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It is possible to get a cheap, value-for-money meal in London—even in one of its busiest neighborhoods. If you don’t mind brusque service, unassuming menus or slightly quirky surroundings, you’ll find plenty of budget-friendly gems in the heart of Soho.
Here’s a rundown of some reliable restaurants in Soho, suitable for the slimmest of wallets:
Trattoria da Aldo
51 Greek Street, W1D 4EH
Tel: 020 7437 3985
Open Monday to Saturday, lunch and dinner
The Trattoria da Aldo is a charming little Italian restaurant with checked tablecloths and wonky little booths. The traditional menu features a comforting carbonara with a liberal helping of cream and a very tasty lasagna. Bread and oil is served with everything, and a filling main costs around £6 to £11. Service is gruff but efficient, and it’s entertaining to listen to the old-timers and staff chatting in the back.
21 Bateman Street, W1D 3AL
Tel: 020 7734 0954
Open Monday to Saturday
The eccentric little Lorelei is patronized by Soho veterans, vintage types, and savvy diners with an eye for a bargain. Simple pizzas (from about £6) are the main event, and you can bring your own booze. If you don’t mind the slightly oddball décor (note the mermaid mural on the wall) and furniture that’s seen better days, it’s a lot of fun.
10 Old Compton Street, W1D 4TF
Tel: 020 7439 2275
Taro is a reliable Japanese place in the bustling tail-end of the Old Compton stretch. You’ll get minimalist canteen-style surrounds, and tasty, straightforward Japanese food. A small bento box at £8.80 (washed down with an Asahi beer for £2.80) provides a perfectly substantial main meal. There’s another branch on Brewer Street.
18 Old Compton Street, W1D 4TN
Tel: 020 7287 1066
Affordable breakfasts and lunches are the order of the day at this Soho institution without airs. It’s a traditional little English café that doesn’t appear to have changed in decades. No-frills service is accompanied by no-frills food, and it’s cheap (mains for around £5), filling and full of local characters.
Fish & Chips
20 Berwick Street, W1F 0PY
Tel: 020 7437 3280
Fish and chips is as traditional as British cuisine gets, and this old-fashioned chippy doesn’t disappoint. Portions are huge (and cost around £6) and on Friday lunchtimes there’s a line out the door.
14 St Anne’s Court, W1F 0BD
Tel: 020 7734 8994
Open Monday to Saturday
A healthier choice is this tiny Thai joint, which serves lunches (for around £5) to local office workers. Papaya does a very passable Pad Thai, served with or without peanuts and chili. There’s room for about 1.5 people to “dine in”, but otherwise it’s a strictly take-out affair.
10 Poland Street, W1F 8PZ
Tel: 020 7287 7575
A cheap and cheerful American-themed diner, Bodean’s serves up hearty meat and potato dishes at rock-bottom prices. Deals abound, such as ribs, pulled pork, and chicken, plus fries, coleslaw and a beer, all for £10. A shock for the arteries, maybe, but it will certainly sustain you for a big night out in Soho.
About the author: Lara Kavanagh is a travel editor and freelance writer based in London, and has also had the great pleasure of living in and writing about Paris. Top vintage shopping, great food and quirky nightlife are her favorite things about London.