How to Eat Michelin Star Food on a Budget

Skimping on top-drawer grub in the UK


Even at the best of times, it’s difficult to find a restaurant that, at the end of your sitting, doesn’t present you with a bill that makes you choke on your petit fours. Fortunately, one of the greatest inventions of the 21st century — the ‘meal deal’ — is a thing. Supermarkets love it, and we do too if we’ve saved 25p by throwing in a Mars bar at the checkout. Anyway, with peculiar analogies and half baked introductions to one side, maybe it’s time to consider the next big fad: the Michelin meal deal.

Let’s do lunch

Sure, we hate to compromise on the glamour and sophistication of dining during the evening. Good thing is, like rail fares, you pay significantly less for an off-peak service. The Square, a two-star establishment that’s been going for the best part of a quarter of a century, is great for this, and, being in the middle of Mayfair, it’s unlikely you’re going to forfeit on a taste of the pampered lifestyle anyway. Their three-course set lunch, at £40 per head, tastes that much sweeter when you clock their three-course dinners, which come to £95.

Ditch London

Sometimes it’s best to avoid the London surcharge by, well, avoiding London altogether. A two-course dinner at The Curlew in East Sussex tots up to somewhere around an agreeable £35 without wine, and Bristol’s Pony & Trap is priced similarly if you’re happy paying as much for your lunch as your dinner. Also, provided you’re in the business of adding a bit of drama to your dining experience, perhaps a four-course lunch (£28) at The Pass, near Horsham, is more your thing.

Observe the set menu

As long as you don’t mind not having a menu as long as Guernsey, the prix fixe option is, more often than not, a means to frugal dining. Jason Atherton’s Social Eating House may not be as informal as it aspires to be, but it’s very rare you can expect to pay £25 for a three-course dinner at a Michelin star restaurant. Just be aware that normal service is resumed when paying for wine.

Don’t come thirsty

Speaking of wine, you’d be better off taking some home with you, courtesy of a nearby off license or one of those supermarket behemoths. Drinks are a tough trade off, but unless you start omitting matching wines from, say, a tasting menu, the bill will likely look like a cricket score.

Pub it

It has caused some consternation in the past, but thankfully Michelin aren’t against having dressed-down, sans-tablecloth establishments in their guide. If you were to turn up for lunch at Tom Kerridge’s The Hand and Flowers, which holds two stars, you’d be able to dine on three courses’ worth of grub for a mere £20. On the condition you’re allergic to the notion of choice, that is. What’s more, dinner or lunch at Harwood Arms starts at £34, which may be the best deal to come out of Fulham since the $1.5million transfer of Brian McBride.