Feeling reinvigorated after weeks of battling a cold / cough, I was determined to try a different place for lunch each day last week.
Lunch options in London are fairly limited. Unlike Sydney, there are no food courts (gasp!). Instead, chains or franchises are everywhere selling the same boring pre-packaged stuff they call food. Londoners swear by the sandwiches at Pret. Sandwich plus crisps (i.e. chips in packets) and a soft drink is your typical Brit lunch. I don’t know about you but I’m definitely not a sanger girl – never was and never will be. The other popular chain for lunch is EAT, which I admit isn’t bad for soups and it is one of the few places that sell matcha lattes.
To my surprise I found a few good places for lunch around Covent Garden and at decent prices. You just need to take the time to look and try. The highlight of the week was definitely discovering mini Korean town in London along St. Giles High Street.
Monday - Food for Thought (31 Neal Street Covent Garden)
A cool vegetarian joint, busy at lunch with long take away queues. Good variety with some international cuisine.
Marrakesh Tagine (eggplant, chickpeas, okra with tomato and spices) for only £4.50 with tomato and olive bread for 40p.
Tuesday – Sagar (31 Catherine Street, Covent Garden)
A vegetarian Indian restaurant with a dirt cheap £3.50 lunch box special. Comes with 2 veg curries (Sagar Paneer and Fried Dahl), rice, thin roti bread topped with a fried eggplant, raita and salad. I was absolutely stuff after eating this. Check it out:
Wednesday – ASSA (53 St. Giles High Street, Tottenham Court Road)
Now I know where to go for my Korean fix. Enter ASSA and I could barely open the door. It was so full there were people blocking the doorway waiting to be seated. Literally everyone eating in had a hotpot on their table.
Lunch specials are only £4.50 with an extensive list – bimbimbap, soups, spicy chicken/squid etc with rice, potato glass noodles. Below is the spicy stir fried chicken and rice:
The lunch specials also come with 2 free side dishes which you only get if eating in and according to the reviews are not usually free —- boooo!
I actually went back to ASSA today and shared the spicy seafood hot pot for £15.00 plus £1.50 for ramyon.
The hot pot was good but definitely not a filling lunch option. Probably better when you are with a bigger group so you can order other dishes to fill you up. Eating here again gave me a good chance to eye out the lunch special portions and I must say ‘not bad’. Lots of rice and lots of choice. Popular dishes seem to be the dolsot bimbimbap and the spicy rice cakes with ramyon noodles. Don’t worry as I am now the Mayor of ASSA on foursquare, ”l’ll be back”.
Thursday – Seoul Bakery (next door to ASSA)
Much smaller than ASSA, Seoul Bakery is better suited for lunch with its cheap and simple meals. The bimbimbap is a steal here – veg for £3.50 and beef for £4.50 (see below). There is even a tuna version.
The seafood pancake (£6) was a let down – very soggy and comes with a weird sour dipping sauce.
My spicy tofu soup (£6) was perfect for a rainy winter’s day.
This place very much reminded me of Seoul with handwritten scrawls and scribbles on the walls.
Friday – Smollensky’s The Strand
I didn’t choose this place but had lunch here with a friend who booked via toptable to get 50% off food. Tried the linguine with king prawns and crayfish in a tomato sauce with chilies - looks better than it tastes.