Working Lunch review: The Black Penny, Covent Garden, serves gourmet food without the fuss

Melissa York
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The ever-changing salads on offer

The Black Penny
34 Great Queen Street, WC2


A trendy coffee house and brunch spot modelled on the “penny universities” of 17th century England, where punters would be able to pay a penny for a beverage and a lecture. Prices may have gone up a pretty penny, but the concept remains the same. The ground floor serves up eggs, sandwiches and seasonal salads, while the Seminar Pit below hosts spoken word events and lectures.


In the hinterland between Holborn and Covent Garden. And, no, we’re still not calling it Midtown.


Antipodean head chef George Notley, formerly of Lantana Cafe and Tom’s Deli, is all about delivering simple dishes made with great ingredients. And that’s why Australian cuisine is so hot right now.


Chicken, bacon, brie and cranberry sandwich

The Black Penny Plate lets you choose up to five cold salads from a menu that changes weekly, and pile them on top of each other to make a hearty hill of food. Mix chilli baked salmon with lamb meatballs, aged feta, new potatoes, chickpeas, purple-sprouting broccoli, kale, roast sweet potatoes – it’s like the freshest leftovers meal you’ve ever had. Concoct a fresh juice to go on the side, then finish off with an artisan coffee from South London roasters Alchemy and a slice of homemade pecan pie.


It’s the sort of place that you could comfortably eat in with only a good book for company, but you’d also earn cool points for casually suggesting this place for an informal business meeting.


The rustic dining room is the size of a small conservatory, so it’s probably best to call them on 020 7242 2580 to reserve a table. Long queues suggest the takeaway option is popular, too.


A completely unfussy approach to good food. Perfect for impressing clients with your simple good taste or treating yourself to a wholesome lunch.


There’s a small, yet savvy, selection of beer, cider and wine on offer, and robust bloody marys to pair with your weekend brunch. And if you forget to bring a book, the walls are lined with esoteric culture zines.

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