Ten Good Places To Eat On The Cheap In London

Being a seasoned traveller myself I know how important it is to watch the coins. And in a city such as London this is especially true. Which is why I’ve decided to share with you all some decent places to eat on a shoestring in this city. Of course one can essentially pick any place that is cheap and there is no shortage of cheap chain eateries like McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Wasabi, Eat, Subway etc where cheap meals can be acquired for a few quid. Most of the eateries listed below are small independent eateries in London which I think are good value for money offering decent food at low prices. I also try to include a few cheapies which offer an authentic experience of a London that is sadly disappearing.


1. Damascu Bite


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This small Syrian takeaway within spitting distance of Shoreditch High Street station and by Brick Lane in the East End of London does delicious and generous authentic lamb shawarmas using high quality and very tender lamb. A large ample lamb shawarma will set you back only £5.50 whilst a medium sized one about a pound less. This is a hell of a deal. Kebab eateries are ten a penny in London Town but what makes this place unique is that it actually cares about what it sells its customers. Most kebab places just use very cheap processed meat which I wouldn’t even give to my dog. This eatery aside, the best places in London to go for authentic, cheap and tasty kebabs are Edgware Road and Harringay Green Lanes.


2. Franco Manca


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This excellent pizza chain is ever expanding but unlike other chains this is a good one which does excellent, cheap and tasty pizzas using sourbread dough. This place has been a roaring success and there are now several Franco Manca restaurants scattered across the city. I usually go to the one located on Berwick Street in Soho just off Oxford Street. You will struggle to find equally delicious pizzas for less than £7 in this city.


3. Saravana Bhavan


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This Indian restaurant chain serves excellent and authentic South Indian food in generous portions. I especially love the Masala Dosas which are very large and are served on big metal trays with four or five different sauce condiments. What’s more it will only set you back around £3.75. The thalis are delicious too and highly recommended. There are a few of these restaurants scattered around London though sadly there are none which are centrally located. I usually go to the one in Tooting which is located in South London. Tooting is famous for its curry houses and Asian eateries yet this place is one of the best and terrific value for money.


4. Fryers Delight


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More for novelty value than a place to go for regular nourishing food, but if you want to sample original London fish and chips like its 1964 in an authentic environment far away from the trappings of globalisation and the modern world, this place is a dead cert. This fish and chips restaurant located on Theobalds Road in Holborn in central London is very much a solid remaining relic of Old London and much of the loyal clientele are locals. For atmosphere this place is one of the best and the tasty battered haddock or cod and chips comes in generous portions around the £7 mark (cheaper if you take away). Other snacks like savaloys (oi oi!!) and mushy peas are also available.


5. Beigel Bake


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Like Fryers, this supremely popular and legendary 24 hour bagel shop located on Brick Lane is an indestructible relic of Old London with prices that haven’t been adjusted for inflation since about 1979. Whenever I come here I almost always go for the salmon and cream cheese bagel for £1.60. The sweet treats are also very good. You can get a slice of apple strudel or cheese cake for slightly north of the pound mark. Ironically, the most expensive item, the salt beef bagel, is the nemesis of the offerings of this place and is truly rank beyond belief; keep clear.


6. La Porchetta Pollo Bar


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Continuing on our journey of old London eateries, the Pollo bar is a good and cheap no nonsense Italian restaurant located on Old Compton Street in the heart of Soho in central London. Like nearby Franco Manca, this is a great place to go for a cheap Italian dinner. Unlike Franco Manca, this place has history. This restaurant was a favourite of the original Pink Floyd frontman Syd Barrett during the 1960s.


7. Wong Kei


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Wong Kei for a long time had the unique reputation of being the restaurant in London with the rudest staff. However since 2014 and a change of management, I read that much of this rudeness has sadly evaporated – but this can be resurrected if you try! This is still very much a cheap and authentic multiple storey Chinese diner located on Wardour street on the edge of Chinatown which serves a wide range of decent Chinese dishes with a complementary metal pot of green tea for around the £6-7 mark. When I recently came here for a meal I fortunately encountered some brusqueness. I am not very good at making decisions and as I spent a long time trying to find somewhere to sit with my own space I could see that the waiters were getting pissed off with me (a great start!!). ‘You gonnah eat here or wah?!’ snapped one of the waiters. I hit pay dirt and in surprisingly little time. I could’ve remained indecisive on where to sit and have taken it further. A seat with my own space was soon made available and I made a dash for it. One of the waiters came with a dirty plastic menu which he smacked down on my table with no emotion and like he was trying to kill a mosquito. A pot of green tea was also brought to me with a similar level of grace and etiquette.
I ordered a hearty and tasty bowl of shredded duck, with loads of sprouts and other vegetables with noodles, which (with the green tea) came to £6.90.
I think if you want to experience the apex of rudeness and brusqueness at this place, the best time to come here is after a night out around 2-4am when this place gets packed and you may only have a limited amount of time to finish your food to make way for the queues of other late night eaters.


8. Indian Veg


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This is a solid Indian vegetarian buffet restaurant for under £7 a head located off Chapel Market in Islington close to Angel tube station. The decor is nothing to write home about and all the endless articles and slogans preaching the virtues of a veg diet plastered on every area of space are enough to give anyone unnecessary vertigo. Yet I also find the whole thing quite comical. I try to sit away from the massive murial-like article showing the gradual deterioration of someone on a meat diet from their 20s until their 60s. This aside, I like the food here. The buffet contains a decent selection of potato, veg and tofu carries with chick pea, pakora and onion bhaji trays and a tray of good quality rice. In addition there are a few good salad selections to prevent the whole buffet from being too much of a starch fest. Recommended


9. Sonargaon


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This is an unpretentious and underrated Bangladeshi buffet restaurant located on the quieter end of Brick Lane. Sonargaon gets unfairly bad reviews which for the most part it doesn’t deserve. Yet this is not a place to go to if you are focused on clean eating. Many of the curry dish trays are high in industrial level quantities of clarified butter and cheap refined oils. If you are sensitive to MSG, perhaps this is not the place for you. On the other hand, if you want unlimited quantities of filling South Asian fare for under eight quid this is a great place. What’s more, it has none of the tourist trappings of the plethora of other curry houses located on Brick Lane. Many of the clientele are locals and after Ramadan you could be mistaken for being in a busy restaurant in downtown Dhaka.


10. Fresco


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I was going to list Maoz, a wonderful little Middle Eastern eatery located on Old Compton Street which serves hearty, healthy and delicious falafels with lashings of humus and mountains of fresh salads for just a few coins. Sadly it has recently closed down and has been replaced by some trendy ice tea bar. As a consequence I’ve had to look elsewhere and it gives me great pleasure to have stumbled upon this little gem of an eatery located on Westbourne Grove close to Notting Hill Gate. This is an excellent Lebanese restaurant which serves very tasty falafel wraps with delicious homemade hummus and a selection of excellent homemade salads. I ordered the Falafel Wrap Special which contains well made falafel balls, hummus and a delicious spinach and pomegranate salad. And for less than a fiver. This is an excellent deal.


by Nicholas Peart

29th August 2016

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