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Apr 7, 2008 04:46 AM

Office Worker's Lunches in London

What do London-and-other-UK-city-based Chowhounds who work in offices do for lunch?

Do you:

a) Make and bring your own lunch to be eaten at your desk
b) Buy from Pret a Manger / Starbucks / EAT / supermarkets / similar?
c) Eat out in cafes?
d) Eat out in restaurants?
e) Eat in the office / building canteen?
f) Skip lunch?

Does anyone else struggle to find interesting, tasty lunch food in London that won't leave you bankrupt?

(For example, buying one hot chocolate from Pret each working day for a month comes to almost £40. Ouch!)

If you bring your own lunch, how do you keep it interesting?

Your thoughts are appreciated,
Dolly, Hungry In The City.

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  1. Good question, DD.

    When I was working, I usually brought lunch to eat at the desk. Usually sandwiches or salads. Occasionally some "leftovers" to heat in the microwave.

    I suppose that, since I retired, that's what I still usually have. There is a difference, however. Working in a town centre (and with greater income), it was easy to introduce some variety visiting a cafe, pub or chippy - or getting something from one of the sandwich shops.

    Nowadays, I need to make an effort to go out for lunch and don't bother so often - unless, of course, I'm "out" for another reason. However, one of the joys of my new life is being able to enjoy a pub lunch, taking as much time as I like to read a newspaper from cover to cover, without worrying about getting back to work. It's one of those cloud/silver lining things :-0

    1. I'm an aficionado of EAT's soups - you can get a nice thick chunky soup (clam chowder is a fave) plus hunk of bread for £3.30 a go. I'm near berwick st so I like cafe soho's hot dishes for around £5, joy cafe does tasty spicy morocca meatballs and rice; there's also a good local mexican whose take-outs fill you up all day.
      I probably spend too much on lunches! I keep planning to bring my own in..but never get around to it...

      1. It's a great question actually. The answer is definitely not your option f) and pretty definitely not your option e). I do quite a lot of option a) and then the rest is a mix of b) c) and d) with much less emphasis on b)

        Whereabouts in the city do you work? Up until May 2005 I worked between Farringdon and St Pauls and I had compiled a list of some 40 odd lunchtime places which foodwise IMO were more interesting + chowish and less pedestrian + cityish. Some of them required a 15-20 minute walk but my lunchtimes were precious so I would go that extra mile to get the better food option. The list is probably a little out-of-date but I'm happy to give you some names + ideas if that helps.

        7 Replies
        1. re: oonth

          funny - i worked in the st. pauls area too and used to feel peeved at the lack of good eating choices. my list was astonishingly small: the korean at london wall, cafe meditteraneo at spitalfields, a salad bar by old bailey and a couple of things around smithfields.

          1. re: howler

            A lot of the places were in and around Old Street, Clerkenwell, Farringdon etc, the options going that way (rather than Cheapside/Ludgate Hill way) were much better. Whitecross Street (and its market) was a godsend - on that street alone, there was Carnevale (for great salad bar takeout), Tassili (for great harira and other Moroccan + general bits and pieces), a respectable fish n chippy, Pham Sushi for modern Nobu imitation sushi rolls/modern style sashimi etc, the Gujurati sister/brother van with a super samosa chat and some very decent veggie curries, other places I am forgetting about (and not to mention the cheap CD stall on the market itself). At the junction of Old Street and Goswell Road there was De Santis for fine paninis and decent pastas/risottos and next door Soupacific, a terrific pan Asian soup shop set up by a Malaysian woman. At one point there were good gastropub options particularly the Sutton Arms in its heyday and the Coach & Horses and the Eagle were other options. Artillery Arms was a favourite traditional pub until they overhauled their kitchen. Essence, next door to Sutton Arms, did surprisingly decent tapas/pan Mediterranean. There was a great takeaway basement salad bar on the street leading to Cafe du Marche (think it may have been called the Tapas Cafe), it's sadly now defunct. Amongst Japanese options, Ribon @ Holborn Viaduct was very good and very shabby, no frills Japanese; also a good Japanese takeout place right opposite Farringdon tube, they used to do excellent salmon/salmon roe on rice with delicious miso/mustard dressing. And K10 near Moorgate was very good conveyor belt modern style, infinitely better than the dross that is Yo Sushi. I wonder if one of the Smithfield places you refer to is Beppe, the classic cafe with those truly jumbo sandwiches, made with surprising attention to detail and enthusiasm by the son of the owners. Oh there was this fabulous place off City Road run by an eccentric Polish guy and his 2 wives (that was our joke anyway) which did exceptionally good toasted submarine style sandwiches with quirky names; they also did some Polish stuff like stuffed cabbage leaves, piroshki etc; and great chips somewhat out of leftfield. Now I remember, it's called Super Sandwich and it's on Leonard Street next door to Dragon Bar.

            And then I moved to NYC and found myself working in the WFC downtown. And that truly was and is a culinary wasteland so I started doing all my lunches at home or heading into TriBeCa.

            I'm going to try and dig out that list and update, there are places that I am forgetting about. I may go for a wander down there one afternoon for old times sake, to jog my memory and to see what remains.

            1. re: oonth

              I have to agree that Whitecross St is great for lunches - for everything from a fry up to Thai food. There are one or two good greasy spoons down there, and I really love the food sold on the street by the Italian guy and his wife under the green umbrella - it's quality cooking. I don't live in London, but I'm often on Old St, as that's where my head office is, and we're just by Whitecross St, which is great.

              1. re: oonth

                Thanks oonth! That's an awesome list for me to work my way through.

                1. re: DollyDagger

                  Not a problem, once I get hold of my list, I'll let you have a few more names.

                  And since I stopped working in the area, new places have sprung up including the excellent Saki (Japanese) on West Smithfield, the equally excellent Vinoteca (Mediterranean/Wine Bar) on St John Street and the pretty good Piada (Italian) and Kurz & Lang (German wurst house) also both on St John Street. I enjoyed the sfogliatelle at Piada and the curry wurst at Kurz & Lang.

            2. re: oonth

              That would be really helpful, if you don't mind sharing your list. My office has just been moved (not literally) to the Barbican so anything near Farringdon is good for me (and my colleagues).

              1. re: DollyDagger

                No probs. I think you'll find some 20 odd names in my reply to Howler above. And whilst I use the past tense throughout that reply I am sure that a lot of those places are still going although in most cases I'm not sure of current quality. I will follow up.

            3. Mostly option a, because I work in a culinary wasteland (White City), and also because I'm mean and resent spending money on mediocre food. I often eat leftovers from the previous evening - today I had vinegared aubergines with chilli and spring onion and brown basmati rice! Occasionally I'll wonder down to the Uxbridge Rd for a superb falafel from a stand at the entrance to Shepherd's Bush market.

              1. I do a combination of all of the above. I'm fortunate that I work a university so I have access to pretty cheap lunches either sandwiches from the canteen, or something warm like a jacket potato from the staff club. To make my own lunches interesting I tend to make a different kind of soup every Sunday afternoon, and some weeks make a batch of rice and beans.