Fine dining at luxurious establishments need not be intimidating or expensive. The set menu is not the poor man’s option, but rather a showcase of what the restaurant is capable of – just take award-winning Pollen Street Social’s options: hake with a pea and cockle emulsion, rack of lamb with crispy lamb belly and seaweed, and French quail with miso-braised leg, these are not dishes to be scoffed at. Obviously there are conditions, such as eating out at lunchtime or dining before 7pm, but it’s a good opportunity to sample the food of London’s best restaurants for a fraction of the price you’d normally expect to pay. Below we’ve selected some of the best value set menus for you to go forth and try.
Dinner for up to £20
Soho restaurant Arbutus
is always busy thanks to a thoughtful Modern European menu and sleek yet unstuffy surroundings. All wines are offered by the 250ml carafe making it possible to try as much of their selection as possible. Their pre-theatre menu is £18.95 for two courses, or £20.95 for three.
Super-chic Gauthier Soho
has modern French cuisine on offer starting at a very affordable £18 for two courses.
Dinner for up to £30
in Primrose Hill has been going strong for over 30 years, but since 2008 young chef Bryn Williams has been responsible for their fantastic Modern European menu. Their set dinner is priced at £25 for three courses.
Both the décor and the food at North Road
is Nordic-inspired; think delicate, highly creative flavour combinations using very simple ingredients. Their pre-theatre menu starts at £22 for two courses, or £25 for three.
has gone from strength to strength since Philip Howard of The Square re-launched it along with Rebecca Mascarenhos, collecting a Michelin star in 2011. A two-course dinner is £21.50, or get three courses for £24.50.
specialises in food from the north west of India, and a savvy approach to fusing the traditional with the new has earned them a Michelin star and a glowing reputation. A set dinner is available at pre and post theatre times for £28.50, comprising three courses.
Lunch for up to £20
Many of the restaurants listed above have lunch deals too; Odette’s is a bargain at £17 for two courses, or £20 for three, both Gauthier Soho and Tamarind have two courses for £18, and Arbutus offer a two course lunch for £17.95, or £19.95 for three, and Kitchen W8 is similarly priced, at £17 and £19.50 respectively.
is partly responsible for the minimalist Scandinavian cuisine that has been influencing London chefs in the last few years. Discerning food without a whiff of pretension earned them a Michelin star in 2010. Try their two course set lunch for £19.90.
Lunch for up to £30
has so far been the buzziest opening of 2012. Ollie Dabbous’ may be a young chef, but his cleverly executed dishes (combined with impossibly attentive staff and vogueish décor) have been a bit too successful – dinner is booked up till spring 2013. Go for lunch instead, when three courses are £21, although these are small plates, so you might want to get the four course option for £24.
Pollen Street Social
boasts brilliant food, a standalone dessert bar and a more informal dining room than is the norm at restaurants of this calibre. Try their lunch for £22 for two courses, or £25.50 for three.
The dishes at Kyoto-influenced Umu
are works of art in both flavour and presentation. Set lunches start from £25 for either a vegetarian bento box or cold noodles and tempura.
And if you want to splash out a bit more…
The food at two-starred The Ledbury
is French-based with just a touch of Aussie about them thanks to Australian head chef Brett Graham. But don’t let that put you off, as dishes contain exquisite pairings and lunch is £35 for three courses.
Eating at Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley
is an opulent experience, but your wallet need not suffer too much with a three course lunch costing £38.
Gauthier Soho's “version deluxe” set menu includes Champagne, three courses, two glasses of wine, coffee and petits fours for £40.
Heston Blumenthal steps back in time with the historical dishes at Dinner by Heston
. There’s a set lunch offering food typically consumed in 1700s Britain priced at £32 for three courses.