Wandering around the classy boutiques of Marylebone you may be forgiven for thinking that eating in the area is beyond your budget. You'd be wrong; here's our list of great cheap eats to be found in this genteel pocket of London.
Busaba’s iconic metres of smooth, shiny wood are brightened at Bird Street with floating gerberas and tea lights, wafting incense, and an expansive view of white tiles. The menu is tweaked occasionally (we long for the return of mooli omelette), but perennial favourites include Thai-style calamares; prawn pomelo with proper betel leaves; morning glory with yellow bean, garlic and chilli; and the cashew and coconut cookies that are included with the tisanes.
This wildly popular Lebanese canteen, takeaway and deli is an almost frenetically bustling and bright enterprise, filled with glitzy, colourful designs by Beirut designer Rana Salam. The combination of casual atmosphere, punchy looks and an above-average menu works well, and the place is usually full – although not unbearably so. Choose carefully from the menu; pre-mixed salads can seem as if they’ve sat on the counter too long. The best things we tried were the hot dishes: splendid warm, cinnamon-spiked pumpkin kibbeh with yoghurt to dip them in; and excellent chicken with pomegranate syrup, both tart and sweet.
In 2014, the Golden Hind will celebrate 100 years of providing solid fish suppers to the residents of Marylebone – almost as long as the dish has been in existence. It’s therefore no surprise that the kitchen team have their craft well honed. Our haddock was exceptional, with a light, wonderfully grease-free batter. Chips were chunky, less well done than the norm, but crisp and fresh-tasting (if not quite melt-in-the-mouth on the inside). Perfectly seasoned mushy peas were a treat, and provided more than just a splash of colour on the plate.
Just getting into this cult destination can feel like cause for celebration. Not only is the queue epic, but Meat Liquor employs ‘good cop, bad cop’ strategies to manage it. On our visit, Bad Cop was played by a giant bouncer who prowled along the line ink-stamping hands: a ploy that stops late-comers from joining their friends mid-queue. Good Cop, meanwhile, was a doe-eyed girl with a tray of the famed deep-fried pickles to quell munchies. Inside, it’s dark and violently loud: more hell-raising nightclub than restaurant. Signs point out the rules (‘No suits’, ‘No ballet pumps’). The graffiti murals are occult-themed, and the staff heavily tattooed.
Despite seating just 30 diners at a time, Patty & Bun has – in less than a year – carved out a reputation for serving some of London’s finest burgers. All-day queues are testament to the fact that its amiable bunch of staff have the format spot-on. They don’t mess around with ingredients (British wherever possible), the menu is witty yet not contrived, and they’ve even had the nous to offer takeaways. The signature ‘ari gold’ burger is a generous patty slathered in a winning combination of ketchup and smoky mayo, before being sandwiched in a glazed brioche bun.
Within a naan’s hurl of Oxford Street, Roti Chai deserved more custom on a midweek lunchtime. Not that the lucky office workers (some Indian, most not) who had discovered it down this little mews street were complaining. The ground-floor ‘street kitchen’, with its utilitarian furniture and canteen vibe, is ideal for a swift midday feed – and the alert young multinational staff keep things pacy.
Relocated from its nearby 'pop-up' site, Tommi's has now found a permanent Marylebone home. As before, the vibe is ultra-casual and consciously back-to-basics, with a focus on burgers (including the much-lauded steak burger), sodas and shakes. Not forgetting properly skinny, crunchy and salty fries.
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West End eats don't come better than these Popular restaurants in central London Berners Tavern Restaurateur Jason Atherton has had a great year. Berners Tavern is the third restaurant he’s opened in the West End this year; the other two, Little Social and Social Eating House, were very well received for their playful and appealing dishes. This new venture is more of the same, but in a much grander setting. It’s housed in the new Edition hotel in Fitzrovia, which looks like the older, more sophisticated sister of the Sanderson hotel just down the road. Both places were given makeovers by hotelier Ian Schrager, but Edition is an exercise in slick metropolitan taste, with opulent chandeliers, framed art-by-the-yard covering entire walls, and improbably elegant staff. The huge lobby bar looks fabulous; but the vast dining room, with its ornate plasterwork ceiling, very low lighting and lively bar area, looks even better. The menu’s prices are alarmingly high – but most of the dishes we tried were very good. Head chef Phil Carmichael turns out tender pork belly with a sauce of sharp capers, golden raisins and apple coleslaw to cut through the fat. The flavours of this and a pan-braised halibut (perfectly cooked) with a little saucepan of savoury squid ink risotto were sublime. A starter of ‘egg, ham and peas’ updates a signature Atherton recipe; a breadcrumbed duck egg is held upright by a purée of fresh peas, the crisp Cumbrian ham almost a garnish. The only culinary disappoint