If you work in the City, then you’re probably reading this on the job. The hours are brutal, the workload unrelenting, and you still can’t find a pair of shoes that are 100% comfortable to go with your suit. The least you can do is take a few minutes to sit down with something that tastes good, and pretend you’re somewhere that’s nicer than your desk for a few minutes each day. Here’s where to grab a quick lunch.
You dropped the ball big time the other day, and you’ve received an angry call from the client that was so loud the pigeons outside could hear it. Gulp. Hit Shoryu Ramen in Broadgate Circle for a time out and some comfort in noodle form. If you can spare the extra minutes, it’s a good place for a sit-down lunch to escape the office. Their signature tonkotsu noodles are a fiver on Mondays.
This excellently named South American joint is famous with locals for its grilled chicken in special sauce, and it’s a great choice for a Friday lunch. All you have to do is choose how much chicken you want, your side, and whether you want Tabasco or green coriander sauce. Simple as that. Although the chicken and rice isn’t pretty to look at, it’s good, and as a bonus, you’ll probably have enough left over for a sly snack later when no one’s looking.
At City Càphê, a Vietnamese cafe close to Bank Station, there’s always a big queue at lunch for a reason - the food’s very good. Mercifully, the line moves quickly, too. The pho and summer rolls are excellent, and they also have noodle salads that are much better than anything you’ll find at a chain. At a place this busy, you’re definitely going to want to get takeaway - just know it’s cash-only for orders under £15. They also have a sister takeaway called Moi An close to Chancery Lane station, if your office is out that way.
You wouldn’t think that a butcher shop off Cheapside would have some of the best to-go lunches in the City, but Porterford has been cranking them out for ages. The draw is inexpensive, high-quality meat, which is why there’s always a (fast-moving) queue. You can get a wagyu beef burger for a fiver, and a hot bacon sandwich for the price of a latte.
Most of the restaurants at The Ned (Shoreditch House for the City crowd) are definitely there for convenience more than anything else, but the filled bagels at Zobler’s are the exception. All of the bagels at this NYC-style deli are proper, and there’s a great takeaway counter if you need something tasty to bring back to your desk. Get the reuben or a sandwich with salmon and avocado if you want to keep it sort of healthy.
It’s only 11am and you’ve already fallen asleep at your desk. Twice. The tom yum soup at Oie Thai is a dead cert to wake you up, and at £6, it’s also the kind of thing you can look forward to eating regularly. This Thai cafe is easily identified by the massive queue that blocks Liverpool Street arcade each day at lunchtime, but don’t be put off, as it moves quickly and their staff will take your order in the queue to save you a few minutes.
The original Kêu in Shoreditch is our favourite for banh mi in London, and their City shop on London Wall is just as good as the original. We usually go for the classic sandwich with mortadella and terrine, but you can’t really go wrong with whatever you choose. Their rice bowls are good, too, if a bit pricey.
Remember the last time you went to an EAT or a Tesco Express for a takeaway sandwich? Sad, wasn’t it? Instead, we’d suggest wandering over to Earl’s, a classic deli off Fenchurch Street that makes sandwiches the old-fashioned way - they’re massive, satisfying, and perfect for lunch al desko. The tuna melt and roast beef sandwiches are the ones to get, and you can grab a Scotch egg for the walk back to your office.
Let’s say that you have 20 minutes to go outside and grab something to eat. You’re definitely better than standing in the queue at Pret for another hummus wrap. If it’s a Thursday, fortunately there’s a much better alternative: KERB sets up shop at the base of the Gherkin with a few stalls, and there’s plenty of room to sit and catch some banter with your mates outside while you eat. The lineup of vendors changes all the time, but rest assured that it’s always excellent - you can expect to find crews like Mother Flipper burgers, Stakehaus for steak and chips, and burritos from Kimchinary.
Sushi for lunch - Itsu, right? Nope. Instead, go to K10, a Japanese restaurant close to Finsbury Square with nice takeaway sushi and a good selection of salads, poke bowls, and rice boxes. It’s a conveyor belt job (so you could technically be done quickly if you sit in), but with better food than the usual grab-and-go sushi places.
Grabthai is a Thai cafe that does good takeaway breakfast and lunch boxes - think solid curries, stir-fries, and salads that are definitely an upgrade over the leftover pasta that’s sitting in a Tupperware at the bottom of your bag. The hot congee at breakfast is also the best thing you can eat on a cold morning.
Bleecker makes the best burger in town, and there’s a stand conveniently located in Spitalfields Market. The bacon cheeseburger is good, but the double cheese or Bleecker black (which comes with a wedge of black pudding shoved in between the patties) are the special ones.