The Secret Guide To Lunch In Covent Garden

Avoid another Pret with our guide to lunch in the West End

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Choosing where to drink and eat in Covent Garden isn't easy.

Working in a central London tourist mecca can be a pain – ambling families with heads in maps and terrifying silver-painted street entertainers make sure of that.

But, there's some pretty big plus points.

The greatest, potentially, is the plethora of incredible lunch joints specialising in exciting dishes and vying for your custom. Here's our pick of the greatest in the area.

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1. Christopher's (above)

This opulent dining space with commanding views of Waterloo Bridge may not immediately strike you as a lunch venue - indeed, with an excellent martini bar downstairs it begs to be revisited at night - but a excellent new lunch menu will change your mind.

Recommendation: Two courses for £20 for food of this quality is exceptional value; we say start with the delicious smoked duck then move onto a barbecue-rubbed USDA bavette steak with chunky fries.

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2. Canela Café

This recently refurbished Portuguese small plates business does a fine line in speedy lunch take-out from their premises in Seven Dials' cobbled streets. Ingredients you don't get every lunch time (salted fish, quail eggs) mean it's a lot more exciting than your average 1pm fare.

Recommendation: The Bacalhau à Brás – traditional Portuguese dish made with mixed salted cod, potatoes and eggs.

canelacafe.com

3. Seoul Bakery

Granted, this place isn't much to look at decor wise – a whole wall of post-it notes from happy customers is a focal point – but the quick, zingy Korean dishes mean come lunch time the place is packed. Evidence of the great food, certainly, but means you might end up in an, admittedly fast-moving, queue.

Recommendation: It's got to be the bibimbap: a fiery rice, egg, vegetable and chilli muddle that's an unbelievable steal at £3.50.

55 St Giles High St, London, WC2H 8LH

4. Barrafina

The Covent Garden outpost of this Soho tapas joint only opened in July, but it's already a fixed lunch time favourite, dealing in seafood tortillas and braised ox casseroles. If you're after something speedy to take back to your desk, try the classic tortilla.

Recommendation: the Bocadillo de calamar encebollado: a tasty squid-stuffed bread roll that's easy to grab and go.

barrafina.co.uk

5. Wild Food Café

Everything being plant-based at this vegetarian Neal's Yard restaurant might sound slightly dull, but the packed with flavour, innovative meat-free takes on classic dishes are pretty special. Plus, you won't hit the massive-lunch-3pm-slump.

Recommendation: the owners say their most popular lunch time dish is their bruschetta with cherry tomatoes and shallots on sourdough. We can vouch it's damn good.

wildfoodcafe.com

6. Sargar

Day-time curry doesn't get done enough. This place is in need of a bit of a tidy-up out front, but provides a welcome alternative to standard lunch options with aromatic south Indian dishes sold at very reasonable prices.

Recommendation: £3.50 will get you the lunch deal: a box filled with two curries, rice and naan. We're massive fans of the Brinjal Bhajee: aubergine simmered down in tomato and fused with south Indian spices.

sagarveg.co.uk

7. Balthazar Boulangerie

The famous bistro has its own boulangerie right next to. This place offers your classic lunch time fare – sandwiches, quiche – to a far more exciting standard than your local Pret. Plus, the paned windows littered with French buzz phrases ( 'cafe aux lait',' 'tartes') make the food dash feel a tad more continental.

Recommendation: we go for the finocchiona salami, bocconcini mozzarella and maple roasted tomato for a great blend of salty meat, milky cheese and sweet fruit.

balthazarlondon.com/boulangerie

8. Battersea Pie Station

(Image taken from Les Greedy Cochons)

These fellas started life hawking meat and pasty out of a truck on the summer festival circuit, and opened up shop in Covent Garden back in 2010. Now a firm fixture of the market building, they do an impressive trade in pie, mash and gravy served in a cardboard box. Ideal for sorting you out on a hungover office Friday.

Recommendation: we could pretend we always opt for the butternut squash and goats cheese, but this is pie. To get anything other than the Steak and Guinness would be sacrilege.

batterseapiestation.co.uk