Lunch is the new dinner, and London has some of the best on offer. The last two years have ¨C pardon the pun ¨C given us a renewed appetite for it. There was that time we could dine indoors, but only for business. Hey presto: the work lunch became our favourite new meal. Then we could only eat outdoors, making midday a strong choice for anyone with a flimsy coat. And if you¡¯re hosting a do, lunch has always been king: it¡¯s easier to get a coveted table, and better value too. So here¡¯s our pick of the most special places for that all-important midday meal (or for something more affordable, see our selection of the best Michelin-recognised lunches in London).
Barrafina Dean Street
Best for: legendary tapas
Once upon a time, going for lunch ¨C specifically, turning up at noon ¨C was a clever tactic for guaranteeing a seat at Barrafina. Right now, all its restaurants, including Dean Street¡¯s newly relaunched original, are taking bookings, so it¡¯s less of a strategic move and more about the fact that eating dazzling Spanish food feels right when the sun is at its highest. Perch up at the counter, order a glass of Fino, and buckle up for small plates of Mallorcan specialities that are ¨C whisper it ¨C better than on the island itself.
What to order: the classic tortilla, jam¨®n croquetas and the baby gem salad. Always. Lunch served: daily Address: Barrafina, 26-27 Dean Street, London W1D 3LL Website: barrafina.co.uk
Best for: going in a gang
The perfect party size at Brat is four. Or possibly six. That¡¯s not to say that you can¡¯t dine as a daring duo, it¡¯s just that many of Brat¡¯s most celebrated dishes (whole turbot, huge hunks of beef) have epic proportions, so the bigger your squad, the more you can try. The food, from star chef Tomos Parry, is cooked over fire, giving it the kind of character that¡¯s in keeping with the handsome, high-ceilinged dining room (originally a pub, but most recently restored from a pole-dancing club).
What to order: any/all the grilled breads, the spider crab on toast, the caramel cream Lunch served: daily Address: Brat, 4 Redchurch Street, London E1 6JL Website: bratrestaurant.com
Best for: cutting edge-sushi
Fans of the original Dinings dusted off their celebration chopsticks when this SW3 site launched: it¡¯s much larger than the Marylebone original, making it easier for everyone to sample the cutting-edge
izakaya and sushi plates. It¡¯s also especially suited to lunch: the main dining room is above ground, in a Grade II-listed building. During daylight hours, sabre-like rays pierce the lofty arched windows, casting a dappled light across all the tables. Service, meanwhile, is as polished as your granny¡¯s best silver.
What to order: the double spider crab sushi roll, the mini wagyu bun Lunch served: Wednesday to Sunday Address: Dinings SW3, Lennox Gardens Mews, London SW3 2JH Website: diningssw3.co.uk
Above at Hide
Best for: haute-cuisine fans
When it comes to Ollie Dabbous¡¯ Hide complex, the only way is up. Politely decline the private car lift (apparently favoured by celebrity guests) and head through the street-level entrance and up a glossy spiral staircase that must be one of the most beautiful in London. The first-floor Above space is elegant and airy, with views stretching out over the leafy canopies of Green Park. And yes, the food is also most elevated ¨C precise yet playful. One for your haute-cuisine wish list.?
What to order: the genuinely interesting set lunch, a steal at ¡ê48 Lunch served: Wednesday to Sunday Address: Above at Hide, First floor, 85 Piccadilly, London W1J 7NB Website: hide.co.uk
Petersham Nurseries Cafe?
Best for: a fairytale setting
For a bucolic, rustic-boho garden setting, it doesn¡¯t get better than Petersham Nurseries Caf¨¦. It¡¯s all that¡¯s good about being outdoors, without actually being outdoors (the glass ceiling is high and shrouded, the floor is earth). Just don¡¯t expect casual-caff cooking. This is a serious restaurant menu, with prices to match (lunch is ¡ê55 for two courses or ¡ê65 for three). But for stunning, ultra-seasonal food, the chance of spotting Richard E Grant (he¡¯s a regular) and zero risk of the great British weather spoiling your fun, it¡¯s worth it.
What to order: anything with plenty of fruit, flowers or vegetables ¨C it¡¯s all grown on site Lunch served: Tuesday to Sunday Address: Petersham Nurseries Caf¨¦, Church Lane, Off Petersham Road, Richmond TW10 7AB? Website: petershamnurseries.com
The River Caf¨¦
Best for: dining at a legend
It¡¯s been more than three decades since Ruth Rogers opened a staff canteen for her husband¡¯s next-door architectural practice with pal Rose Gray. But today, just booking a table at the River Caf¨¦, let alone actually eating here, is still a thrill. You may be surprised by how functional (and blue) the dining room is ¨C its founding ethos was high-end food in an informal setting ¨C but the daily-changing, ingredient-led Italian plates are among London¡¯s finest. On sunny days, the leafy garden terrace is a must; if you¡¯re indoors, call ahead and ask ¨C very nicely ¨C for a window seat.
What to order: the ever-changing pasta is the best in town Lunch served: daily Address: The River Caf¨¦, Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, London W6 9HA Website: rivercafe.co.uk
Royal China Club
Best for: a dim sum upgrade
This is it. The place to go when you¡¯re craving dim sum at lunch (ie, the correct time to eat it ¨C but you knew that already). It¡¯s not only because the food is terrifyingly good; it¡¯s also because this is a serene spot with slick, ultra-professional service. It¡¯s the kind of place where, if you ask for a to-go bag, staff will slip you a cloakroom ticket so you can discreetly pick up your goodies on the way out.
What to order: steamed lobster dumplings; Dover sole cheung fun; fillet steak ho fun Lunch served: daily Address: Royal China Club, 40-42 Baker Street, London W1U 7AJ Website: royalchinagroup.co.uk
Best for: meeting your agent
Don¡¯t look now, but see that person in the corner in the dark glasses? That¡¯ll be a serious celebrity (not to be confused with the reality TV kind). More than 15 years since being taken over by Caprice Holdings, this historic spot continues to consistently attract A-listers ¨C partly due to the light seafood menu, partly for the smart postcode. Mostly, it¡¯s the excellent service: not only will the charismatic staff expertly fillet your Dover sole at the table, but they¡¯d also never dream of calling the paps on you. Oh no.
What to order: shellfish cocktail, oysters, a half lobster thermidor Lunch served: daily Address: Scott¡¯s, 20 Mount Street, London W1K 2HE Website: scotts-restaurant.com
Best for: vegetarians
No, Vardo is not technically a vegetarian restaurant. But the meat-free dishes at this Chelsea hangout are so vibrant that the place is still a must-try for a stylish vegetarian lunch. From the same crew as Caravan, it shares much of the same approach ¨C like raiding the global larder ¨C but with, dare we say it, better results. It¡¯s also beautiful in the daytime: the glass in the archways drops down when the sun¡¯s out, and there are lots of outdoor tables, all of which have first-rate views across the catwalk that is the King¡¯s Road.
What to order: fried cauliflower with salted coconut milk, grilled halloumi with preserved lemon Lunch served: daily Address: Vardo, Duke of York Square, 9 King’s Road, London SW3 4LY Website: vardorestaurant.co.uk
Juan Trujillo Andrades
Noble Rot, Soho
Best for: wine lovers
Look, you don¡¯t
have to have wine with your lunch here, but it would be bonkers not to. Not only is there a terrific list (if you hadn¡¯t already guessed, it¡¯s owned by the chaps behind the Noble Rot wine mag), but this is also one of the few places where you can get 75ml tasters. Civilised, non? The food, from quietly brilliant chef Alex Jackson (ex Sardine), is gutsy and glorious, and perfectly matched to the warm, wood-panelled room, once home to Soho institution The Gay Hussar. Sant¨¦!
What to order: the roast chicken with girolles and vin jaune from the Jura Lunch served: Monday to Saturday Address: Noble Rot Soho, 2 Greek Street, London W1D 4NB Website: noblerot.co.uk/soho-information?