With 68 Michelin star restaurants, London is undoubtedly one of the major gastronomic centres of the world. To take advantage of the capital’s culinary gems, any foodie worth their salt knows to go for lunch not dinner, and to choose the set menu instead of perusing the A La Carte. Although more restrictive in terms of choice, set menus are the perfect way to sample the best the restaurant has to offer without breaking the bank.
Below are six of the best Michelin star set lunches for under £30:
Yauatcha Soho: (1 Michelin Star)
Yauatcha sits in the heart of Soho, a stylish contemporary Cantonese teahouse with a European patisserie twist, this restaurant has become a strong fixture of Soho’s culinary scene. It’s energy and buzz reflects its location, and you can choose to sit with a view of the bustle of the street outside, or on the lower level with the hustle in the partly open kitchen.
The set menu, called the Soho lunch, is a three course meal for a minimum of two guests at £28 each. For starters you can choose between the vegetarian or meat dim sum, each option comes with three individual parcels of flavoursome joy. Notably a flaky buttery ‘venison puff’ for the meat, or a perfect balance of crisp and creamy with the mushroom and black truffle spring roll for the vegetarian. These are quickly followed by well portioned mains, including a succulent rib eye beef in black bean sauce and sweet fried vegetarian ‘duck’ (its soy).
By the time you get to the petite macaron for desert, you may have the words ‘it’s only wafer thin’ echoing in your ears. Eat it anyway, it’s delicious.
Aquavit (1 Michelin star)
Just south of Piccadilly circus is Aquavit. A light filled Scandinavian restaurant covered in muted rust, gold and teal tones that at lunch fills up with a mix of the business crowd, regulars, and the occasional family out for a nice lunch.It has a lively hum, smiling staff and naturally, one of the largest selections of Aqauvit in the UK.
The set lunch starts at two courses for £27 or three for £30. The menu changes weekly to stop the regulars from getting bored, and on the week I visited it featured some mouth-watering chopped mackerel tartare, lightly spiced carrot and caraway soup, fresh poached cod and, as always, the traditional Fika – a sort of Swedish afternoon tea, which features a signature blend of coffee and a choice of pastries.
Along with the lush interior and warm atmosphere, Aquavit feels comfortable because it has managed the tricky task of having something for everyone. Children in high chairs get smaller meals of michelin star spaghetti and Swedish meatballs, while business lunches opposite can luxuriate over gravadlax and ponder the extensive drink list. A restaurant that is casual without losing its sparkle, Aquavit, especially for £27, is well worth a visit.
Elystan Street: (1 Michelin star)
‘Rigorously seasonal’ was how Chef Phil Howard described to me the Elystan Streets approach to ingredients. Once a fixture in Mayfair with his two Michelin star The Square, Phil is now steering the ship of more laid back, Elystan Street. Approximately a ten minute walk from South Kensington, Elystan street is a lovely contemporary European restaurant without distraction, a culinary refuge from the chaos of the museums, that themselves are only an fifteen minute walk away, it is a little oasis of calm and gastronomic delight.
You get the impression here that everything has been purposefully pared back to let the natural ingredients and skill of the chef shine. Whether that be the Cornish sea bream ceviche for starters with a subtle kick of chilli and spring onion to get the palette going, the succulent roasted wood pigeon or fresh gurnard for main.
The set menu here is 3 courses for £30, both the starters and the mains have a vegetarian, fish and meat option and ingredients are sourced as close to home as possible. It’s a great lunch choice for anyone, but for those who especially love game – I would book a reservation now.
Veeraswamy (1 Michelin star)
Having grown up in India for part of my childhood, I’ve always been a discerning critic of Indian restaurants in the UK and Veeraswamy, overlooking Regent’s Street, is the UK’s oldest. Founded in 1926, this celebrated institution of Indian cuisine fortunately did not disappoint.
The set menu ‘business lunch’ consists of three courses for £30 or 2 for £26 from Monday to Friday. Starters begin with fresh juicy dishes like the Raj kachori, a puff ball of yoghurt and light spices that is a little explosion of an entrée before the main portion is served, featuring a dry and wet based dish, such as a portion of grilled sea bass alongside king prawn curry with salad and your choice of rice or bread.
I’ve been to many Indian restaurants in London and Veeraswamy is undoubtedly one of the best. A highlight of the restaurant is the spectrum of Indian cuisine on the menu, even within the restrictions of the set lunch, you have a choice of lighter and heavier options, with dishes like the banana wrapped baked sea bass from the North to the luscious Keralan prawn curry of the south.
Not to be missed.
Kitchen W8 (1 Michelin star)
With a set menu of 2 courses for £25 or 3 for £28, Kitchen W8 is a contemporary European restaurant with a neighbourhood feel. Despite its white tablecloth, the restaurant feels cosy instead of pretentious. Serving up delicious dishes like the sea bream with sun dried tomato and aubergine main, a sweet, tart and deliciously fresh dish that that was so good I forgot I said I was going to share.
One of the benefits of a set menu is that it tempts you to try something a little different. My plus one hesitantly decided to try the potted trout, smoked eel and fennel starter. Something she never would have looked at before and has resulted in a smoked eel convert.
A short walk from High Street Kensington, Kitchen W8 is a comfortable little restaurant where you can lounge back on the green benches and sip on your coffee, a while after you’ve finished the exquisite blueberry cheesecake for desert.
Amaya (1 Michelin star)
For Indian with a contemporary twist, Amaya in the Halkin Arcade, Belgravia, is the place to be. The chefs here work hard to consistently innovate using a range of Indian grilling methods, tandoor ovens and tawa hot plates, serving up ‘tapas’ style small dishes with touches of fusion and explosive flavours.
Sleek with an open kitchen, the air of the restaurant is permeated with the smell of clay baked bread and adornments of fresh spices marinating the various meats and vegetables on offer. The light filled space is relaxed, and the food comes as it’s cooked. Which makes sure you get dishes like rich tandoori wild prawns, scallop served in its shell with green curry and flamed venison kebab, fresh as can be.
For a set lunch you can order one of two platters, a vegetarian option and non-vegetarian option, which consist of six small dishes and a desert for £26. At that price and with food so good it almost feels a little criminal.