I’ve had ‘dinner’ countless times in Pret A Manger. It’s often my go-to spot for a fast food fix if I’m off out for an evening. Comfortingly familiar, Pret is reliably quick and reasonably cheap. However, although great for breakfast and lunch, it’s a stretch to think of sandwich and crisps as a proper evening meal. But now they’re trying to catch me and the rest of the post-work, ‘better line my stomach before I go drinking’ crew and get us to come in for a warm sit-down supper that follows the same principles as their daytime offerings – cheap, quick, tasty and healthy grub.
Welcome to ‘Good Evenings’ aka the first Pret restaurant. So far they’ve only soft-launched it at the 88 Strand branch where they will be monitoring the progress before considering rolling it out to other branches. Normal sandwich shop by day, after 6pm the lights are dimmed, candles lit and tables laid with real cutlery ready for the evening service.
You’re greeted at the door by a smiley maitre’d who shows you to your table and once you’ve decided on food and booze (yes, they’ve got an alcohol licence!), you order at the counter and it’s all brought to your table in one go. It almost feels like a real restaurant – until you glance over at the sandwich fridges and remember you’re in a Pret.
We went down last night and although it was clear that it was still getting into the swing of it, the whole experience was pretty damn good. Portions were decent sizes at reasonable prices and our food arrived on the table in under six minutes. We saw a woman come in, order, sit down, eat and leave in under 15 minutes. It’s still very fast food, but it’s all made freshly to order, to eat in or take away.
Pret aficionados will recognise some of the daytime offerings on the menu (macaroni cheese, quinoa hot pots, salads) and items which are essentially just deconstructed sandwiches, but it’s all cooked to order, portions have been beefed up and tweaked with extra garnishes and it’s all served on nice crockery which somehow makes it taste better. There’s also brand new items including a moist lemon and herb chicken salad and sweet potato fries. Desserts are the same ones as you’d get in the packets by the till but they’re served warm with ice cream and coulis.
My only complaints are that the glasses of wine are only served in 125ml and that the food was so cheap, I got carried away and 0ver-ordered and then subsequently fell asleep in the cinema. We spent £13 each and had A LOT of grub but you could easily get dinner and a glass of wine for £10. Or you could just go in and get a sandwich and a beer for dinner, which also sounds pretty good.
Sure, sitting near the glow of the sandwich fridge isn’t the most romantic of settings and this won’t be a destination restaurant, but for a cheap, hearty, healthy and quick meal on the Strand, this is a winner. It’s definitely going to give the neighbouring Leon a run for its money. Fingers crossed they roll it out to more branches soon. A very good evening indeed.
Find more cheap eats in London.
By Sonya Barber