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Nov 10, 2007 10:06 AM

Where Should I Have Lunch When I Need a Break from Oxford Street?

Hi gang,

So today, I had lunch at Atari-ya on James St. (Thanks oonth!) It was friendly and sweet. But definitely not a "destination" as there are only two tables for two and otherwise, you stand at the sushi bar. But I will definitely go back.

I'm a fan of the two Korean places behind Centre Point--particularly Polo, which has the nice wrap-around bar that you can sit at if you're dining alone. And the folks at Woo Jung are just so sweet. (Although they could do something about the loos and the sketchy hallway.)

So...If you were somewhere between John Lewis and Selfridges and wanted to go someplace for lunch that was still pretty convenient to Oxford Street--I'm thinking two "blocks" north or south--and you just wanted to spend 10 quid...maybe 15...where would you go? (I will expand this area east to Tottenham Court if I must in search of good chow.)

Other factors...
1. Good for dining alone.
2. Not overly difficult if you've got bags. (So for example, I don't mind walking to The Providores on Marylebone High Street, but the ground floor can get totally packed which makes bags cumbersome and difficult.)

I would be particularly interested in Japanese and Middle Eastern recommendations. But it's all fair game. I eat everything. Except for beets, mushrooms, and raw onions...most of the time.

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  1. Hi,
    I work in that area and I go to Bodeans BBQ or Leon if I want good grub.

    4 Replies
    1. re: susan203

      I would second Leon. Good, healthy food. Great salads too!

      1. re: FoodieKat

        I wholeheartedly agree. I loved eating at Leon when I was in London.

        1. re: Rm33

          Is Leon the place next to Canteen in Spitalfied's Market? If so, TT's been there and thanks fellow CHers for reminding me of the name.

          The food was hot, well-price, and there was lots of it. I can't recall it as outstanding or anything though.


          1. re: TexasToast

            I agree with you TT. I stopped at the Leon (if it's the same place as what you recall) on Great Marlborough last summer. It was OK, but nothing I'd write home about. It made for a fast, fine lunch but that was it.

    2. Krista, a couple of thoughts.

      Tomoe Sushi on Marylebone Lane (Wigmore Street end). Superb sushi, just discovered it last week, tip off from the Japanese girl I am currently seeing. You need to go inside, ignore the shabbiness of the decor, head downstairs to the sushi counter and just order whatever looks good in the display or whatever the sushi chefs (very friendly and chatty) recommend. I ordered 11 pieces of nigiri and it was £25 all in which is very reasonable by any standards especially for the quality (owner is also a fish supplier, always bodes well). There are lunchtime specials too which would probably be in the £10-15 bracket and stays open for lunch until 15.30 which is handy.

      Truc Vert (North Audley Street I think). This is what the French would call a traiteur. Basically a nice little market offering a menu that changes daily. Used to be a very solid standby. If you do mains then that will be more than £15 but you can do starters, snacks or lighter bites for less than that figure. Not sure of current quality as haven't been in a long while.

      La Masseria and other places on New Quebec Street. Interesting street with quite a number of cafes + small restaurants that I haven't tried yet including a Chinese place called Little Orient and a Middle Eastern place called Arabesque. La Masseria I have tried and it is an Italian deli specialising in produce from Puglia and they also offer a lunchtime menu consisting of sandwiches and a couple of antipasti and pasta options I believe. A good place to buy burrata if you're into that.

      Btw, the new Waitrose foodhall in John Lewis is impressive. Appears that the London grocers are responding to Wholefoods in a big way which can only be good news for us consumers.

      10 Replies
      1. re: oonth

        Oonth, you are the second person to suggest Truc Vert to me in the last two weeks, so I must go now!

        Arabesque sounds intriguing as well.

        Tomoe--I've passed that before and have must give it a shot. Many thanks for enriching my shopping experience.

        1. re: oonth

          Dropped into Tomoe last weekend. Loved it. Loved the shabbiness of the decor, to be honest! It feels very family run and a team effort. Downstairs didn't seem to be open when I was there--just the ground floor. I had the lunchtime special--assorted sashimi--and it was £10. I'll be back. Thanks for the tip, as always.

          1. re: kristainlondon

            Glad that you enjoyed it, it looks so unpromising but it is a gem. Maybe the downstairs section only opens in the evenings but that's definitely the way to go. Overcome any lingering inhibitions, plonk yourself at the sushi counter, interact + show a willingness to learn and then tuck in (ideally that should be a combination of whatever you've selected and whatever the sushi chef recommends hence the interaction). The sushi chefs here are friendly and speak decent English and the owner (the fish wholesaler) was also there the time I went and I was able to glean quite a lot of information in terms of what is and is not available in London sushi bars. Generally when eating sushi in London, I've accepted certain limitations (very little fish imported from Japan due to cost, fresh wasabi + yuzu not available, sake selections limited and pricey) but overall I am content with the standard I am finding and I will become a regular at Tomoe for sure especially at those prices. I revisited the well regarded Kiku on Half Moon Street last week for a lunch and it was £42 for one person and, whilst good, I still preferred my £25 meal at Tomoe from a few weeks back.

            Came across another place that I want to try on the fringes of Shepherds Market, it's a kaiten place. As I've said a few times before, Japanese food culture is starting to take off in London which is encouraging.


            Btw, yes let's meet up for lunch at some point, good idea. Only problem is that I am out of town for much of this month and next. However, I will contact you to try and arrange something.

            1. re: oonth

              I also have to thank you, oonth; had lunch at Tomoe on Wednesday and was quite happy with it. Very nice atmosphere, and good prices. Just thought I'd share the photo I took of the sashimi set lunch:

              (I'm ashamed to admit that I couldn't identify the fish at the very front; I know I should have just asked. I have a feeling it might have been yellowtail.)

              1. re: Kake

                Kake, thanks for the feedback and glad that you liked this place, do check out the sushi counter one evening. I intend to make this place one of my regular sushi spots whenever I'm in London, it fits the bill for me and if I strike up a rapport with the sushi chefs and the owner, I think that I can maybe even get access to some less available items when in season. Plus some good sakes, the owner seems quite into his sake. FYI same fish supplier as Saki and one of the sushi chefs is ex Saki.

                The unidentified fish on your sashimi platter is almost certainly sea bass, that's judging by the appearance and also based upon the fact that you're unlikely to find yellowtail on a £10 sushi platter (in London, it's generally imported from Japan and on the more expensive side).

                Another tip for you and Krista - the sushi counter in Selfridges Food Hall. It's always been a favourite and still is after a visit last week. I got scallop sashimi and it was delicious and, at £11.50 for 3 plump scallops, it was well priced. They also have mackerel, yellowtail, squid, surf clam, tuna (regular and chu-toro), salmon, sea bass, salmon eggs, flying fish roe so you can get a nice assortment. Take away only though.

                1. re: oonth

                  Quick update here. Get yourselves down to Selfridges this week if you can as they are doing a deal on their sashimi at the moment. It appears that control of the counter is changing hands from some arm of Atari Ya wholesale co. to J Knight of Mayfair (hadn't heard of this name, googled and found that it is a Mayfair fishmonger). Moving forward not sure if this will be good news although the J Knight guy manning the counter (Japanese from Osaka) assured me that they would be improving the quality and range of fish, I'll wait and see and also gauge what happens to pricing. In the meantime I picked up 3 pieces each of yellowtail, salmon, sea bream, squid, mackerel and a plump scallop all for £6.50, came home + drizzled with some soy and yuzu juice and had myself a delicious sashimi plate on the cheap.

                  1. re: oonth

                    Do they make Osaka-style pressed sushi?

                    1. re: limster

                      Nope no battera. I should actually be more precise and call it Selfridges sashimi counter as they're keeping it simple and there's no sushi to be had, just good quality fresh fish, sliced in front of you and selling at a very reasonable price. As I mention the change of hands may screw things up but I hope not.

                      Battera is a favourite of mine from NY days and time spent in Japan. I don't think that I've ever eaten any in London but I did recently notice that Kiku (one of London's better sushi bars) has it on their menu although at £18, it's on the expensive side. Quality of mackerel (and shiny fish generally) in the UK is highly regarded by the sushi chefs I've spoken to and so if it's saba battera, it should definitely be worth trying.

                  2. re: oonth

                    Ah, of course it was sea bass, that makes much more sense. I knew I recognised it, but sea bass is the one that always seems to fail to come to mind when I'm thinking of fish. Thanks also for the Selfridges tip — I'll see if I can get there this week for a bargain.

          2. Have not done this for ages and naturally try and avoid Oxford Street like the plague although highly targeted and selective forays into John Lewis via its back door give me the illusion of being able to enter enemy territory without being detected.

            A salt beef sandwich slathered with plenty of English mustard in the Selfridges 'Brass Rail' always used to work well for me.

            1. I'm often walking around in the area behind Nike and it is full of little known places,you need to walk a bit to get there,you might want to try the Turkish Efes on Great Titchfield which is always busy along with its Italian neighbour -,they are pretty roomy restaurants and laid back.

              1. If you're a believer in the restorative powers of xiao long bao (Shanghai soup dumplings), I'd head to Inn Noodle a few doors away from Tottenham Court Road tube...

                1 Reply
                1. re: Ian

                  How's their hand pulled noodles?