Looking for lunch in Holborn/Bloomsbury
November 25, 2012 2:09 PM   Subscribe

I recently started a new job in Bloomsbury/Holborn, London. I'm looking for recommendations for lunch that aren't too expensive. Added difficulty: I'm also a bit of a picky eater.

I know there are quite a few options in this area, but unfortunately my weird taste in food limits me somewhat. I have problems with trying new things most of the time.

Things I like and/or have tried:

-Pod: I really like their green Thai curry and will definitely go back there, but it's a bit expensive to have frequently.
-Pret a Manger: There are only a couple things I like here so I don't come here too often.
-Waitrose/M&S: There are small shops of these nearby but they don't have as good a selection as at their bigger stores
-Itsu: I had their chicken with rice thing the other day, but it wasn't as good as I was expecting.

I like salads, but if there's a dressing it has to be served on the side. I don't eat meat other than chicken and duck (I eat fish, too). I like 'plain' things (i.e. for crisps and whatnot, I can't eat any flavour other than salt). I love bread and will sometimes just grab a baguette and some fruit for lunch. I like pizza, but have had trouble finding amazing pizza in the UK. I really like Chinese food, curries, and Chipotle. I also love Panera, Cosi, Potbelly Sandwiches, and ShopHouse Kitchen in the US (and wish I could bring them here).

I'd prefer things I can take back to eat at my desk or bring to a park to eat. I have an hour for lunch, so I can go on a bit of a walk, but not a major trek. Lunches under £5 would be wonderful; lunches under £10 I could occasionally do. Do you know anywhere I might like?
posted by Put the kettle on to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If you like houmous at all, you should try Hummus Bros, who operate in that area.

There are quite a few lunchy places in the roads surrounding the British Museum. Thai Green cafe is nice, but mostly sit-down - could be good on one of your spendier days if it's raining.

If you can get to Chinatown/Soho in your hour (you should be able to, but it depends where in Bloomsbury you are) you will find a very ample selection. In particular there are lots of little cafes bordering on Leicester Square that do very simple rice/meat/sauce meals around the £5 mark. If you like dumplings, check out Jen cafe.

A pretty good chain you didn't mention is Leon - I think the nearest is Old Compton Street, so again it depends where you are.

There's a pretty big Sainsbury's near Holborn tube, so you should be able to pick up decent food there. The Sainsbury's mozarella is particularly recommended - that and some bread makes a great simple lunch.

It's worth checking out the British Museum cafe. I haven't eaten there myself recently, but if it's anything like standard museum fare it will be very plain verging on bland. The real advantage is that you'll be able to potter around the galleries for about twenty minutes, which is a very civilised way to spend ones lunch hour.
posted by Acheman at 2:35 PM on November 25, 2012

Why not make and bring your lunch?

You can customize and be as picky as you like. Plus, it is so much less expensive than buying lunch out every day.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:39 PM on November 25, 2012

There's a burrito place on High Holburn, a few minutes from Holburn tube.

I'd also try Itsu again because some of their salads are very good.

Le Pain Quotidien (WC1V 7AA) is also very good, if a bit pricey. French style food, some amazing bread.

Towards the end of Kingsway (south of Holburn tube) there's a whole host of independent cafes which have sandwiches, salads and other such, as well as a subway.

Seconding Acheman's suggestion of Sainsbury's and Hummus Bros.

There are some more sitdown places in the area (wagamama, cafe rouge, pubs,...) but that might be too much of a stretch of your hour.
posted by litleozy at 2:46 PM on November 25, 2012

The various supermarket chains often do a pick and mix lunch of three items (sandwich or salad, dessert, drink) for around three pounds. Most of these are dismal e.g. you have to have a sugary drink. Boots - the larger branches - are better than most. Sandwich choice is good (and that alone often fills for the lunch), dessert is various bits of cake or yoghurt or fruit bag, drinks include a choice of smoothies. £3.29 the lot. Get a Boots loyalty card and claw some of that back as well.
posted by Wordshore at 2:46 PM on November 25, 2012

Lunch options are pretty dismal in that area. I used to grab sandwiches from coffee shops. Usually their sandwiches are higher quality and freshly made.

The Espresso Room, for example, my old local haunt, has a small selection of sandwiches. So does the Fleet River Bakery next to Holborn station. And Wild & Wood, also nearby.
posted by vacapinta at 2:53 PM on November 25, 2012

Welcome to the neighbourhood!

Some more local suggestions (reasonably close to the spots that you mentioned; how local they are will of course depend on exactly where you are):

Paul has just opened a branch on Kingsway, with various tasty-looking breads, salads, etc.

I haven't had lunch there in a while now, so I'm not sure quite what they offer these days, but Bea's of Bloomsbury is lovely.

For Mexican, there's Adobo on High Holborn and Daddy Donkey on Leather Lane. It looks as though a chicken burrito at either would cost between £5 and £6. I presume that you have also found the Chipotle on Tottenham Court Road, which is about 10-15 minutes away from Holborn tube station on foot.

For Chinese food, I really like Kung Food.
posted by sueinnyc at 2:54 PM on November 25, 2012

I really like Leather Lane - and walk down there quite often from Exmouth Market for lunch. Exmouth Market itself is a bustling Monday to Friday lunchtime food spot with lots of stalls (Mexican, Thai, Ghanian, Indian, Moroccan, CAKE) - you can easily walk there in a lunchtime from Holborn.
posted by teststrip at 3:11 PM on November 25, 2012

PS. Never eat Sainsbury's sushi - it will only make you sad.
posted by teststrip at 3:12 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't know if it's still there, but there (probably still) is a little Italian cafe basically adjacent to Russell Square tube station, opposite that Brunswick shopping centre. Good basic paninis and sandwiches, and they're generous with the filling. (I think they serve pastas as well.) Coffees are good, too. All within your budget. I can't remember the name of the place for the life of me, though, sorry.
posted by nelljie at 3:14 PM on November 25, 2012

Came here to recommend Hummus Bros, but beaten to the punch. It really is very good indeed.
posted by bifter at 3:15 PM on November 25, 2012

I really recommend Bibimbap Cafe on Museum St, just off Great Russell St. Very good food and a great bargain.
posted by yellowcandy at 3:21 PM on November 25, 2012

Oh hey, here you go, it's called Bar Centrale. What they lack in imagination, they make up for in tastiness. Also, their egg & bacon sandwiches kill 9 out of 10 hangovers.
posted by nelljie at 3:40 PM on November 25, 2012

Whatever you do, if it's nice out (ok, probably starting next spring), you can always take your lunch to Lincoln's Inn Fields.
posted by midatlanticwanderer at 4:05 PM on November 25, 2012

Leather Lane Market has some great food trucks, including the excellent Daddy Donkey's. There are tons of other places, including great salad box stands and various small cafes. The salt beef sandwiches at Tiffin are also amazing.

I always found Japanese Canteen on High Holborn great for big, filling don buris and curries. I moved away from London three years ago, so my information might be a little out of date.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:47 AM on November 26, 2012

If you are near Tavistock Place, near Hunter Street, there is a little curry place that is very cheap, very quick and very tasty.

Round the corner is a shopping centre called the Brunswick Centre which has several nice places to buy lunch, including a very large Waitrose.
posted by kadia_a at 10:33 AM on November 26, 2012

Other nice cafes in the area: Salt, Department of Coffee and Social Affairs.

Also agreeing on the Leather Lane suggestion. Particularly Pie Minister.

In terms of Mexican Chilango is also pretty good.
posted by Erberus at 2:26 PM on November 26, 2012

Thanks so much for all your suggestions, everyone! This is incredibly helpful.

I'll report back but so far I've been to:

-Bibimbab Cafe: they have lunch specials for £3.50, which is awesome and exactly the sort of thing I'm looking for. But I don't think they're very fresh - the chicken is not great quality and it's a bit greasy overall. Still, I love this sort of food so I'll definitely be back, maybe to try another dish.
-Adobo: This is very much like Chipotle except I found it to be pretty bland. On the upside, they do have a small size burrito, which Chipotle doesn't have, that might be good for lunch sometimes.
-Brunswick Centre: The Waitrose is indeed huge! I'm sure I'll stop by here often.

I tried to go to Sainsbury's once, but it was so busy I walked right out again. It's a great thing to have nearby but I may have to work on the timing a bit.

Leon looks awesome - I'll try to head there this week.

Oh, and Ruthless Bunny, I'm sorry for the confusion - I will bring my lunch sometimes, but I have that sorted, so I just wanted to ask for recommendations for the days when I want to buy food.

Thanks again, everyone! Now I just need some nice weather to go with the nice food.
posted by Put the kettle on at 5:54 AM on December 2, 2012

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