The average restaurant is way beyond our daytime budgets: unless we can get our employers to stump up the difference, we see the inside of London's better eateries only in the evening. So what do you do when you want food that won't remind you of school and realise that you are paying?
Fortunately, an increasing number of restaurants have caught on to the advantages of the cheap all-in deal, including Terence Conran's monster of a joint on Wardour Street, which offers a two-course menu for pounds 8.50 in the daytime. Now Mezzo has gleaned a lot of criticism over the years for its high-speed table-turnover, but what might be a drawback in a good night out turns, especially at that price, into a virtue for the time- pressed office-worker as long as the high-gloss chrome and overtrained staff don't put you off your food altogether. And it's good value for rubbernecking, as well.
While we swapped jokes about the advertising bods, media professionals and assorted PRs comparing mobile phones around us, we tucked into a clear and refreshing miso soup, a Thai chicken salad and a couple of generous platefuls of Malay noodles. Weirdly, considering that this is far from an oriental restaurant, half the people around us seemed to be using chopsticks: leading us to the conclusion that in Soho, eating irons are as much props for gesticulation as for consumption.
Two meals, water, coffee and a bottle of jolly tasty pinotage came to under pounds 40, which ain't bad. And it's certainly better than running up the same or more a head in the evening, when noise levels are close to unbearable.
Mezzo, 100 Wardour St, W1 (0171-314 4000)
LUNCH IN W1
Atlantic Bar and Grill 20 Glasshouse St, W1 (0171-734 4888)
Randall and Aubin 16 Brewer St, W1 (0171-287 4447)
Wagamama 10a Lexington St, W1 (0171-292 0990)
Yo! Sushi 52-53 Poland St, W1 (0171-287 0433)