Regardless of whether you’re eating out in London on a budget or not, choosing a place for food is difficult as there are so many places to eat – making a choice is difficult! As you can expect, the quality of food and prices you will pay vary, from the numerous typical fast food places (urgh) to luxurious restaurants where you can spend a good portion of your London budget. Here we look at some tips to help you have a cheaper, yet still enjoyable, meal in London.
See also our new guide on Tips for saving money when eating out in London and our guide to The best chain restaurants in London
Recommended Places for Eating Out in London on a Budget
136-138 George Street, W1 (off Edgware Road)
Underground: Marble Arch
Walking down Edgware Road, you’ll find an extraordinary amount of Lebanese places, and we reckon this is one of the best. The best idea is to get quite a few of the small dishes and share them amongst a group of you.
301 Old Street, EC1V
Underground: Old Street
Excellent Vietnamese place in the Shoreditch/Hoxton area, tasty dishes are served up in smart surroundings. They have an extensive wine list too, and make recommendations for particular wines according to the dish type.
27 Upper Street, N1 (and other locations in London)
If you’re anything like me, you absolutely adore Mexican food. Unfortunately for us Londoners, good Mexican food has taken a while to arrive in the capital but we’re now lucky to have a number of places pop up recently. One of the best is Chilango – a simple but great value place serving burritos, tacos and salads. Each selection is stuffed full with a main (beef, pork or chicken, if you’re non-vegetarian) and then plenty of vegetables, salsa and beans. Make sure you’re hungry – the dishes can be on the large side…though, of course, I always manage to finish mine! Available to take away or eat in in the brightly coloured upstairs seating area.
76 Brewer Street W1
Underground: Piccadilly Circus
Conveyer-belt style sushi dishes at reasonable prices, with an impressive selection. Sushi on the conveyor belt comes on plates that are colour-coded, so that your total bill can be added up at the end (I guess this also provides you with the possibility of limiting to how much you want to spend, if need be). The place is a little small, and popular, so you sometimes need to wait for some free space (although they do limit customers to the time they can stay in the restaurant during busy periods).
171 Farringdon Rd, EC1 (also in Kilburn, Battersea & Croydon)
This place always seems to be in “cheap eats” lists and always seems very full whenever I’ve seen it! Serving a variety of European dishes at amazing prices (during daytime and evening, when prices rise slightly), the restaurant even once held a “pay what you think your meal is worth” promotion. (On average, people ended up paying more than they were supposed to, so that tells you something about the quality!)
74 Welbeck Street, W1G 0BA
Underground: Bond Street
Oh, the hype when this place opened. But you know what – it’s pretty much justified. London’s become awash with burger places recently, that you can barely move from some hot new place offering up their take on patties and buns. Many offer a no-reservations, queuing only policy as Meat Liquor does – but this place is worth the wait. Once you’re in, you might have to wait a little more at the bar area, but that means you can start drinking – at which point you should definitely go for their House Grog cocktail. (Others are also available, and all are decently priced as far as cocktails go.) The Green Chili Cheeseburger has an deliciously spicy kick to it, and you can’t go wrong with the Dead Hippie burger. The chili cheese dog (which, if you’ve never tried this in your life, is decent to have here) and the Phili [sic] Cheesesteak (ditto) are also supremely tasty options. It’s all a bit ramshackle and dive bar-esque – if you don’t like eating in a dim light, with loud pumping music (often cool 80s stuff) using only your hands (and having to use copious amounts of kitchen roll) then don’t come by any means. If you have a sense of fun…then do. Open until 2am on Fridays and Saturdays.
Also try Meat Market (The Deck, Jubilee Market Hall, Tavistock Street, Covent Garden WC2E 8BE, Underground: Covent Garden, Website: www.themeatmarket.co.uk) from the same team which has a more limited menu and less of a cool vibe (it’s a eat and go kind of place) but you’re much more likely to get in without having to queue.
330 Upper Street, N1 2XQ (also in Covent Garden, Soho and Notting Hill)
When is a tapas bar not a tapas bar? When it’s a pintxos bar! A great concept that’s fun, lively and highly sociable; unlike a tapas bar where you’ll likely order multiple small dishes from a menu, here you head up to the counter and pick up your selection of tasty treats – all served with or on a pintxo (a skewer) – and then return to your table to consume. And repeat. As much as you want. Plates on the counter are continuously replenished; make sure you don’t stuff your face too quickly at the start as plates of new items keep turning up all the time. You’re given a little vase to collect your skewers, and that’s how your bill is calculated at the end. A large skewer item costs £2.95 whilst a small one is £1.95 – you can easily see how much your spending as you’re eating and budget accordingly. It’s also a great place to come for some drinks (a good selection of beers, wines, cava, champagne and cocktails) and a few light nibbles if you’re not in the mood for a heavy meal. Sample dishes include spinach and sweet potato tortilla; patatas bravas; salted cod croquettas; Iberico ham and quail’s egg on bread; gazpacho, and there are also dessert options such as churros with chocolate sauce. Pix also host something called Infinity Sundays – for £30, you can indulge in all the pintxos and cava you can consume. Mind-boggling!
86 St. John Street, EC1 (Also near Oxford Circus & in Westfield)
Serving “Vietnamese street food”, pho is in fact the national dish of that country. A big bowl of noodles served in broth with accompanying meat (meatballs, steak, chicken) or vegetables is brought to your table with your own selection of garnishes and herbs so you can make your meal to your own taste. Very filling and delicious, for that reason this place is good value.
19 Kingly Street, W1
Underground: Oxford Circus
Situated just behind Regent Street, this place is perfect for a post-shopping bite, or a pre-going-out meal. Japanese noodle and rice food, and some sushi; recommended dishes include chicken ramen, chicken teriyaki or salmon udon.
66 Chandos Place, WC2
Underground: Leicester Square/Covent Garden/Charing Cross
If you love Mexican cuisine (can you tell that I do), you must definitely come to this place! As well as normal main courses, they serve “street food” which are small plates of tacos, tostadas and quesadillas (amongst other things) to share. Get four to five dishes between two people and you’ll have plenty; each dish costs about £4. Delicious.
A curry on Brick Lane Anywhere on Brick Lane, E1
Underground: Aldgate East/Aldgate/Whitechapel/Liverpool Street
If you’re hankering after a curry whilst you’re in London, you must head to Brick Lane in east London. This famous street is almost entirely filled with curry houses – it’s just a question of picking the right one! You’ll find waiters/managers standing outside their establishments, trying to entice you in with special deals and the like. Don’t feel pressurised into agreeing to dine anywhere you don’t necessarily want to. One place I’ve found to be particularly good is The Shampan which is at 79 Brick Lane. Some places are also “BYOB” (bring your own booze) so you can stock up on wine or beer cheaply at a local supermarket, which also helps keep costs down.