for: a quick bite
Tucked away behind the fast food restaurant chains on Oxford street, is this take-away spot which offers fresh Indian paratha wraps with a variety of meat and vegetarian fillings. Prices start at £5 for 2 at this New York original fast food joint.
24 Poland Street, W1F 8QL, thekatirollcompany.com
Workshop Coffee Company, Central London
Great for: a catch up with friends
This place feels like it has a bit of class about it – attentive but subtle service, proper cutlery, nice glassware and really, really delicious food. Mid-range prices and a great selection of wines make this a good spot for a working lunch or to catch up with friends. You can also sit on bar stools around the huge counter, drinking coffee (which they roast in house), eating freshly baked cake and looking studious and interesting.
27 Clerkenwell Rd, EC1M 5RN, workshopcoffee.com
The Castle, Central London
Great for: Friday team lunch
This post-work boozer has had a bit of a facelift recently. It has opened its upstairs space and introduced a menu of pretty standard but certainly passable fare. Good for fish and chips and a pint/glass of wine on payday. Plus, interesting fact: King George IV used to frequent The Castle because it was a notorious cock fighting venue – hence the random cock(erel)s that form part of the décor.
34-35 Cowcross Street, EC1M 6DB, thecastlefarringdon.co.uk
Riverside Terrace Cafe, South London
Great for: views of the Thames on the outside and exhibitions on the inside
We love that you can grab a Roast beef on sourdough sandwich or grilled salmon in broad bean salad, and have a huge and varying seating area to choose from at the Southbank Centre. On a nice day, we like to sit on the terrace and watch the boats sale along the Thames, and when it rains, we camp out inside in the open-plan space, which often houses exhibitions. The space also offers complimentary WiFi.
Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX, southbankcentre.co.uk
La Gourmandina, Central London
Great for: a quick dose of France and Italy
When we feel like we've had an overdose of noodle and rice boxes, the Stylist.co.uk team heads over to La Gourmandina. We recommend Arancino, signature rice balls served with green leaves and a helping of vegetarian or pork fillings - all for £4.75.
57 Lamb's Conduit St, WC1N 3NB, lagourmandina.co.uk
Brindisa Chorizo sandwich, South London
Best for: meat in a bun
This is the one with a long queue in borough market, but it's worth getting in line for. Brindisa have been making their Chorizo sandwich for over 10 years outside of their shop in London Bridge. They're made from high quality Chorizo, served straight from the sizzling grill, in a sliced ciabatta packed with Piquillo peppers and crisp rocket leaves.
Borough Market, 8 Southwark St, SE1 1TL, brindisa.com
Great for: efficient group lunches
Vapiano is a pizza, pasta and antipasta restaurant with plenty of space to accommodate for those big celebratory meals - two spacious floors - and their handy individual card system - each diner is given a card to charge their order to - makes the billing process light work. Pasta, pizzas, antipasti and salads are ordered directly from chefs at the individual stations in the restaurant. There's also mini herb gardens that line the long wooden tables for you to pick from and add to your meal.
19 Great Portland Street, W1W 8QB, Vapiano.com
Jamaican Patty Co, Central London
Great for: a hearty and hot snack
This new spot makes amazing freshly baked Jamaican patties, with fillings from spicy beef to jerk chicken. Entrepreneur Theresa Roberts and chef Collin Brown - the duo behind this latest London spot - are so passionate about the patties they can get back home, is packed with authentic Jamaican flavour.
26 New Row, Covent Garden, WC2N 4LA, jamaicapatty.co.uk
Bar Remo, Central London
Great for: authentic food
Tucked away behind Regent Street is this Italian bolt hole, so far removed from the buzzing streets of Oxford Street, that only local workers and lost tourists know about it. Their classic Italian menu serves delicious pizzas, pastas and anti-pasta, their service is quick and the staff are super friendly.
2 Princes Street, WIB 2LB, barremo.me
Koshari, central London
Great for: an alternative to salad
The restaurant Koshari introduced us to the food koshari, a brilliant dish of lentils, rice, vermicelli and topped with a spicy tomato sauce, chickpeas and caramelised onions, which is sold on road side stalls and in restaurants in Egypt.
56 St Martin's Lane, WC2N 4EA, kosharistreet.com
Battersea Pie Station
Best for: British pies
Here's the formula that makes Battersea Pie Station's pies extra special: crispy outer crusts, plus soft flaky inside pastry, plus exciting and traditional fillings, plus hearty sides of mash and gravy. The generous portions will give you that post Sunday roast feeling.
Lower Ground Floor, Convent Garden Market, 28 Clare Market, WC2E 8RA, Batterseapiestation.co.uk
Red Dog American Sandwiches, East London
Great for: a deep filled sandwich
While there are plenty of spots that serve pulled pork and gourmet hotdogs if you're craving American food, Red Dog American Sandwiches is the only place to go to for those giant Man V Food sandwiches. We always go for the Cuban (roast pork, chorizo, Swiss cheese and pickles) or Italian pork (hickory-smoked pork shoulder with provolone).
37 Hoxton Square, Shoreditch, N1 6NN, reddogamericansandwiches.co.uk
Books for Cooks, West London
Best for: book lovers
This charming and cosy cafe is crammed with cookbooks that they cook with. Only one main dish and dessert is on offer every day, but it changes daily, keeping lunch exciting for you. It can be anything from green veg miso soup and a Korean chicken pear stew to three cheese, green lasagne.
4 Bleinheim Crescent, Notting Hill, London W11 1NN , booksforcooks.com
Banh Mi Bay, Central
Great for: Vietnamese cuisine
We've yet to walk past Banh Mi Bay without seeing it packed with local workers. Try their At £5 per box, this It specialises in Vietnamese baguette sandwiches called 'Banh Mi' and rice boxes.
4-6 Theobalds Road, Holborn, WC1, banhmibay.co.uk