I’ll admit it. I’m a big restaurant chain fan. Yes, I like supporting independents, and being the person to recommend new, undiscovered places, but sometimes all I want to do is catch up with a friend in the confines of somewhere I know, and know that I like (and can afford). With restaurant chains you know what you’re getting, for a price which is reasonable. Like many of our readers, I love eating out but can’t afford to spend £20+ on food every night. This post is dedicated to some of our favourite London restaurant chains and how anyone can eat fabulous, good quality food in London, even when you’re on a budget (as many of us are).
Since moving to London, I’ve started a ritual with a friend where we meet up every 2 or 3 weeks, and sit down to have a catch up over some freshly made lemonade or a hummus sharing platter in Comptoir Libanais, Sloane Square. A homely and healthy Lebanese canteen, I’ll go back and visit it time and time again because they get the atomsphere right. We love the décor of this place, the iconic menus of the vintage movie poster of Sirine Jamal al Dine, the geometric flooring and vibrant ceramic patterns on the walls give the café the Middle Eastern souk-like feeling it’s going for. As a big Comptoir fan, I’ve also visited the Marylebone and Stratford chains which have the same feel, giving it a consistent brand image. I’ve always been a big hummus and baba ganoush fan, I’ve even started to make my own with sun-dried tomatoes, and so I can say with some certainty that the dips are sublime. If you’d prefer a snack instead of a main meal, the oven baked flat bread with halloumi cheese, wild thyme & fresh mint was to die for. I also love the home-made Roza lemonade, which is lemon & lime with a dash of rose syrup. Tony Kitous, thank you for giving us your vision of Comptoir!
I had a good surprise the other day, when my dad took us out for Sunday lunch in Brixton Village. He was raving about this ‘amazing pizza place’ which, when we got there, turned out to be Franco Manca. He’s right, it is an amazing pizza place and I’ve eaten here a couple of times. Since 2008, Franco Manca has expanded and now has 25 sites across the UK, most of which are in London. The pizza base is made from sourdough and the last time I went I had the ‘Meat Special’ which was a combo of buffalo mozzarella, organic tomato, baked aubergine, Gloucester old spot pancetta and wild rocket. I think the thing I was most impressed about was the aubergine which was baked to perfection – it had a spicy zing to it and retained a slight crunch. Another great thing about Franco Manca is the price – you can eat for under £10 which is great for those on a budget.
Another place I’ve recently discovered is Polpo, which describes itself as a Venetian bàcaro ‘mini chain’ with industrial-chic. I went to the restaurant in Clerkenwell, but it’s got five other restuaurants in London, and also representation in Brighton, Bristol and Leeds. Similar to tapas, with small sharing plates, we got a lot for around £15 each: spinach, ricotta and soft egg pizette, zucchini, parmesan and basil salad, bruschetta, crab and chilli linguine, pork and fennel meatballs and another pizette. I also had the Rock Shandy non-alcoholic cocktail which was made up of lemonade, fresh lime and angostura bitters which was a lovely mix of crisp lime and sweet lemonade. The walk-in only policy in the evening gives it the feel of a restaurant chain, with its chilled back attitude to dining.
The last chain I want to talk about in this blog post is Pho. Describing itself as fresh, healthy and authentic Vietnamese street food, I think I would have to agree with them. Last Christmas, the @ldn_eats duo spent two weeks travelling around Vietnam – we flew from South to North and then worked our way down again. After that trip, I’ve always had a craving for Vietnamese – it’s so light and fresh, and I love the chilli and lemongrass undertones that come through in each meal. At Pho I tried Gỏi cuốn which are fresh rice paper summer rolls with chicken, herbs, vermicelli noodle and pickle. I had this with an accompaniment of nước chấm (chilli sauce). As I was only having a snack here, this was perfect. It wasn’t a heavy dish, but filled me up nicely. I definitely would like to come back here and try a main meal.
So, those are the reasons why we love restaurant chains. As we all know London is an expensive city, but these modern and cool restaurant chains still allow us the luxury of eating out, for a reasonable price.
If you’d like any more information on any of the restaurants we’ve reviewed, please free feel to contact us.