Remember when ‘Soho lunch’ was a euphemism for two bottles of red, extra truffle on that, and a 3pm black cab back to the office? No. Neither do we. The daily grind may be a reality for most of us, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find lunch in Soho that’s equal parts tasty, good value, and fun. Whether you’re looking for something to grab and eat furiously over Twitter, or somewhere that’s gonna let you and a mate leave satisfied within an hour, these are our favourite places to go for lunch in Soho.
A restaurant where snails are flambéed in pastis is our kind restaurant, especially when there’s a crystal chandelier involved as well. L’Escargot is Soho’s oldest French institution, and it’s the closest quick and easy gets in this part of town, while still being 100% Soho. It’s a classic place with lots of velvet drapes, and lots of butter. It makes for a classy but still casual lunch, especially when there are buffet and prix fixe options available. The pastis is optional. But, at the same time, it isn’t, if you know what we mean.
The logo for this spot on Broadwick street, bears an uncanny resemblance to Moomin. And, if someone told us that a cartoon hippo had invested in the Soho restaurant scene with Inko Nito, we’d believe them. Who else would serve the charred coconut soft serve of your dreams for a fiver, and reinvent everyone’s childhood nemesis, cauliflower, by grilling it in a parmesan and panko crunch? Yes, there’s something distinctly fun about Inko Nito. Grab a stool at their huge many-sided counter, get a glass of one of the on-tap cocktails, and feel free to get a bit silly, Moomin style.
Your sandwich contains a single slice of ham, something that was presumably lettuce once upon a time, and has been ‘lovingly handmade’ by someone you can only presume to be a sociopath with an aversion to butter. Put that sad sandwich down. At Tongue And Brisket you get a proper wedge of food between your bread. Yes, they’ve got your sarnie classics (see roast turkey, smoked salmon), but some others you’re definitely not going to find at M&S (see ox tongue, chicken schnitzel, chopped liver). What you really need to know about is their salt beef sandwiches. We’re talking soft rye bread, a pickled cucumber, a door stop of salt beef, and enough mustard to make your eyes water. This is the place if you want a sandwich that’ll keep you full through to dinner, or a famine, whichever comes first.
Honestly, if one more person in the office asks where you’re going on holiday this year, you might get a little bit Freddy Krueger with the stapler. Yes, a holiday wasn’t ‘economically feasible’ this year, but the two course £16 set lunch at Corazon is. This spot on Poland Street is great for lunchtime tacos, pretending you’re on vacation for an hour, and having one too many frozen jasmine tea margaritas before heading back to the office.
The Soho outpost of this casual Vietnamese cafe is just as reliable as its Shoreditch sibling. Their bahn mi’s are always tasty - the classic, roast pork or roast duck are our go-tos - but, the meat and rice dishes here are similarly good. It’s a meal that suits quick lunches as well as prolonged ones, solo ones or social ones.
London’s passion for reinventing foodstuffs is matched only by its passionate hatred for reinventing foodstuffs. Try serving fish and chips in any way other than the norm and you risk being lynched, but Le Bab, a modern kebab restaurant, is doing different kebabs that are well worth trying. There’s a lunch menu that’s just three tasty items: pork shawarma with fries, lamb flatbread, and falafel - everything’s is under a tenner, and it’s really quite delicious. This is one of Soho’s best casual and cost-effective daytime options.
Golden Union is a quintessential London chippy. Homemade mushy peas? Check. Battered sausage? Check. Cod the size of a horse’s head? Absolutely. Golden Union is a very solid spot to spend an hour. The chairs are comfy, the tables most definitely aren’t made from the remnants of a child’s slide, and there’s even some of those ultra cool neon signs, to appease your inner Tracey Emin fan. For fifteen quid you can have some tasty fish and chips, the battered king prawns if you’re feeling adventurous/treasonous, plus a cup of tea. Lovely.
Is there anything more romantic than a hole in the wall? In food terms, that is. Jian bing, or Chinese crepes, is an excellent grab and go lunch option operating out of a hatch on Greek Street. These hefty crepes are filled with vegetables, chilli oil, a fried egg, crispy wonton, and a choice of pork, lamb or chicken - if you fancy it. It’s a big old kiss on the lips of a lunch, especially for six or seven quid, give or take.
You and your colleagues are leaving the office for a proper catch up, lunch, and a chance at seeing some natural light. Yalla Yalla Soho is a great spot for when you feel like ordering a few more mezze plates than are realistically needed, and maybe getting hummus on your chin. Their menu of Beirut street food has something to please everyone. There are lots of vegetarian options, chilli cherry caipirinhas for that person who got promoted, and freshly squeezed pomegranate juice for that warrior that normally spends their lunch hour at Gym Box. Just remember, it’s walk-ins only, so if you’re eating with half the office, it’s best to try and get there a little early.
At first, Ugly Dumpling might not sound like your thing. A cheeseburger dumpling, who are you? What are you trying to do to the purity of dim sum? But then you try them and find it’s quite hard to hate the place. Their dumpling remixes - from salmon and summer salsa, to mushroom and truffle - are great for when the sight of another Caesar salad might just send you over the edge. There’s the choice of a vegetarian, seafood, or meat platter for £11 and under. We might think it was all a little gimmicky if it wasn’t all so good-natured and fun. This is a great spot for a takeaway, or a Friday lunch that ends in marshmallow and Nutella dumplings, with those colleagues you actually want to share a bottle of weekend gateway prosecco with.
The Good Egg is an all-day cafe that you can quite easily spend all day in. The food is middle eastern inspired, and is best when sharing. Really you want to come here on a Thursday or Friday lunch time when you’re not in any great rush, and you can peruse the cocktail menu in the name of ‘research’. The shawarmas and anything involving aubergine are definitely worth ordering.
Cecconi’s might not be the best pizza in London, but you’ll be hard-pushed to find a better deal than their £10 lunch that gets you a pizza plus a glass of wine (or a beer). It’s a pleasant enough place, it’s right in the thick of the Soho action, and, also, the pizza itself is pretty damn good.
Open for lunch Friday to Sunday.
The Kati Roll Company is a small spot on Poland Street that you might miss if you’re rushing away from the Oxford Street hordes, but it’s worth tracking back for. Their wraps are some of the best we’ve had, and whether you’re eating in or taking away, or opt for one of their many vegetarian rolls or something a bit more meaty like beef tikka or shami kabab, they’re not going set you back much money, and will keep you going till the end of the day.
Imitation is the greatest form of flattery. At least, that’s what they say. We certainly don’t think it when someone buys the same trainers as us. In this case, Pastaio is a Padella imitation that does all the right things. This isn’t a restaurant to spend a couple of hours in. It’s a canteen-style place you swing by, have a couple of pastas and a salad, and go on your merry way. The food is both tasty and well priced. And it is what you want most of the time, because who doesn’t like pasta?
You might think a tapas spot like Copita is best at night when you can let loose with a bottle of wine, a number of glasses of beer, or some sherry, but we say: stop being so unimaginative. There’s no reason why you can’t do all that stuff for lunch too. This place has a massive range of well made tapas, it’s all quite reasonably priced, and, regardless of whether you’re stopping in for just a couple of plates, or you plan to stay all day, its tiled interior and big wooden high-top tables, will make you feel like you’re a million miles away from the madness of Soho.
Open for lunch Friday to Sunday.
There are a lot of legendary restaurants in Soho, but there’s only one legendary vegetarian restaurant here, and that’s Mildred’s. This place managed to make delicious food - everything from veggie pies to tofu jerk - stick in the 80s, when people seemingly existed on a diet of red meat and straight booze. It’s not the only branch these days, but we’ve got a soft spot for the original.
Some people don’t know where Soho begins or ends. Nor do we really. That’s why we’re including this popular and inexpensive Chinatown spot (we also have a whole separate guide dedicated to the restaurants south of Shaftesbury Avenue)). This Taiwanese restaurant has something for everyone, but you should definitely get the soup dumplings, the stir-fried green beans with pork, and - if you feel like splashing out - a whole crab that comes smothered in garlic and chilli.