This blog has been a little bit fancy lately with a lot of fine dining and glamorous travel. An email from one of you brought me back to reality. It said: “I was looking at your blog and I would love to find all the budget restaurants in London, especially in Notting Hill/Bayswater where I’m staying.”
It’s a good question as wallets can take a beating in London. After all it’s easy enough to practically mortgage your house for a meal but this blog is meant to be all about gourmet food at every price. Being naturally lazy I decided that if I was going to write a list for one person I may as well share it with everyone. So here we are, my top ten cheap eats in London. For each restaurant, click on the link for a more detailed review. Let me know if you have any good suggestions to add…
Polpo is not just cheap it is also one of the best restaurants in London right now. Based on a Venetian bacaro Polpo serves small serving plates like a bruschetta or goats cheese and roasted grapes, or spicy meatballs. The place has atmosphere in spades with a slightly frenetic but relaxed feel, the prices are affordable and most importantly the food is fantastic. Bookings only available for lunch, in the evenings be prepared to queue. If you can’t get a spot at Polpo try its little sister around the corner, Polpetto, or its other even littler sister, Spuntino.
Details: 41 Beak St, Soho W1F 9sB (Ph 020 7734 4479) Tube: Oxford Circus
The grand-daddy of London cheap eats, Tayyabs is an East End institution. Avoid the crowds of tourists on Brick Lane and instead head here for your Pakistani food fix. The atmosphere is bustling and service is minimal while still efficient. But then the food arrives and it is really good and really, really cheap. Particularly when you have alcoholic tendencies and can bring your own wine or beer with no corkage. The must order is the lamb chops. Bookings are taken (sorry this was incorrect) or be prepared to queue.
Details: 83-89 Fieldgate Street, Whitechapel, E1 1JU (Ph: 020772479543) Tube: Aldgate East
Noisy, messy and certainly not a pretty sight. That was me slurping my way through a bowl of noodles at Koya in Soho. This tiny restaurant made big waves in the London dining scene simply by specialising in one thing, Japanese udon noodles. Udon noodles are the white, thick meaty looking ones made from wheat. Bookings not taken so be prepared to queue.
Details: 49 Frith Street, Soho W1D 4SG (Ph 020 7434 4463) Tube: Tottenham Court Road
Vinoteca is primarily a wine bar, but that does not stop it serving damn good food with genuine hospitality. It has large doors opening onto the street and an open kitchen. On nice days, tables spill on to the pavement as people dine alfresco, while in winter time the simple dark timber decor lined with shelves of wine is cosy and inviting. Wine is of course a specialty but food highlights include delights such as a salad of fresh figs, mozzarella, basil and walnuts or roasted tomato and red pepper soup. Bookings only available for lunch, in the evenings be prepared to queue.
Details: 7 St John Street, Farringdon, EC1M 4AA, Tube: Farringdon or
15 Seymour place, Marylebone W1H 5BD (Ph 020 7724 7288) Tube: Bond Street
5. Pizza East
It’s all about the dough at Pizza East. Elastic and soft with a smoky char to it from the woodfired oven it is an almost perfect pizza base. The restaurant itself is in terminally cool Shoreditch. Henry Holland was at the table next to us, need I say more. Good bar area to hang out in while you wait for a table and also a good choice for big groups of people.
Details: 56 Shoreditch High Street, Shoreditch E1 6JJ (Ph 020 7729 1888) Tube: Liverpool street; or 310 Portobello Road, Notting Hill W10 5TA, Tube: Ladbroke Grove.
Taqueria is not glitzy or glamorous. It’s a no fuss Mexican restaurant but that’s how its many fans like it best. A good option for an expensive part of town. Try the margheritas while you are there as well.
Details: 139-143 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill W11 2RS (Ph 0207 229 4734)
Banh mi at City Caphe
7. City Caphe
The banh mi band wagon has well and truly rolled into town with the latest Vietnamese street food inspired eatery City Caphe. It’s a tiny little place but the sunny yellow walls and cheery red metal chairs perk things up. There’s a sense of family and history from the smiling faces behind the counter to the framed photographs on the walls of Vietnam which range from old black and white pictures to recent travel snaps. Hand written Vietnamese phrases decorate the tables along with bottles of fish sauce, hoi sin, chilli sauce and fresh mint leaves so diners can customise their food. Ideal for a quick lunch stop and bowl of pho or banh mi if you are working in the square mile or near St Pauls sight seeing.
Details: City Caphe, 17 Ironmonger Lane, London City EC2V 8EY (Tube: Bank)
8. Yalla Yalla
Yalla Yalla means hurry up in Arabic and perhaps the name refers to the Lebanese fast food on offer to take away at this hip new Soho eatery. However if you take away from Yalla Yalla you miss out on the buzz of dining in the charming, hole in the wall style dining room. Tucked away in one of Soho’s myriad of laneways you will spot Yalla Yalla from the queue of people hovering at the door. Try the lamb kibbeh or the the lahem casserole.
Details: 1 Greens Court, London W1F 0HA (Ph 020 7287 7663) Tube: Oxford Circus
Damage: Such a bargain even my mother would approve
I wanted to put one gastro pub on this list as while they can be over priced and over hyped, I think they are a great London experience. For me, The Prince Bonaparte fits the bill. There is a fire in the corner, a bar serving lots of ales and wines and since being taken over by new owners the sometimes patchy service has improved beyond belief and the menu has had a revamp. It is now almost the perfect gastro pub.
Details: 80 Chepstow Road Bayswater, W25BE Ph: 02073139491 Tube: Royal Oak
Even when it is winter in London it only takes one bite of Viet Grill’s summer rolls to transport me to Nah Trang beach in Vietnam. Yes the summer rolls are that good. Translucent rice paper is folded around tightly packed wads of vegetables and fresh, meaty prawns. Doused with some sweet chilli sauce it was easy to believe that I was thousands of miles away from Kingsland road in Shoreditch. You can book and also BYO drinks which is a great money saver.
Details: 58 Kingsland Road, Bethnal Green, E28DP (Ph 0207 7739 6686) Tube: Liverpool street
If you liked reading about the best cheap eats in London you might be interested in my list of cheap eats in Paris.