The Day-Off Lunch Guide
Where to get a weekday meal when you don’t have to work.
Sometimes, you get a weekday off. Maybe it’s due to a bank holiday, or maybe it’s because you called in sick despite the fact that everyone knows you’re in fine physical condition. Whatever the reason, make the most of your free day by having a great lunch. In this guide, you’ll find a bunch of restaurants where you can get something that'll be 10 times better than your normal weekday meal, and, as an added bonus, the spots should all be easier to get into in the daytime.
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
Nothing, absolutely nothing, says ‘luxury lunch’ like a mahogany dessert trolley rolling towards your table. It’s worth coming to this stylish all-day brasserie in St. James’s for the luminous gâteau à la pistache and drawers of iridescent macarons alone, but that’s just one of many reasons to commit to an OOO feast here. From the orange glow of the art deco dining room to the naughty little comté gougères, it’s all deeply charming. And seeing as any lunch schedule is out the window, you can take full advantage of the post-2.30pm £30 set menu. Once you’ve merrily licked all that icing sugar off your fingers, head downstairs for a glass of red at the bar à vin, Frank’s.
Fun fact: no lunch at Noble Rot lasts less than two hours. This charming wine bar in Bloomsbury is our favourite place to spend an afternoon (read: our whole lives). You can pop into its idyllic front bar for a glass of Chin Chin and be made to feel just as special as those chugging their way through the Bordeaux region at the back. The daily changing menu dots around European and British influences—from their trademark slipsole and smoked butter to a plate of roast guinea fowl and spätzle—and it’s got the best set lunch menu in London: £22 for three courses of sheer joy and genuine value.
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Dim Sum & Duck
Dim Sum & Duck is known for three things: two are in its name and the other is the inevitable queue that snakes down King’s Cross Road. Now, there may still be a little wait on a Friday lunchtime, say, but at least the majority of London is doing that whole earning-a-living thing at that time. Order the xiaolongbao, try and resist the ho fun, and try to bring a hooky-playing friend with you.
If you’ve ever been responsible for getting your group’s Glastonbury tickets, then you’ll be familiar with the feelings of hope, heartbreak, and feral desperation that booking a table at Kol in Marylebone entails. This modern Mexican restaurant’s warm terracotta dining room has been permanently booked out since it opened in 2020, but the good news is that it’s a whole lot easier to secure a daytime reservation—and you’ll still experience the same creative, fever-dream-food tasting menus. Expect bold double-take mezcal broths, branded leather pouches to keep your tortillas at the perfect temperature, and the kind of margaritas that make a day off in London feel like a vacation.
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
You called in sick because you just got to the good part of the latest Selling The OC episode, but there are only so many “I can’t believe she said that” you can hear before needing a break… and some pajeon. Head to Imone. The Korean restaurant on New Malden High Street is the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon. There’s a real homely energy to the place, and it’s making some of the best Korean classics in London. Order the smoky kan pung gi, some udon noodles, and that comforting pajeon.
The French House
The Soho pub’s legendary status precedes itself and arty sorts have been pitching up here since way before you knew how to pronounce kir royale and talk about the novel you haven’t started writing yet. It is, in essence, the perfect home for anyone who is working hard on not doing much work. Keep an eye out for when steak frites are on the menu. Along with their luscious chocolate mousse, it’s a must-order.
Two important pieces of intel about Hideaway: it serves one of London’s best lobster rolls and it closes at 8pm. We’ll let the old mind cogs do the turning but basically, a day off is pretty much the perfect opportunity to experience this charming Mayfair take on your classic cafe, complete with chandeliers and fresh truffle for sale by the till. There’s also wine from Hedonism Wines, a boujie waffle station out front, sweet treats with a fine dining treatment, and did we mention that rich lobster roll? There are queues at the weekend but hey, look at you, you’re rocking up during the perfect weekday walk-in conditions.
Sessions Arts Club
You’re more likely to win a Nobel Peace Prize for saying thank you to the bus driver than you are getting a same-week dinner reservation at this Clerkenwell restaurant. Which is what makes a cheeky weekday lunch feel like such a steal. Come for the enormous ceilings, artfully distressed wallpaper, and flickering candles. Stay for the unfathomably soft rings of squid in a soft tomato sauce that will be on your mind until your next encounter with the incredible British food here.
photo credit: Karolina Wiercigroch
The Victorian lunchtime-only institution in The City has been open for over 100 years, but unless you work in the area, it’s unlikely you would’ve popped by for some oysters. Sweetings is a seafood restaurant from a different era. When prawn cocktails were a delicacy and a pint of Guinness and champagne got the juices flowing. If, like a medieval monarch, your heart is yearning for booze out of a pewter tankard and a bowl of custard, this is your place.
40 Maltby Street
40 Maltby Street’s weekly changing sandwiches can have a seismic effect on your day. The kind that have you bounding across London for pork schnitzel or cauliflower cheese croquettes wedged between their springy focaccia. These doorstops are only available at lunchtime and in limited quantities so, rain or shine, a trip to Bermondsey and a date with a sandwich along the Thames is always a perfect day-off plan.
Look, if society really cared about our dim sum needs then full-time work would be banned. Until parliament commits to the Dim Sum Joy Initiative—OK, we might be waiting a hot minute—then your day off must be utilised for those magical hours of cheung fun access. There’s a whole load of glistening cheung fun on offer at Orient in Chinatown, not to mention roast pork puffs and a must-order XO fried turnip cake. In case you’re partaking in the other ultimate form of day-off self-care, a lie in, just know that the parade of bamboo steamers and siu mai ends at 4.45pm.