More for less: Deals on meals
With restaurants, a bargain can be anything from £25 for a meal that should cost twice that much, or £6.90 for a three-course lunch. Niki Boyle and Donald Reid present 30 of the best value-for-money deals on offer this month
You don’t always have to lower your sights when it comes to dining out on a budget. Pre-theatre menus are often available at higher-end venues, and while you might not be tucking into the fancy dishes of the à la carte menu, for half the price you’ll still be enjoying the same setting, level of cooking, good ingredients and top-notch service. You’re not even obliged to go to the theatre afterwards.
In Edinburgh, for example, The Tower Restaurant has a very respectable pre-theatre menu available from 5pm to 6.30pm offering two courses for £13.95. Sister-establishments Rhubarb and The Witchery have similar offers, giving you an affordable way to check out some of the city’s most striking dining rooms.
Pre-theatre menus aren’t the only departure from the norm that can provide attractive deals: at Abstract in Edinburgh’s West End there’s a ‘Market Menu’ offering a three-course dinner of fine, French-influenced cooking for £25, Tuesday to Friday, while Café St Honore has a ‘Seasonal Menu’ at £20.50 for three courses operating Sunday to Thursday evenings and pre-theatre at weekends. Other good set price deals include The Stockbridge Restaurant’s weekend lunch menu with two courses for £12.95 and three courses for £14.95, or three hearty Scottish courses with coffee for £25 at Jacksons on the Royal Mile.
If you’re looking for a treat, don’t dismiss lunch for its indulgent possibilities – after all, a long lunch is a luxury while a long dinner is a drag. In Glasgow, the attractive ‘Amazing Grazing’ menu at Michael Caines @ Abode offers two courses for £12.95 or three for £15.95 at lunch; these options are also available between 6 and 7pm for £14.95 and £17.95 respectively. Hotel Du Vin at One Devonshire Gardens are currently offering online lunchtime vouchers allowing two courses for two people for £20, or £30 with a carafe of wine.
Elsewhere in the city, the pre/post theatre menus at each of the Two Fat Ladies restaurants are well worth a look: the West End branch has a lunch/pre-theatre menu of two courses for £13.50 and three for £15.50, which is the same as the post-theatre menu in the city centre; pre-theatre in the Blythswood Street branch costs £16 for two courses and £18 for three.
The middle ground
Dining out shouldn’t be a gamble – unless you want it to be. Edinburgh’s Rutland Hotel has a lucky dip discount system operating throughout January: when booking your table, quote the word ‘Mystery’ and get 25%, 40% or 60% off your total food bill. The Olive Branch’s three Edinburgh venues are also playing with percentages – if booked online, a 10% reduction is available Friday to Sunday, with a 15% discount available through the week. More conventionally, they also offer set menu options – two courses for £11.95 or three for £14.95, with a free glass of prosecco or Appletiser thrown in.
As seasoned budget diners well know, there are deals a plenty to be found online, either through restaurant booking sites or directly from restaurants’ own sites. Browns on Edinburgh’s George Street offers two courses for £12.95 and three for £14.95, although the menu is only available from 5-6.30pm and 9.30-10.30pm. The Forth Floor Brasserie at Harvey Nichol’s has a very competitive two courses for £10 or three for £15, while over in the West End there are appealing deals for both Italian at Santini (two courses for £12) and Indian at Roti, where two small dishes cost £10.
Among the offers available in the mid-range restaurants of Glasgow, La Parmagiana offers a pre-theatre menu until 7.30pm, with two courses for £15.70 or three for £17.80. A full mezze – a traditional four-course Greek meal – is available for £16.95 at Greek Golden Kebab, and Malmaison offer two courses for £13.50 or three for £15.50 from their ‘Homegrown and Local’ menu. Pulcinella offer a very reasonable three course set menu for £13.50, while Dragon-i are running a promotion to coincide with Celtic Connections with two courses for £15.95 for two courses with a glass of wine.
Go for low
The quote to remember is ‘New Year Treat’ to get a fine two-for-one offer on the pizzas at Edinburgh’s Zanzero, but it’s only available between 3 and 7pm, so good for a post-shopping refuel or a treat for the kids. Itri on Gilmore Place are also a little restrictive – their two-course dinner for £10.95 is only available at weekends, and they’ve got a three course lunch menu for £7.95, but only up to 2.30pm. Tiny Turkish restaurant Hanedan offers a limited two-course set menu for £8.95, with two starters and two main courses to choose from. More open are French bistro B’est, where you’ll find a three-course lunch for £6.90, a three-course dinner for £14.90, and a pre-theatre two-course option for £9.90. Xanadu are also fairly flexible - their offer of two courses for £9 or three for £10.50 runs Sunday to Friday, 5pm-9pm.
In Glasgow, Pintxo and Stereo offer different deals on tapas – three for £8.95 at Pintxo, or five for £10 at certain times on Mondays at Stereo. There are, of course, plenty of places offering tapas deals but it is worth keeping in mind that tapas dishes can mount up quickly, so be careful not to blitz your original budget by ordering too enthusiastically. Getting back to basics in their reasurring way, the Wee Curry Shops offer a main course with chai and cake for only £7.50, but Banana Leaf steal in with a set meal for £7, or £6 for vegetarians. Bargain!