London is internationally renowned for its accomplished restaurant scene, where it’s easy to get lost in high-end tasting menus and prices that make the wallet wince. But some of London’s most prestigious dining venues have cheaper alternatives, without compromising on quality. Leyla Kazim reports.
Hoppers vs. Gymkhana
The dark oak wood panelling and cut glass lamps of highly acclaimed Gymkhana in London’s prestigious Mayfair, is a failsafe for a terrific Indian meal. With a coveted Michelin star, the price point reflects the pedigree of kitchen; meat mains range from £10 to £38, and a 7-course tasting menu is £70.
But the same talented restaurateurs behind Gymkhana and sister restaurant Trishna (the Sethi family), have recently brought Hoppers to Soho. Think southern Indian and Sri Lankan starters from £4 – £7, dosas and hoppers (fermented rice pancakes) ranging from £1.50 – £3, and curries at £5 – £6. Expect the same assured cooking associated with this respected family name, but with far more pocket-friendly prices.
Photo credit: Nic Crilly-Hargrave
Zelman Meats vs. Goodmans
There’s no doubt meat maestro Goodmans is one of the best places in London to get giddy on great steak, dry-aged on site. But prepare to fork out for such a high grade product, with a 400g rib-eye costing £34 alone.
This Moscow-based restaurant group are also behind recently launched Zelman Meats in Soho, with a focus on great value beef, showcasing the same level of bovine craftsmanship. They currently do a smoked short rib sandwich with pickled red cabbage and ‘Holy F*ck’ mayo for £6.50. Add a side of triple cooked chips for £4.50, and you have a meal with some of the best beef in town, plus change from £15.
Photo credit: Chris Keeling
Taberna do Mercado vs. Chiltern Firehouse
Anyone who is anyone has been paraded and snapped at Nuno Mendes’ celebrity hotspot, Chiltern Firehouse, since it opened in the André Balazs hotel in Marylebone in February 2014. With achingly beautiful interiors of industrial Parisian chic, the menu reflects its exclusivity. Don’t expect to pay less than £80 for dinner and a little booze.
If you’re hankering for a Mendes fix but don’t have the funds or status for Chiltern, head east to Spitalfields for Taberna do Mercado. A joint effort between Nuno and head chef Antonio Galapito, expect a casual all day Portuguese offering of small plates, cured meats and cheese, posh tinned fish, sandwiches and regional wines.
Photo credit: Matt Hickman
Black Axe Mangal vs. St. John Bread & Wine
Lee Tiernan was previously Head Chef at St. John Bread & Wine in Spitalfields, a restaurant he clocked a respectable decade at. A group renowned for its ‘nose to tail eating’ philosophy, dinner at this highly-regarded example of fine British cooking will set you back a London average for somewhere of this calibre, around £50-£60 with some wine.
But Lee is now responsible for bringing ‘Mangal and Metal’ to Islington in the form of Black Axe Mangal, his take on Turkish Mangal and Ocakbasi, with global influences. He’s brought his love for cooking all parts of the animal with him, and nowhere is this better illustrated than in the terrific and spicy offal flat breads at just £5.50 each.
Photo credit: Matt Hickman
Gold Mine vs. HKK
There are many places in London to get Chinese duck, but only a handful are considered very good. One of these is the flagship of the prestigious Hakkasan group, Michelin-starred HKK, found near Liverpool Street Station. The style is cherry wood-roasted Peking – expect a succulent bird, glorious crispy skin, delicate pancakes, and a dent in your wallet of £88 for a whole bird.
Another venue heralded for its dreamy duck is a much cheaper alternative found over in Bayswater in West London at Gold Mine. A no-frills restaurant specialising in Cantonese cuisine and renowned for its roast meats, you’ll find patrons flocking from across the city to get their chopsticks in amongst this authentic roast bird and its lacquered skin. And the price? A conservative £19.50 for the whole beast.