Top ten cheap eats in London

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.”

Prawns at Polpo's sister restaurant Polpetto
Prawns at Polpo’s sister restaurant Polpetto
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
Tempura noodles at Koya
Tempura noodles at Koya
3. Koya
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
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
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)
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.


  1. Although biased, I think this list is missing some noodle action – a bowl of cheap Chinatown noodles will set you back a mere fiver. And if in a group, you could do worse than dim sum for an inexpensive lunch.

  2. What a great post – all over London and all lovely food. I haven’t been to Polpo but I loved Polpetto when I went! Have shared this on my RSS feed for all to see 🙂

  3. Nice round up! I do find a cheap eat so satisfying. Had a bash of my own also.

  4. I have heard so many good things about Yalla Yalla lately. My friend kept going on and on about the potatoes. Adding it to my must try list.

  5. You can book Tayyabs. Mirch Masala nearby is very good if you don’t want to queue.

    Dim sum at Dragon Palace (Earl’s Court) or Dragon Castle (Elephant & Castle) will guarantee you being stuffed for roughly a tenner.

    Chilli Cool will ensure a hefty Sichuan dose for less than £20.

    Hung’s on Wardour St does really decent noodle soups for around £5.

    Moolis for delicious £5 wraps though not really a restaurant setting.

  6. Now I really want a bahn-mi from City Caphe! Nice list – and particularly apt given the state of my bank account…

  7. Maybe I should try Polpo again, had a really mediocre meal on my last visit. Love that you included City Caphe!

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

  8. I LOVE Yalla Yalla.

    Also, there’s a pretty good veggie Indian place on Percy St (I forget the name, irritatingly) that’s exceptionally reasonably priced.

  9. Great post and timely, have recently agreed to treat some friends out for a meal and the ol’ spondoolicks aren’t looking too great at the moment.

  10. Timing! Was talking to someone about mine yesterday. Have my best 5 brunches coming up today and then will be cheap eats, although how to limit it to 10? 🙁

    Nice list!

  11. Polpo at number one?? Been several times and found it pretty average. Tables are soooo close together, they might as well squeeze us up on one long bench

  12. If you want something South of the River then Paddyfield in Balham is great for cheap Thai (BYO only £1.50 pp corkage) and they bring free stuff to tempt you out of your ‘I’ll just have the Thai red curry’ habit.
    Also weekday lunchtimes at the Ragged Canteen in the Beaconsfield Gallery in Vauxhall – fantastic, fresh, homemade food and cakes.

  13. If you want something South of the river try:
    Paddyfield in Balham – great cheap Thai with BYO and only £1.50 pp corkage. They also bring you free stuff to tempt you from your ‘I’ll just have the Thai red curry’ habit.
    Ragged Canteen at Beaconsfield Gallery (Newport Street, Vauxhall) for weekday lunches and weekend teas – great fresh, homemade food (and some great art too!)

  14. The Real Food Market at Southbank Centre is on every weekend and has some really delicious streetfood like super fresh paella from Jamon Jamon or delectable arancini from the Arancini Brothers. If you like fish, the Healthy Yummies ladies do the most amazing mackeral in a sourdough sandwich and if Ghanaian food is your thing, Spincah and Agushi are amazing

  15. Yalla Yalla has definitely piqued my interest! I grew up in the Middle East and it’s definitely a phrase I heard many a time.. 🙂 Will check it out next time I pop to Soho!

  16. Great list, sad not to see Mien Tay on there. def no.1 on my ‘cheap eat list’ and pretty high on an ‘any budget’ list as well!!!

  17. very good list, I would agree on most of the places I have been to myself and there are quite a few I have to try such as City Caphe or Pizza East. I was not so keen on Polpo, preferred Spuntino of them four.
    Thinking now I should do a cheap eats list too, such a brilliant idea!

  18. Tayyabs do take bookings. Not sure why not more people don’t book. They even have a online form.

  19. I notice a recurring theme here (“doesn’t take bookings so be prepared to queue”). Most times it’s the queue that puts me off. In any case, I can’t imagine that if you strike out at Polpo that you’re more likely to get a table at the even-smaller Polpetto.

    Lizzie’s correct – I’ve booked many times at Tayyabs without having to take the private room (though I love that there’s a photo there of Daniel Craig who has to wear this VIP tag – as if Tayyabs wasn’t going to let him up into that private room without his wearing that tag, lol).

    I was super curious what was going to make the list in Notting Hill, though. I haven’t eaten at the Prince Bonaparte in ages, but good to hear it’s under new, improved management, and I’ll have to give Taqueria another try. Thanks for the list!

  20. Mr Noodles – I do have Koya on there for noodle action but you are right – dim sum is a great budget option in a group.

    Nancy – Thanks hope it helps

    Oliver – Great tips, will have to check out some of the places on your list

    Thats London – Hope you like it

    Lizzie – I had thought you could only book Tayyabs in large groups, I have amended the post to reflect your comments. Thanks for the tips – all good ones.

    London Rob – Sounds like my bank balance

    LondonFoodie – Yes I love City Caphe. Polpo worth another shot I think.

    Blonde – Let me know once you remember!

    Food Urchin – Lots of good options out there hopefully

    Niamh – So hard to limit to ten I agree.

    Anon – The tables are close together but I sort of like that – adds to the buzz.

    Old Free and Single – Thanks for the south of the river tips – an area this post is probably lacking on.

    Melissa – Thanks for the tip – sounds good

    Moofy – Yes I love Yalla Yalla – it’s great

    Mise en Place – I did put Viet Grill if that is any consolation!

    Ute – Interested to see what you come up with

    Anon – I think people don’t know about it (Like me!) I thought you had to be in a large group. Have amended the post to reflect that.

    American in London – Yes no bookings is a recurring theme sadly I hadn’t noticed the Daniel Craig picture in Tayyabs – hilarious!

  21. A £12 pizza is NOT cheap.

  22. Ok guys heres a tip: for a absolutely amazing sour-dough (thin crispy) pizza for around a fiver head off to: I believe was voted Time Out best cheap eat in London. Bon apetit

  23. Brilliant list, GC. For a fabulous value Italian restaurant, I would add Trullo in Islington – but book well in advance (it’s popular for a reason). Some of the best Italian food I’ve had in London, and definitely the cheapest for the quality.

  24. Anon – I agree you can get cheaper pizzas but I think Pizza East is reasonably priced for the quality, service and atmosphere of the restaurant.

    Bernando – Thanks for sharing that – you are right Franco Manco has been lauded a few times in Time Out. Another great pizza destination.

    Greedy Diva – Ah yes I am desperate to get to Trullo!

  25. Enjoyed this list and will try – thanks

  26. Totally agree on Vinoteca – a long-time favourite of mine and never disappoints. Great list!

  27. Y’all REALLY ought to try the Hampstead Creperie on Hampstead High St, outside the King William IV pub. Their crepes are immensly delicious and only 4-6 quid! (They really are like a whole meal, I just adore them. Best London food ever!)

  28. Also, at the top of Charlotte St has superyummy pizzas from 4-6 quid.

  29. noodle king on bethnal green road should be on here – its the biggest plate of noodles you ever done seen! & so so cheap too. its a definite win!

    there’s a place on holloway road that does £1 mini pizza’s. i’m not entireely sure of its name, but it’s near bbq express, near where Liverpool road meets holloway.

  30. Anon – Good to hear

    Jeanne – I know – I was back there last night actually – love it

    Jen – Thanks for the tips, they both sound great

    Naked Vandal – Bargain!

  31. Great post dude

    if you want to watch “South Asian Street Food You Ought To Try!”

  32. Thanks for this post, always love to hear about this sort of place.

    I used to work near city caphe, while it is great i did think it’s location meant it wasnt as cheap as its peers. How about Banh Mi Bay (Theobolds Rd) or Chao (Whitecross st)? theirs are larger and cheaper!

  33. Anon – Thanks for the link

    Roym – Yes they probably have to charge a bit more at City Caphe to pay for those city rents. Good tips but as I haven’t been to the others you mention I couldn’t include them in the list. I have only included places I have reviewed in the last year. Next time…

  34. wow looks like some fantastic places to eat

  35. Hello,

    Nice post. Thanks to providing these best restaurants in London. These restaurants prices are affordable and most importantly, also the food is fantastic. Thanks a lot…

  36. This is a good list! Some of my favourite restaurants in London are Filipino ones. I’m working my way through this list at the moment:

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