Where do you eat lunch?

What makes the perfect one o’clock feed – and how much it should cost?

A good-value healthy salad at Black Truffle is £5.50. Where can you find the best lunch?
A large salad at Black Truffle on England’s Lane is around £6, eat-in. Photo: Stephen Emms
The midday meal is something we consider endlessly in the Kentishtowner office. There’s a lot at stake, if you want to fill up but continue to work for the rest of the day – without dipping under the desk for a crafty snooze.

Too much bread? I’m yawning like a post-prandial hound; but a salad – however refreshing – sometimes doesn’t hit the spot either. So here’s an enthusiastic, if non-comprehensive, guide to some neighbourhood places worth your daytime dollar.

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1. Cafes, canteens and restaurants – in search of the fiver snack

Meltingly soft balls: Arancini
Meltingly soft balls: Arancini

Starting on Queen’s Crescent, we’ve been known to frequent Efe Ocakbasi for a decent takeaway shish (which comes in about £4). Arancini Factory, of course, does the wrap thing too, with those winning risotto balls, although it’s always rammed.

Over the road, the popular Town Cafe proudly dishes up a hearty “five veg” with each main: huge pies (£6), engulfed by boiled cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, peas and cabbage, can be hard to finish. Elsewhere on Kentish Town Road? Hummy Yummy’s smorgasboard of meze reaches the £9 mark, Miss Bun’s a delight if you have time to wait a bit, Baan Thai is a superior £7 speedy bowl of noodles on a bench, and Pane Vino’s new stuzzichini-based boxes are hard to beat at a fiver. For more quality Italian antipasti, ten minutes’ walk away is artful deli Salvino on Brecknock Road. But our new favourite? You’ll have to get our new print issue to find out. A clue? It’s on Royal College Street.


Halluomi flatbread at French & Grace
Halluomi flatbread at French & Grace

In Camden, a mergez sausage wrap at French & Grace is one of the most colourful options. And Chalk Farm Road’s bohemian Village Cafe serves up a mixed plate of meze for about a fiver (with free “Grandma’s soup”): blink in its candle-list interior and you could be in Beyoglu, or Berlin.

Sometimes we go “posh” and head to Belsize Park for a change: Gail’s on Haverstock Hill do a healthy salad – say parmesan crust chicken, or beetroot, feta and lentils – served with two doorstep slices of brown bread for a bargainous £5.50. Tap water is on hand so no need to waste cash on expensive sparkling or juices. Even better is the Black Truffle deli (main pic) on England’s Lane – a huge salad packed with butternut squash, leaves and chicken will be a fiver.

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2. Bargain-hunting in a boozer

Fish sarnie and chips with a glass of wine is just £8 at the Horseshoe
Fish sarnie and chips with a glass of wine is just £8 at the Horseshoe

Good cheap pub lunches are an obsession, naturally. Hence our excitement at the George IV, on the corner of Holmes and Willes roads, serving up what we believe to be the best-value pub sarnie in London (a teensy £2!). Speaking of which, the Southampton Arms is always-reliable too, but their enormo £4 baps are so deeply stuffed with pork or cheese as to make them only occasional treats.

Other food pubs in the neighbourhood seem to focus on lunch for about £6-7. The Colonel Fawcett goes in at £6.90 for its own quality take on British dishes like a steak sarnie. Nearby, the Abbey serves up its mouthwatering Phileas Hogg signature burger for £6.75; while the Grafton specials hovers around the £7 mark: on a recent visit we loved their ham, egg and chips; in fact, is it possible for cured meat to be so tasty? (Incidentally, resident kitchen the Fat Butcher has become one of Kentish Town’s most consistent dining options, with their imaginative menu, attention to detail and good service.)

What else? Now under new management, Highgate Road’s The Vine have re-thought their offering too, with some inspired items (see full review in our new print issue) like corned beef hash with poached egg (see pic below). At just £5.75, it’s probably the best dish in NW5 for under six quid: rich meatiness, a creamy yolk, the saucy kick of “devilled jus”. But a £7 blackboard special of sausages and mash was less flavoursome.

Substantial: corned beef hash with poached egg and jus at The Vine - a snip at under £6
Substantial: corned beef hash with poached egg and jus at The Vine – a snip at under £6

Off Camden Square is sleepy boozer The Lord Stanley; its full-price menu is quite foodie, although recent experiences tucking into the good-value £6 lunch specials have been disappointing: fishcakes, for example, had barely a shred of haddock in them.

Caught hungry by the tube? The  Oxford does a reliable lunch spesh – say tender squid salad, or pollock – for between £6-7: sometimes it’s outstanding for the price, although there was a long time delay on our last visit. The one thing you don’t want is to wait more than ten minutes to get a single course, especially on a weekday with just a glass of water for company. They also charge heftily for lime and soda: two pints added £6 to our bill. When did is stop being 80p?

And finally, skiving off on a weekday? It’s a bit of a trek, but climb the hill up to the Horseshoe in Hampstead.  Seated in its stylish. airy interior, treat yourself to their daily special – say a huge plate of posh fish and chips, pictured above.  As it’s the sister pub of the Camden Town Brewery, you’re in safe hands; but best of all, the bill will be just £8  – with a glass of vino or Hell’s lager thrown in too. 

We want to know: where do you eat lunch? And how much do you spend? Where’s good, where’s overpriced? Want to send us a review of your favourite place? Email us: info@kentishtowner.co.uk


  • Show Comments

  • siobhain Egan

    one of the best places in Norf London is chriskitch in Muswell Hill ..(near Fortismere school) the salads/breads and cakes are out of this world ..the chef is truly gifted.

  • Gina

    The saddest thing is no more pies at Tapping the Admiral.. we haven’t been back since!

  • Wendy Martensson

    Tapping the Admiral is sad indeed. The “Thai” food is foul and as for the Sunday roast…..we left ours untouched having paid and all…..
    Miss the pies and as a result, miss the Admiral.

    • Tom

      I’ve found the Sunday roast pretty decent when I’ve had it, especially the delicious roast Suffolk pork belly.

      The Thai food isn’t that bad – I work one month on in Thailand and Cambodia and then one month back in Blighty, so I can compare the Thai staff at the Admiral’s offerings with what I eat in Thailand. The Thai kitchen staff at the Admiral seem to use a lot of nam pla (fish sauce is a common seasoning in Thai cooking) and I think that for many farangs (Europeans/Brits) this is not to their liking.

      I do agree that it’s a shame that those terrific pies have gone. But for many, including myself, the highlight of Tapping the Admiral is its outstanding and ever changing range of well kept real ales. It was certainly a worthy winner of the CAMRA North London pub of the year. And the first thing that I do when I return from Thailand every month is to head to the Admiral for a pint or two of proper real beer!

  • Dogbreath

    Six quid for pizza or pasta plus drink at homely neighbourhood Italian Rossella in Highgate Road, and a free taster of ice cream if you’re lucky.

  • Kentishtowner

    Agreed with both Tapping the Admiral (we loved those pies!) and Rossella – a great option too.