At one time, a Michelin star was all but a barrier for your average Joe to walk in off the street and have themselves a top-quality meal. But these days, highly acclaimed chefs are bending over backwards to make fine dining – and fine cooking – available, and appealing, to anyone who wants to visit.
From classic French cooking to Spanish tapas, Italian delicacies to Indian heroes, the capital’s top establishments are rolling out Michelin-starred set menus for under £50. While lunchtime is usually your best bet to partake, look out for early dinner offers too, especially at restaurants with ‘only’ one star – as prices do increase with accolades.
From Mayfair to Spitalfields, Clerkenwell to Fitzrovia, the capital is your very affordable oyster.
Price: £26 for two course, £30 for three courses
Served: 12-2pm daily
It may be the express way to sample the delectable Italian delights of the one-starred Luca, with its cosy, dark wood and exposed brick interior and authentic small bites bar, but with two courses for £26, or three courses for £30, that’s not much more than a bog-standard arrabbiata and dough balls at your average high-street pizzeria. The menu changes in its entirety almost every day, but dishes may include fried Jerusalem artichoke with hen of the woods mushroom and pickled onion; fennel and radicchio with pear, walnut and Beauvale cheese; and rigatoni with pumpkin, tomatoes, chilli, and garlic. For mains, dishes could range from trout with hispi cabbage; roast coppa with polenta and salsa verde to celeriac croustade, with lentils and king oyster mushrooms, followed by tiramisù or yoghurt panna cotta. Mamma Mia…
Price: £39 for two courses, £45 for three courses
Served: Monday – Saturday during lunch service
Set in the heart of London at the trendy new 1 Hotel Mayfair and led by the two Michelin-starred chef Tom Sellers, Dovetale specialises in reimagined European classics – although it doesn’t have a star of its own, yet (watch this space). With two courses for £39 and three courses for £45, you can’t go wrong with the Black Angus steak tartare or cep jam and shimeji mushroom tempura, followed by pan-fried black bream, or unctuous pappardelle with fallow venison ragu. The Valrhona chocolate tart or Bramley apple millefeuille, meanwhile, make an excellent grand finale. Dinner prices here are hefty, so the set menus
are a great way to sample the kitchen’s mastery without making a large dent in your wallet.
Price: £39 for two courses, £47 for three courses
Served: Monday - Saturday, 12-2.30pm and 5.30-6.30pm
Named for India’s spiritual capital, a visit to this one-star Michelin Mayfair institution always feels like a special occasion. Balancing innovation and tradition, you’ll get the most bang for your buck at lunchtime and before 6.30pm for dinner. Begin with goat’s milk paneer tikka or tandoori turkey momos, followed by either Kentish lamb and chickpea masala, served with a buttermilk naan or the irresistible grilled stone bass, with jeera-hing marrowfat purée and chutney. Delicia squash and coconut sticky kheer; fruit cake malai kulfi; and orange yeast bread with Cointreau Chantilly and dark chocolate make pudding decisions tricky. Spice up your life indeed.
Price: £32 for two courses, £35 for three courses
Served: Tuesday - Friday during lunch service
Buzzy and vibey, Leroy is everything a one star-Michelin restaurant wants to be in 2023. Soak up the background beats, courtesy of the expansive in-house vinyl collection, and enjoy the no-frills top-notch fare to be found on the weekly changing roster, much of which is included in the lunchtime set menu. Sample dishes include Cornish muscles on toast with aioli, confit duck leg with mashed potato, mushroom tart with onion, egg yolk and parmesan, and mandarin custard doughnuts. Supplementary snacks, such as pork and eel croquettes and mackerel rillettes with crackling, are also worth the extra pounds. (Both kinds.)
The Ninth, Fitzrovia
Price: £30 for two courses, £35 for three courses
Served: Daily during lunch service
This vibrant neighbourhood restaurant and bar focuses on elegantly simple French-Mediterranean style cooking using top quality seasonal ingredients. And, with a choice of two dishes at each course, the lunchtime set menu does not disappoint. Begin with the likes of salt cod with radish and sourdough or beetroot salad, served with a coconut yoghurt and fig leaf oil. Mains feature a chargrilled Delica pumpkin with hazelnut dukkah, as well as a roast guinea fowl ballotine with Brussels and celeriac. Don’t miss the madeleines with lemon curd for afters. Forget about the ninth – this Michelin star gem is a 10/10.
Price: Around £50 per person
Fun, casual and authentic, this one-star Michelin Spanish restaurant is split over two floors, each with its own signature style and menu. Upstairs, El Asador features dishes from the ‘asador’ wood-fired oven, while at The Counter it’s all about the tapas. While there is no set menu per se, such is the nature of tapas that you can order as much or as little as you like – and easily get away with a meal for £50 per head. Monkfish tempura with chilli jam aioli, payoyo cheese croquettes and cuttlefish pappardelle with Manchego pesto are all worth a try, and won’t cost a fortune, along with the many salads and vegetable centric options. If you’re going for a one dish wonder, the milk-fed lamb sweetbreads with capers, or rib-eye of beef, won’t let you down. Livin’ la vida loca…
Price: Around £40 per person
Served: Daily at lunch service
Known for its low-key style of fine dining, and expert use of simple, top-quality produce, Lyle’s is approaching 10 years in the game. While there’s no set menu at lunchtime (save for around the festive season), chef James Lowe and his business partner John Ogier have selected a range of affordable Michelin star dishes to select from, with a maximum two course spend of £46 even when choosing the priciest main and dessert – not including drinks, of course. Veal sweetbread with Delica pumpkin and Borneo lemon; turbot with Jerusalem artichoke, capers, and parsley, or grilled muscles in cider butter all make for mouth-watering mains followed by buckwheat ice cream or bergamot meringue tart. If you choose the cheapest two dishes on the menu, you could get away with spending little more than £26. Drinking tap water, that is.
Galvin La Chapelle, City of London
Price: £43 for two courses, £48 for three courses
Served: Monday - Saturday during lunch service
The Michelin-starred set menu at this spot focuses on modern French fine dining with European influences in the heart of the City. Set amidst beautiful high stone ceilings, with large arched windows, the décor certainly rises to the occasion - but the sterling doesn’t have to. With two courses for £43, and three courses for £48, you can get a taste of chefs Chris and Jeff Galvin’s signature dishes for a fraction of the usual cost. Smoked eel with pickled radishes, horseradish, tobiko, or caramelised onion with truffled brioche and fromage Des Grottes all feature among the starters, while Mediterranean red bream with salsify, pickled kohlrabi, charred leeks, and clam velouté, as well as the beef fillet Rossini, shine through for mains. Resist the apple tarte tatin for dessert and regret it for the rest of your days.