So where to go then when you’re scrimping the cash and have literally got a tenner left to your name? Well have no fear readers, as we’ve done all that work and research for you. From takeaway, street-food-style spots to BYOB gems, here’s our rundown of the best cheap eats in London:
1. Marie’s Cafe, Waterloo
Kicking off this cheap eats in London roundup is a real legend of the South London foodie scene. Fry-ups by day, Thai food by night – what could be better? Great portions, great prices, and their BYOB policy is pretty great, too! Marie’s Cafe provides all of these things (and more) to make for a brilliant, unpretentious, relaxed evening.
Standout dishes include their oyster sauce stir fry (£5), their spicy jungle curry (£5.50) and their drunken noodles (£6.50), and corkage is just a quid per person. A decent and tasty Thai meal for under a tenner? Winner, winner, chicken dinner. Be warned though – it gets very popular so be prepared to queue.
You’ll find Marie’s Cafe at 90 Lower Marsh, SE1 7AB. Nearest station is Waterloo.
2. Delhi Grill Indian Canteen, Angel
We’ve got some pretty banging Indian food all across our beloved capital, but if you’re looking for something that won’t break the bank, then you could do worse than heading to Delhi Grill Indian Canteen.
Based in Chapel Market, it’s a small Punjabi-style ‘Dhaba’ (or Indian roadside restaurant) decked out in Bollywood posters – and the food here is bloomin’ delicious. Offering plenty of street food specialities, you can get everything from sheekh kebabs (£5.95) to ‘aloo tikki chaat’ (£5.50) to succulent lamb biryani (£11.50). They’ve also got some vegan-friendly options on the menu too.
You’ll find Delhi Green Indian Grill at 21 Chapel Market, London, N1 9EZ. Nearest station is Angel.
3. Wolkite Ethiopian Restaurant, Islington
Located just around the corner from the Emirates Stadium in Holloway – AKA the home of Arsenal – Wolkite Ethiopian Restaurant isn’t exactly hard to find. Unlike with football though, you’re actively encouraged to use your hands here.
That’s because this family-run spot whips up gluten-free injera – a large, sour flatbread made out of fermented flour – accompanied by many different varieties of spicy stew. The name of the game at this Ethiopian restaurant is to simply tear off a piece of injera, grab some food with it, roll it up, pop the whole thing into your mouth and repeat until finished.
Wash it down with some sweet honey wine or a couple of ice-cold bottles of Meta lager, and you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in town. Dishes range from around £7-£11.
You’ll find Wolkite Ethiopian Restaurant at 82 Hornsey Road, London, N7 7NN. Nearest stations are Arsenal and Holloway Road.
4. Roti King, Euston
Roti King is a tiny Malaysian-come-Singaporean spot that often has queues stretched around the corner – which goes to show just how popular this place is. The roti canai is the star attraction here, but there’s much more on offer in this halal-certified spot.
The ‘nasi lemak’ – steamed coconut rice served with peanuts, fried anchovies, cucumber, egg, sambal and spiced fried chicken – is pretty much to die for, and there are some excellent noodle dishes to boot too. All of the above comes in at around £7.50-£9 per dish, so this is a great place to come if you’re looking to save the pennies.
You’ll find Roti King at 40 Doric Way, London, NW1 1LH. Nearest station is Euston.
5. Pizza Union, Various Locations
Pizza Union is ideal for the times you fancy a carbalicious treat, but you’re not up for splashing the cash. A proper, human-sized margarita costs just £4.95. But, if we were you, we’d opt for the Regina for a modest £7.50, topped with mozzarella, parmesan, ham, mushrooms and black olives. Or, if you like it spicy, go for the Calabria with mascarpone, nduja sausage and rocket.
Whatever you go for, you’ll never spend more than £8 (unless you pile your pie with extra toppings), so it’s a proper Italian pizza for proper cheap prices. And, for the ultimate carb overload, finish your meal with a dessert of Sicilian cannoli, which is a steal at just £1.50! No, seriously. There are also gluten–free options too.
You’ll find Pizza Union at various different locations in London. You can find out more here.
6. Padella, London Bridge and Shoreditch
Another of the best cheap eats in London here. Legendary both for the quality of the pasta and the length of their queues, the original Borough Market site has won legions of fans for the refined classic pici cacio e pepe (simply pasta, parmesan, and black pepper) – which costs just £11.50 – and the melt-in-your-mouth fettuccine with nduja, mascarpone and a lemon drizzle (£12).
If you’re on a real budget, then go for the tagliarini with dried chilli, garlic and pangrattato. It costs just £8.50, and that’s before we even mention the £7 aperitivos… Make sure you also check out their Shoreditch branch, which has some wicked staff and a lovely open-air kitchen counter area. Go for the pappardelle with Dexter beef shin ragu or the fettuccine with cobbled lane nduja. Both are absolutely delicious and still perfectly affordable! Winner, winner.
You’ll find Padella at 6 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1TQ and 1 Phipp Street, London, EC2A 4PS. Nearest stations are London Bridge and Shoreditch High Street.
7. Poptata, Various Locations
There’s never a bad time to pop-ta Poptata (sorry)! We’ve tried out their legendary street fries and were certainly not disappointed. We went for the parmesan fries with pink garlic mayo (!) and pulled chicken, and the far less photogenic ‘guacafries’, topped with smashed avo’, halloumi and a red roasted pepper sauce.
Both are equally delicious and the portions are so huge that you might need a lie down afterwards. And best thing of all? Their loaded fries start at just £4 a pop.
You’ll find Poptata at four different locations in London. You can find out more here.
8. Phat Phuc, Chelsea
You may be surprised to find that one of the best cheap eats in London is based in Chelsea, but our capital often has a way of throwing a spanner in the works. Aside from having a pretty brilliant name, Phat Phuc – which incidentally translates to ‘happy buddha’ in Vietnamese – also has some pretty brilliant food at pretty decent prices. Which is quite frankly what we’re looking for all the time…
An authentic spot set in a courtyard just off the glamorous King’s Road, they rustle up everything here from spicy coconut laksas to steaming bowls of pho – and all of it is for around just a tenner. You can also buy a Phat Phuc t-shirt (£11.95) here too. You know, just FYI.
You’ll find Phat Phuc at The Courtyard, 151 Sydney Street, London, SW3 6NT. Nearest station is Sloane Square.
9. Xi’an Impression, Highbury and Islington
Another Islington establishment here, Xi’an Impression is a cosy little spot that serves some of the best Chinese food in the whole of London. Fact! Also right by Arsenal stadium – football fans you can thank us later – it’s a 12-seater kinda affair here and is BYOB too. Plus, it’s all incredibly good value.
They serve everything here from slurpable, hand-pulled noodles to wonton chicken soup and melt-in-the-mouth dumplings. Pretty much every dish is under a tenner, so if you’re looking for some real bang for your buck, then you’ve really come to the right place here.
You’ll find Xi’an Impression at 117 Benwell Road, London, N7 7BW. Nearest stations are Arsenal and Holloway Road.
10. Falafel & Shawarma, Camberwell
Our penultimate addition to this roundup of the best cheap eats in London is a right little hidden gem in Camberwell. Falafel & Shawarma specialises in – yep, you guessed it – falafel and shawarma.
Their wraps are an absolute steal here at just £3.50 last time we checked, and you can fill them with all the goodies (chillies, onions, garlic mayo, lettuce and haloumi) you want. Don’t miss a chance to try the vine leaves and mezze plates for some real authentic fare. Note – it’s cash only here.
You’ll find Falafel & Shawarma at 27 Camberwell Church Street, London, SE5 8TR. Nearest station is Denmark Hill.
11. Happy Face Pizza, Various Locations
As previously mentioned, we’re not exactly short of excellent pizza joints in London Town. And Happy Face is no different. With three sites dotted across King’s Cross, Victoria and Brent Cross, they specialise in Neapolitan-style pizzas, starting from just a fiver a pop! An absolute steal we stay.
Renowned for its puffy light dough and punchy flavours, the pizzas here are made using a 72-hour dough ferment to create a lighter, fluffier crust. Plus, if you head to their King’s Cross branch, then make your way to the hidden underground bar SUPERMAX, which offers negronis for just £6 with a plate of cicchetti. Sign us up!
You’ll find Happy Face Pizza at three different locations in London. You can find out more here.
12. Fat Hippo, Shoreditch
Rounding off this list of the best cheap eats in London is the Fat Hippo, an independent burger chain which has just opened its first London spot right in the heart of Shoreditch.
Mouthwatering options here include the ‘stinky pete’ – a lovely concoction of a double patty, blue cheese, onion jam and jalapeños – and the ‘pb+jj’ – a mix of double patty with American cheese, chunky peanut butter, bacon jam and smoked chilli jelly. Better yet, you’ll be able to relish select burgers and fries for £8 until 4pm, as well as the ingeniously-named ‘hippo hour’ – two courses for £15 and three courses for £17.50 from 5-6pm on weekdays.
You’ll find Fat Hippo at 5-9 Great Eastern Street, London, EC2A 3EJ. Nearest station is Shoreditch High Street.
So there you have it – a roundup of the best cheap eats in London. Whether you’re feeling the squeeze due to the cost of living crisis (sigh) or are counting the pennies near the end of the month, we hope this roundup gives you all the inspiration you need for a cheap night on the town! You can thank us later…
Also published on Medium.