Full of plenty of historically important spots—a.k.a. the first ever Sainsbury’s and an old sculpture of a cat—Holborn is an area filled with working professionals, students who have LSE in their Instagram bio, and shoppers looking to get their hands on some jewellery in Hatton Garden. But Holborn is also full of some great lunch options if you know where to look. From one of London’s best street food markets, to a sit-down Uyghur serving top-notch leghmen noodles, here are the best lunch spots in Holborn.
The quality of Catalyst’s food, coffee, and service means that it can feel reductive to simply call it a cafe. But that’s what it is. A better way to put it is that Alex Gkikas and his team are pushing the boundaries of what you should expect from a cafe and coffee roasters in their stylish corner spot in Holborn. Not only does Catalyst roast and grind its own beans but it has also created its own groundbreaking condiment in the form of their coffee sriracha, as well serving a superb Greek-leaning daytime menu. Plus there are bar snacks and drinks on Friday evenings.
There are many things to like about Balady’s second location on Leather Lane, not least the fact that we find it markedly easier to get to than the kosher spot’s original one in Temple Fortune. Of course it’s all about their falafel: crisp and fresh out the fryer, fluffy inside, and steaming with green herbiness and spices. All of which cry out for the combination of fruity amba, punchy zhug, and cooling tahini that lines their soft pittas. That will always be the number one appeal, closely followed by their fantastic hand-cut chips.
This Palestinian and Lebanese restaurant and takeaway spot on High Holborn is a solid option when you’re being "kind of healthy”—and even when you’re not. The cold mezze makes for a light and refreshing meal when the weather’s warm outside. And their grilled meats—from the shish taouk to the kafta meshwi—are tender and flavourful, served alongside buttery Palestinian vermicelli rice that we could eat by the bucketful. They’ve always got a couple of free tables for walk-ins inside their compact, corridor-like dining room, as well as a few out front. If you're in a huge hurry, the £6.95 takeaway wraps are always a good shout. Get a sumac-heavy fattoush on the side and you’ll be full until tomorrow morning. Or at the very least until dinner.
Getting a plate of fragrant coconut rice and all the trimmings—ayam masak merah, say, and, beef rendang—from Dapur is just the ticket for anyone who’s looking for a midweek pick-me-up. The daytime cafe has a selection of Malaysian curries to choose from, but the familiar (the rendang) and the fiery (chicken in a tomato chilli sauce) are go-tos. There are a handful of tables inside and plenty on the pavement outside. Working lunches rarely get better than this.
If your stomach is ever rumbling walking down Theobald’s Road, then you should pat it in knowing appreciation. This is an excellent stretch of London to find some food. Fish and chips, beef rendang, and big plate chicken are all within a stone's throw of each other. Tarim is where you’ll find the latter. The Uyghur restaurant is from the same people as Dilara as Finsbury Park and although this spot isn’t quite as homely, it’s still a good choice for some handmade leghmen or cumin lamb skewers. Just remember to ask for everything spicy. Not the polite kind of spicy either.
photo credit: Karolina Wiercigroch
Leather Lane Street Market
Around 10 or 15 years ago, you would’ve been delighted to get a jacket potato with beans down Leather Lane. Nowadays, you’ll probably have a hard time choosing whether to go for the purple mash or some polenta with your lunch. This market has gone from a clothing to a food mecca. Daddy Donkey burritos were one of the first and now have permanent residence, while Com Amor’s steak and chips are sure to fill you up, especially if you’ve been to the Craft Beer Co up the road for a sharpener beforehand.