London's Credit Crunch Lunch (2009)
The credit crunch continues to bite, but that's no reason to stay at home rationing lentils. If you fancy splashing the largesse without diving too deep into your pockets, there are some amazing bargains to be had, even on the Michelin circuit - and it's one way of kick-starting the economy while having fun. We've picked out some of our favourites - take a long lunch and go crazy. . .
Bibendum - that gorgeous springboard for so many chefs, including the very fabulous Simon Hopkinson - is offering a prix fixe three course menu for £29.50/two courses for £25. Now, it's not the cheapest, but they've recently started adding a few of their most popular a la carte dishes to the lunch menu, just so you don't feel like you're missing out too much. The feel is French, naturally, but with a few twists referencing the current food scene. Look out for Smoked salmon with crepe parmentier, Gurnard with crab bisque and Coconut pannacotta amongst others.
With two Michelin stars, The Capital isn't naturally somewhere that springs to mind with a good-value lunch, but look again. Monday-Friday you'll find two courses for £27.50, which, given their high-flying credentials, represents excellent value. Their menu - including dishes such as Grilled halibut with seared calamari, Champagne and apple baba or rabbit with black pudding - certainly doesn't feel cut-price, and even better, there are plenty of half-bottles to choose from without blowing the budget.
Ramping it up a notch, Le Gavroche offers their lunch menu Monday-Friday at a don't-gasp £48 for three courses. But before you faint and then move swiftly on, let's not forget it holds three Michelin stars and the lunch menu isn't a pared-down version of the evening, but rather holds its own for gourmets. It is cooking of the highest order, so if you've got £100 burning a hole in your pocket, take someone special.
And staying around that benchmark, try Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley (pictured above). With two fingers up at shouty Ramsay, he's really going for his three stars. And you'll see it on the lunch menu. At £35 for three courses, it's not the cheapest, but there is the added lure of a Bon Bon Trolley (how much fun...?), but only after you've chosen from Confit loin of tuna with lobster Caesar salad, Slow-cooked pork belly or Flapjack baked figs.
Hibiscus - moved by Claude Bosi from gastro-crowded Ludlow to the obviously more appreciative capital (?) - is offering one of those clever little lunch deals with lots of nice things included - so with £33.50 for three courses, you get wine, coffee and petit fours as well, which are scarce seen these days, what with cost-cutting rife. The menu is a combination of English ingredients and French twists, so expect Duck egg mimosa with Cornish Lobster and Kent wild sea leaves, or Roast topside of Hereford beef with a wild moss jus (nope, us neither...).
One of the acknowledged bargains among foodies in London is lunch at The Square. With a menu priced at two courses for £30/three courses for £35, you will not be disappointed. Philip Howard's cooking continues to be amongst the most excellent in the city - what about Roast wing and ravioli of skate with spaghetti of vegetables, samphire and shrimps - but it is worth taking an extra tenner to splash out on their epic cheeseboard.
And let's not forget a simple, every-day bargain - Truc Vert just off the top end of Oxford Street. Mentioned simply because if you've ever been out shopping on a Saturday, St Christopher's Place can be nightmarish and the alternatives aren't up to much - yet lunch here is guaranteed to soothe both soul and anxious wallet. They're open from breakfast through to dinner, expect French cooking of the salads and quiches variety, supplemented with English lobster salad, Haddock with poached egg and spinach - all delicious treats for lunch and under a tenner.
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