Having moved offices to the Strand fairly recently, I’ve fully embraced my new location as an opportunity to explore lunch options in Covent Garden (and Soho). There are so many excellent cafes and restaurants within a 15 minute walk from the Strand, whether it be sit in or take away for those in a rush which are affordable enough to justify lunch.
HERE ARE MY FAVOURITE CHOICES:
Anything Scandi always piques my interest, add a healthy angle and I’m there straight away. Right next to One Aldwych, this is a truly tiny establishment, which only adds to its cuteness. The design upholds it’s Scandi promise; a prominent use of wood and a minimalist finish. The bar is laden with plates of healthy salads and mouthwatering sandwiches. The first time I went I had an egg and mustard seed sandwich (£3.95) which was the size of my face (take away). Last week I had their vegetable soup with sourdough bread (£4.50), which was delicious and warming on a cold day. They do a good smashed avocado on sourdough toast too. Breakfasts are also worth trying, they offer strong coffee and a hearty porridge.
23 Garrick Street
I’ve never met anyone with a bad thing to say about Ottolenghi – and his Middle-Eastern inspired food empire continues to grow. Sesame is the newly(ish) opened ‘fast food’ version of his more sophisticated cafes in Notting Hill (and restaurant in East London). It’s accessible, fresh and flavoursome take-away or sit in Middle Eastern food. Expect lamb kebabs, tabbouleh salads and rices dishes, all at reasonable prices. I devoured the lamb shish in seconds, it was so delicious. It will be a success, like most of Ottolenghi’s ventures, and Ottolenghi fans will love it.
* CAFE MURANO – PASTIFICIO
36 Tavistock Street
It’s well known that Angela Hartnett has opened a sister property to her Mayfair Cafe Murano in Covent Garden. And I’m sure it’s worth booking for lunch or dinner. But what less people know about is the next door Pastificio (literal translation ‘pasta factory’), which is Cafe Murano’s charming little Deli. Offering all kinds of jams, wines and olive oils, as well as cured meats and delicious selections of cakes – you can also buy take away Italian (naturally) salads. And these are so good. Think butter bean and tuna, artichoke and basil, burrata and cherry tomato. That will certainly give you energy for the rest of the afternoon (or send you into a food coma). And it’s much kinder on your wallet too.
12 Upper St Martin’s Ln
Dishoom has become London’s favourite Indian ‘Bombay-style’ Cafe. And for good reason. Instead of heavy, saucy curries of your local Indian they offer tandoor grilled meats, delicious fresh salads and wonderful naans. While usually rolling out such restaurants into a chain can be a bit of a shame (like what’s happened with Polpo, in my opinion), as Dishoom expands it keeps its charm, style and standard high. Because of its no booking policy, if you want dinner here be prepared to queue. An early lunch here could therefore be a way to avoid the wait (not guaranteed though). Or start your day here, their breakfasts are celebrated by all: their chai and bacon & egg naans are to die for.
* BUNNY CHOW
74 Wardour Street
This is a new concept of food in London – straight from South Africa, where this stew in a hollowed out piece of bread is super popular (see photo below, photo credit Bunny Chow). Now London is offering it too, where you can choose from a number of stews (chicken/beef/pork) as well as different types of bread and garnishes. You can accompany this with one of their delicious juices (coconut, lemonade, ginger and lemongrass). This is the perfect place for a speedy and warming lunch as the weather gets colder. The stews are delicious and good value, and I can see why it’s been so popular since opening. Technically Soho, but easy walking distance to the Strand. Easy to take away.
* KOYA BAR
49 Frith Street
Technically this is Soho too, but it’s so easy to get to from the Strand I’m adding it anyway. While the original Koya has shut its doors (and has recently opened as the Sri Lankan restaurant Hoppers – also on my list, but very popular at lunch at dinner), Koya Bar next door is a wonderful alternative. Again, it’s a no booking place with a quick turnaround. Squeeze onto a stool at the bar and order one of their Udon dishes (hot or cold) or their Ten-Tojidon (rice in a bowl, with prawn tempura and egg). Served with a bowl of miso soup, the hearty and very filling Ten-Tojidon was so good I wanted another. For veggies their Yasai Tendon (similar to the Ten-Tojidon, but with vegetable tempura instead of prawn), was equally delicious. Also recommended for an affordable, quick dinner.