Almost a month in sunny, humid Singapore and I’m already feeling nostalgic for my usual lunch haunts back in London.
Lunch time here in Singapore involves a brisk 15-minute (air-conditioned) walk through the Marina Bay Link Mall to Raffles Place and a 20-minute run on the treadmill–then a brisk walk back with a stopover for soup/sandwich at Cedele. I want to join the rest of my local officemates on their lunch break trips to assorted hawker food centres, but at the rate I’m eating kway teow in this country I think a visit to the gym at least 1x a day is of paramount importance (plus they speak Mandarin 100% of the time and I can’t follow the jokes, which makes me sad).
1. K10 – Moorgate (http://www.k10.net/)
The queue snakes out of K10 and onto the street most days. They have excellent takeaway sushi/sashimi boxes and Japanese rice meals. All come with a free drink and a small bowl of edamame beans (my colleague N gave me his bowl all the time so I had x2 servings). They have a restaurant in the basement with a sushi belt, but good luck finding a spot to sit there during lunch.
Neri recommends: Katsu curry, salmon teriyaki rice dishes
2. Tossed (http://www.tosseduk.com/)
Tossed’s salads were my best friend in the grueling diet months leading to my wedding. My personal trainer had a recommended salad for me after our workouts which was SO good, I never got tired of eating it and was ordering the same thing everyday. It came to the point when one of the guys at the till recognized me and knew my salad by heart. Good thing about Tossed is they don’t scrimp on their ingredients, which is more than I can say for the sad-looking, overpriced green salads over here in SG (anyway here probably isn’t the place to go looking for fresh green salads, no?).
Neri recommends: Personal post-workout favorite! Create-your-own salad: (1) Size: medium, (2) Base: salad, (3) Toppings: chicken breast, prawns, avocado, mushrooms (I added the ‘shrooms because I like them), (4) Dressing: mix of olive oil and lemon juice
3. Assenheims 56, Moorgate (http://www.as56.co.uk/)
Still on Copthall Avenue alongside Tossed and K10. Make a right from Moorgate and the delicious grilled chicken smell hits you immediately. No, it’s not coming from Tossed (durr). Walk on a bit further and you’ll spot the long queue of hungry suits outside Assenheims 56. The queue moves fast because there’s really only two key choices to make here: (1) Salad or rice? and (2) Green sauce or not? The chicken servings are HUGE so I try and behave by opting for the just-salad option, but trust me, you want rice with that. And always, always a YES to the mysterious Nickelodeon-green sauce. Add some chili for extra yumminess.
Neri recommends: The Colombian grilled chicken + salad + rice + green sauce + chili + a bottle of VitWater to wash it all down
4. Pod – Moorgate (http://www.podfood.co.uk/)
Allow me to balance out the carb-rich options with another healthy lunch spot, Pod. I remember gravitating towards the place pre-wedding. I was on my Dukan Diet phase back then and their Protein Box was a Dukan-er’s dream (see components below). Very healthy lunch choices: case in point, Thai Green Curry is served with brown rice. Alas, my passion for Pod melted away once I stopped doing the Dukan diet (that diet was really ridiculous, on hindsight).
Neri recommends: The Protein Box post-workout. It has chicken breast, smoked salmon, prawns, hard-boiled eggs, and a lemon slice to squeeze all over your oh-so-healthy lunch
5. Wasabi – Moorgate (http://www.wasabi.uk.com/)
The quick and easy, cheaper option to satisfy Japanese food cravings. Wasabi is a popular chain in London with plenty of takeaway box choices. They serve huge portions of katsu curry for the VHM (Very Hungry Male–personally, I find the huge takeaway bucket for the curry intimidating). You can also pick and choose your sushi/maki/temaki individually and make your own box set. My sister loved their onigiri; we brought Wasabi’s onigiri packets along on our Eurostar train trip to Paris and it didn’t spoil even after two days out of the fridge, heh.
Neri recommends: I’m lazy so I usually get the box sets: Hana set, Rainbow set, Mini chirashi for a super-cheap OK lunch
6. Chilango – Moorgate (http://www.chilango.co.uk/)
While Chilango is a fairly new addition to the City lunch spot scene it’s found a special place in my heart thanks to its pork salad (the most ironic “salad” of all time, if you ask me). Chilango serves Mexican; its burritos are a popular choice. The queue is manageable during lunch times, seating is minimal but most people do takeaway. Service is cheerful and noisy. Guacamole is additional £1 each, if I remember right.
Neri recommends: Not the healthiest, but oh well! Braised pork salad style / naked burrito style, with salsa verde
7. Coco di Mama – Moorgate (http://cocodimama.co.uk/)
When I’m carb-loading, I go here. Pastas and baguette offerings. I think they have salads too but never tried those.
Neri recommends: Garden pesto pasta with chicken
8. Fastoche – Moorgate (http://www.fastoche.com)
Another recent addition to the lunch scene. When I’m craving for shakes, I go here. It’s right next to my gym so whenever I buy my shake I try and walk as fast as possible past the gym just in case my personal trainer is hanging around outside the smoothie shop having a coffee. Similar to Tossed they have salad-based lunches, but they also offer rice and pasta-based options with different sauces and toppings.
Neri recommends: the Oreo shake
9. Café Verona – Moorgate
It’s easy to miss because it’s tiny! A better, cheaper option vs the McDonald’s a few steps away. Café Verona (am I the only one who thinks Romeo and Juliet every time I see this café?!) serves homemade baked potatoes with toppings, sandwiches, and pasta. Their servings are huge and, as a fairly frequent pasta customer, I can definitely say their pasta is so filling it’ll last you past 7PM at least.
Neri recommends: Spinach-filled ravioli in tomato sauce (I think Café Verona’s menu changes on a daily basis so I’m not sure if this is a permanent menu item)
10. Tsuru Sushi (http://www.tsuru-sushi.co.uk/)
I am proud to say I was the one who introduced Tsuru to my officemates in London. It was embraced with wide open arms and fast became a team favorite thanks to their 8-hour curry sauces, served best with katsu or Scotch egg. The miso soup is also done just right.
Bonus points: For the dinner menu, they have takoyaki with octopus (not since Osaka have I tasted good takoyaki–Tsuru’s was reasonably close) and mochi ice cream.
Mega bonus points: they serve cold Asahi!
Neri recommends: Katsu curry with their 8-hour sauce, side of Scotch egg, and if you’re feeling moreish add a cup of crispy chicken kara-age to go
11. City Càphê (http://www.citycaphe.com/)
A personal favorite. You can bet there’s always a queue outside this little Vietnamese lunch place past 12NN. The food is healthy-ish (except for the rice dishes maybe), fresh, and consistently good. Staff are efficient, all food is paid for in cash below £10 (I think). French influence is evident in their baguette offerings with delicious fillings such as lemongrass beef. They also make the best banana loaf I’ve tasted in London EVER.
Neri recommends: Traditional beef pho (classic noodle soup), viet chicken vermicelli salad, chargrilled pork bahn mi (baguette), fresh summer rolls, them banana loaf slices-YUM
12. Hummus Bros (http://www.hbros.co.uk/)
I learned to love hummus in London. I’d eat it with just about anything: Fita crackers, normal white bread, not-so-normal grainy bread, breadsticks. I remember Hummus Bros catching my eye because of their tagline: “Give peas a chance” (chuckle). I did, and it is absolutely one of those lunch options that could last you for the rest of the day. It’s that filling. Customize your hummus with additional toppings such as mushrooms or chicken. The two warm pittas that come with your hummus are more than enough for lunch + an afternoon snack.
Neri recommends: Err, the hummus? I like mine with mushrooms + the fresh lemonade
13. The Japanese Canteen (http://www.thejapanesecanteen.co.uk/)
My colleague J introduced us to The Japanese Canteen. At that time, we hadn’t made up our minds on which lunch spot served the best katsu curry. I suggested Tsuru, N suggested K10, various other restaurants’ names were dropped then dismissed.
At that point, my colleague J piped in said he firmly believed that Japanese Canteen beat all our suggestions, bar none. Naturally, curiosity got the better of us, one thing led to the other and we eventually trekked all the way over to Watling Street to settle the debate. Japanese Canteen’s katsu curry is good with a generous helping of red ginger, a personal favorite. Servings-wise, I suppose Japanese Canteen’s takeaway beats that of Tsuru, but I’m still undecided on which is the clear winner based on taste.
Top tip: J’s little theory is that they serve more in the takeaway containers vs eat-in. Get takeaway and grab a seat inside.
Neri recommends: Chicken katsu curry, takeaway
14. Café 32 Coleman
Café 32 on Coleman Street is what I imagine City lunch places would have been like circa early ’90s, before the influx of sushi restaurants and fancy healthy takeaways. It serves coffee and good hot sandwiches. Solid, no-nonsense sandwiches chock-full with chicken or roast beef or whatever you decide to put in. I often see middle-aged men in suits hanging out on the couches reading the paper when I pass it in the mornings en route to the office. A similar lunch spot would be Fuzzy’s Grub.
Neri recommends: Any of their sandwiches, really
15. Pret A Manger (http://www.pret.com/)
While we’re on the subject of sandwiches, my all-time favorite in this department is the no-fuss Pret. Thankfully, there’s one right around the corner from my former office. I’m easy enough to please: give me a crayfish and rocket sandwich any day and I’m a happy camper. I also love their flavored water (Pret Still Pomegranate FTW) and desserts (the Love Bar, especially).
Take your sandwich and drink to Finsbury Circus, spot a vacant seat on a bench, brush away (with a napkin) the pigeon poop, and tadaa! Before all the renovations in Finsbury Circus I used to love eating my sandwich there while people-watching.
I remember giving Pret’s gingerbread man, Godfrey, to a friend as an apology for inadvertently ditching her one fateful lunch date and she fawned all over his cute chocolate eyes. Sigh. Missing British sandwiches now.
Neri recommends: Wild Crayfish & Rocket sandwich, Scottish Smoked Salmon sandwich
16. Café Below (http://www.cafebelow.co.uk/)
I think as far as this list goes, this is the most unique one yet, and fairly difficult to spot if you’re not looking for it. Café Below is located in the crypt under St Mary-le-Bow Church (le-Bow, Below… get it? haha). The church is on the same street as One New Change mall. The menu changes daily (check it out here) but any day you’re sure to find fantastic, hearty, home-cooked food which in my opinion is more bang-for-the-buck compared to more expensive restaurants in the City. I remember buying their apple and blueberry crumble with custard on one not-so-good day as comfort food, and boy that comforted me in a jiff–it was so good.
Neri recommends: Menu changes daily, but be sure to get a pudding. Takeaway options cheaper
17. Blossom City Point (http://www.blossomrestaurant.co.uk/)
Blossom serves both Japanese and Korean cuisine so you have plenty of options. Bibimbap is served super hot and mixed (if you prefer) in front of you. Add chili.
Neri recommends: Bibimbap or one of their sushi sets
18. Burger & Lobster – St Paul’s (http://www.burgerandlobster.com/)
I was already a B&L fan even before they came to the City so this is pretty much a shoo-in for my lunch place list. You only have three choices on what to eat here: (1) lobster (steamed/grilled), (2) lobster roll, or a (3) beef burger. All options at £20. Trust me, at £20 the burger-eaters are pretty much subsidizing the lobster-eaters, so it’s quite a straightforward decision… go for the lobster! Roll if you want a non-messy option, but as the Hubby would say where’s the fun in that? Plus he thinks that the lobster is more value-for-money than the roll.
All three meals come with skinny chips and a small yummy salad.
Neri recommends: The lobster, steamed, with garlic butter sauce on the side
19. Byron – One New Change (http://www.byronhamburgers.com/)
Byron was one of my early UK favorites before I discovered the rest of the good eats. You can never go wrong with a properly done burger for lunch, complete with fat chips and an excellent milkshake. Byron, in my opinion, serves the best milkshake ever–just don’t have it for takeaway as you get much less vs eating in. Byron has a ‘skinny’ option which is the burger sans bun.
Neri recommends: Skinny cheese burger, cooked medium rare, with a side of skin-on chips + a chocolate milkshake for here
20. M&S (http://www.marksandspencer.com/)
I guess I miss the Marks & Spencer in the UK, the down-to-earth department store version where you can get affordable takeaway lunch options and sweets (and do a bit of clothes shopping on the side). I don’t care for the “pa-fancy” version they have here in SG all too much. M&S near Finsbury Circus had all sorts of ready-made salads and sandwiches and fresh fruit takeaways for dessert.
Neri recommends: Their pasta salads had really good fresh ingredients such as pine nuts
That’s it for me. What are your City lunch place recommendations?