Michelin starred restaurants don’t come cheap. At your usual Michelin’d joint you can easily drop a few hundred quid on the food alone. The average meal at the Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck in Bray, the UK’s most expensive restaurant, proves that even at a molecular level, Michelin star food is incredibly expensive. A romantic dinner at Heston’s restaurant comes in at a whopping £650 per couple, and that’s before you add in the booze! And let’s face it, that’s not the sort of bill you want to land when you’re sober.
Michelin stars are often used as a weapon with which to force customers to pay double for a meal that used to cost £20. Allied with a mystery booking system, like at the Fat Duck, and a big dollop of PR and you’ve created a profit machine for restaurant owners and certain top chefs (who often don’t even work in the restaurant). But wait, you don’t necessarily need to take out a mortgage to eat at one of London’s best Michelin star restaurants, it turns out that some *checks over shoulder in case anyone’s listening – shhhh* are actually incredibly reasonable.
Here’s London’s ten cheapest, according to ‘research’…
It’s official, when it comes to Michelin star restaurants, Leroy is king: it’s officially the cheapest in the entire country! Punters at the Hackney hangout can expect to shell-out an exorbitant £23 for a three course menu that’s, on paper at least, no worse than Tom Sellers’ Restaurant Story (also one star, but four times more expensive).
Start from the very short list of options with a plate of olives (we think this may be where the methodology went a little awry, of course you can’t compare ‘some olives’ to, say, wagyu beef topped with caviar), followed by a main of scallop girolles and white wine sauce and finish with a strawberry sorbet and walk away only £21.50 worse off.
I’ve spent more than that Deliverooing Nando’s!
2. The Ninth
If you count down the top ten cheapest British Michelin star restaurants, the ninth on your list (so, um, the second cheapest, this set-up sentence isn’t going to work) is The Ninth!
Jun Tanaka’s Mediterranean restaurant brings some Frenchy flare to Charlotte Street. Start off with some house duck soppressata, move onto some marinated scallops, seaweed consommé and asparagus before wrapping up with white peaches, granita and almond ice cream and expect to part with £29.50, which is a good deal higher than the average price of £24.80.
Again, methodology alert, the meat dishes at the restaurant are rather more spenny, and you have to buy your veggies separate (a real bugbear, like when burger restaurants make you pay for chips separately), but still, even at thirty quid all in, you’re still paying Pizza Express prices.
Unlike some of London’s brattier chefs, demanding astronomical figures for distinctly mediocre food, Tomos Parry’s simple Basque cuisine measures up against his competitors and yet comes in at a fraction of the cost, with a full three courses possible for £26.
Smoked Cod’s Roe to start, hake Kokotxas washed down with grilled strawberries with rice pudding will cost you a bankrupting £18.50. You might as well treat yourself to the lemon sole for main instead, upping your spend to £26.50.
4. St John
Where shall we meat? St John, always. The simple (even austere) decor focusses diners’ attention on the plates, because this is where the real artwork happens. And for a very tidy sum of an average £29.10. Head cheffed by Steve Darou, the Michelin star restaurant is a must for meat eaters everywhere.
Start proceedings with a green salad, for mains take the grilled onglet, chicory and pickled walnut and finish up with half a dozen Madeleines and you’re just £1.20 over average at £30.30.
Where: 26 St John Street, Clerkenwell, EC1M 4AY
5. Kitchen W8
Kitchen W8 looks and feels like a ‘proper’ Michelin star. There’s none of your East London hipster ‘we-cut-costs-by-upcycling-the-furniture’ nonsense, this is a smart dining room in Kensington. And yet, with an overall average price of £29.50.
Based on a dinnertime set menu (if they’d used the lunch menu, which is £28, then Kitchen W8 would’ve jumped to fourth cheapest London Michelin star restaurant!), why not sit down to a dinner of rabbit shoulder raviolo, fricassée of lamb’s sweetbread and tongue and a pudding of beauvale, mustard fruit and walnut bread? Oh, that’s a rhetorical question, there is no reason why not – not even for the sweetbread and tongue.
Trishna, I’ve got a Mary-le-bone to pick with you – how so cheap? This posh Indian favourite brings Indian coastal cuisine to central London and does so with style and a Michelin star to boot, not to mention on a budget of just £32.
Let’s opt for the Shahi salmon tikka, move onto the Kozhikode chicken masala before diving into a dessert of Kesai tele kulfi. Not sure what any of that is? Fear not, you’re in great hands. And if you hate it, you can roll the dice again because you’ve only lost thirty (two) quid!
7. River Café
This one was a shock, growing up I’ve always thought of the River Café as one of those places that you’d be hard pressed to afford unless your horse had come in a highly unexpected first. And yet, at £34 a meal, London’s seventh cheapest Michelin star restaurant is actually a viable ‘fancy popping out for a bite?’ type of affair.
Made famous in the ’90s, the prices seem to have remained there, though we were unable to recreate the research to prove the case (a risotto starter still seems to cost £22), presumably there’s a set menu that’s not available online.
8. Galvin la Chapelle
Galvin restaurants don’t come cheap, Handbook favourite Galvin at Windows is well worth it but does cost an average £82 a meal. But baby of the chain, Galvin La Chappelle, is nearly half that at an average £38 per meal. Set in a former school, the surroundings are fun and interesting.
Choosing from the menu de chef, plump for scorched cornish mackerel, shift gears between courses to take on the pork belly and finish up with a chilled coconut rice pudding.
9. Hakkasan Hanway Place
It’s a little eyebrow raising to see this luxurious Mayfair hideaway, the respite of the rich and famous, in the top ten cheapest (Michelin star) restaurants in London, but incredibly £38 will sink you three courses of the finest Cantonese cooking there is, and ours is not the question why. Instead, get in line and enjoy Taste of Hakkasan, the £38 curated menu presenting the restaurant’s signature dishes but without breaking the bank.
Begin with a selection of dim sum, graduate to stir-fry black pepper rib eye beef with merlot and a side of steamed jasmine rice, and have a pudding of whatever the chef selects on the day.
Yauacha right back atcha, it’s another £38-er, and this Soho Chinese really is worth checking out, and on a relative budget too. The all-day dim sum teahouse serves their Tou Chan menu, which is designed for two sharing, and for your £38 per diner you get three courses of Michelin star grub. Like a starter of prawn shui mai with chicken steamed dim sum, main of classic sweet and sour pork and a petit gateau for dessert.
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The research is courtesy of Kitchen Knives; while it’s not rocket science what they’ve done is trawl through all the menus of Michelin star restaurants across the country, putting them into a spreadsheet and working out the lowest cost three course combo from each. Presumably this is relatively easy to game, Leroy, for example, only has three starters options which all come in at under a fiver, bringing down the total cost significantly.
Meanwhile, were a restaurant to include one star dish, caviar and gold turkey swizzlers or whatever for £1,000, presumably it doesn’t matter that all their other main courses are priced at £10 each. It’s also worth noting that all restaurants regularly change up their menus, so this research is only correct at this moment in time. The prices don’t include service charge or wine, so unless you’re on the tap water, then you’ll probably spend another £20-30 on top even if you’re quite abstemious.
All that aside, this looks like a relatively reliable way to scope out London’s top ten cheapest Michelin star restaurants.