London: 5 cheap eats in London

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A few Cheapos eat at The Chapel pub in Marylebone. Cheers!)

London can be a tricky city for dining. Long criticized for the quality of its fare (“It’s no Paris!”), the city has undergone a gastro-awakening over the past decade that has benefited the bellies, if not the wallets, of its diners.

So what’s a Cheapo to eat? Here are our dining tips, all tested and tried:

1. Go for conveyer belt sushi!

We were initially turned off and chips!

Sure, we try to stay away from battered and fried, but you have to go there at least once during your stay. Our favorite fish and chips joint is the Rock & Sole Plaice (47 Endell St, WC2 ) in Covent Garden. For under £15, you can order a whole fish and taste a variety of dipping sauces, and have your chips too! If you can’t tube it to this spot, you can usually find decent (and cheaper) fish and chips in any neighborhood. Just steer clear of major tourist haunts (Read: Leicester Square) and larger chains like Slug and Lettuce that claim they have fresh oceanic fare. When in doubt, ask the locals!

3. Kebob it!

We’ve been there: It’s midnight, the pub just closed, and your tum-tum is grumbling. If you’re in Bayswater, head for a kebob stand on busy Queensway where, for a few pounds, you can get your lamb on. Doll it up with the fixins, which usually include peppers, tomatoes, hummus, tahini, and cucumber sauce.

We recommend The Taza Kebab House, where the lamb is always succulent and the pita sandwiches are filling.

4. Join the chain gang.

You may normally steer clear of chain restaurants, but local chains can introduce you to local tastes (mmmm…. mayonnaise!) and help your budget. Big name chain restaurants like Wagamama (Japanese) and Pret-A-Manger (eat-in or take-out sandwiches and coffee) are London mainstays, located throughout the city. Smaller chains like Hummus Bros offer a unique dining experience without exotic prices. Many of these chains offer lunch specials daily.

5. Get roasted.

Sunday is the best day to partake in a yummy, often three-course, gastro-pub meal. The menus are usually prix fixe, but you can always order stuff separately. And, if you haven’t been to a Sunday “roast,” it’s a great way to see London culture at its finest—and hungriest—as piles of bangers and mash, roasted chickens and beef, and plenty o’ pints are consumed. We love The Chapel Pub in Marylebone (48 Chapel Street, London, NW1 5DP ), where we’re always warmly greeted with a comfy seat and a fantastic meal.

About the author

Meredith Franco Meyers

About the author: Meredith earned an MFA in fiction writing at The New School in New York City. Her feature stories and articles have appeared in Ladies' Home Journal, American Baby, Self, Bridal Guide, Time Out New York, Fitness and more. She joined EuroCheapo in summer 2007.

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6 thoughts on “London: 5 cheap eats in London”

  1. Ahh…I always loved the 2 for 1 deals at Threshers. And lest we forget that oddball casino in Bayswater where, for signing up (it costs you nothing), you can utilize the bar where beers are about 2 quid each and wine is 3. Just don’t gamble away your savings.

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  2. Hi poetloverrebelspy! As a guide, the Skiddaw does the ‘host your own roast’ thing at £10/head and you need a minimum of 8 people. I have a link in my post up there the main page at the Skiddaw. If you click through, they have a menu up on-line. The prices they cite are pretty typical for London Pub Grub.

    The West Cornwall Pasty Co is a chain of pie stores in the UK and you can get a tasty hot pie or a fold over pastry pocket thing (what we call a ‘pasty’ over here) for around 2 squids. I’m not sure about the fish and chips near the Tower, but a ‘poundy’ seems a little on the low side.

    As for picnic items from Tesco (or Sainsbury’s), the sky is the limit in terms of choice. It seems like there is a Tesco Metro or Tesco Express on just about every street corner in London these days, particularly around Hyde Park, so you shouldn’t have to worry about lugging around a picnic basket unles you really want the effect. Just remember though that buying anything from a UK supermarket chain mean lots of plastic wrap. The big 4 retailers seem to have all the addiction of the Japanese for over packaging, but none of the knack.

    London is one big cheap drink fridge. The same supermarkets that will sell you your picnicking supplies will also sell you a 660ml can of beer for about £1.50 and a bottle of wine for £3. Of course, it won’t be good wine, but it will do the job. Check out Oddbins, Threshers or Nicolas if you want some more choice. They have price lists on line to give you an idea of how much you’ll have to spend to get completely and totally shellacked…but in a classy way!

    Hopefully that will get you started. I’m sure Pete will be able to come up with a few more suggestions on the cheap drinks front and also which bars and clubs in London are OK with guys dancing on their tables.

    Love

    ~M

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  3. Hello cheapos!

    Could you put some prices on the meals you list? Only #2 gives us a sense of the budget you’re looking at. I’m especially wondering about the price p.p. for roasting.

    On my last trip, I noticed a huge crowd gobbling up fish or chicken and chips for 1 quid next to the Tower of London. Noambit highlights a place that serves pasties fairly cheap near Covent Garden. And what about the ever-popular Tesco picnic?

    Got any advice for cheap drinks?

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  4. 6. Another Brick in the Wall! You can’t leave London without tasting the local cuisine of choice … that’s right, Indian food! London sports an Indian joint on just about every corner, but for the real deal you have to head to Brick Lane. There are about 20 Indian restaurants on this ancient London road, all good, and all aggressively vying for your business as you browse the menus. Hold out for the best deal. Groups especially can negotiate as much as a 30% discount plus a free beer or glass of vino.

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  5. First, I must say that you have a startlingly attractive group of people gracing the lead picture for this blog entry.

    Mere is quite correct in asserting that London is undergoing a renaissance of good food at the moment. While The Chapel remains unchallenged at the top of the Sunday Roast pile, honourable mentions must also go to The Skiddaw at 46 Chippenham Road, Maida Vale, W9 2AF (nearest tube Maida Vale or Warwick Avenue). The Skids offers a wide selection of beers and great food in the afternoons or evenings. If you fancy a sunday roast with all the trimmings – and are organised enough to nail down your numbers by Wednesday – you can call ahead and book a table. The pub will then roast a whole leg of lamb or strip of beef or whatever you want (within reason) and serve it to you ready to carve on a big wooden platter.

    In the same area, the Prince Alfred on the corner of Formosa Street and Castellain Road, Maida Vale, W9 1EE (Nearest tube: Warwick Ave), is also great for a pint and a meal. The main pub offers very high ceilings and impressive Victorian carved wood panelling with small ‘snugs’ for clustering in on cold winter days. During the summer, it’s not uncommon for traffic to be delayed in the narrow streets as people spill out and enjoy the community flavour of Little Venice. Attached to the pub is a fully fledged restaurant called The Formosa Dining Room. Although the prices get a little ‘toppy’ (£8/£15) there’s still enough on the menu for the budget conscious. As the pub is quite close to the Radio 1 studios, the ‘tosser’ factor can get a little high, which is the only draw back to this great local boozer.

    It sometimes seems that London is just one big pub. It’s easy to get confused by the choice and even easier to stumble into a place that will wreck your memories as fast as a slightly dodgey prawn cocktail. When you’ve lived in London for a while, you can usually spot a likely prospect fairly quickly though. Here’s a quick guide of what to look for:

    1. Stay away from anywhere with blinking, noisey ‘fruit machines’ (think Vegas slot machine without the class).

    2. Stay away from – actually sprint away from – any pub that advertises the fact that it has 50 million sports channels and the that ‘All Premier League Games’ are shown. Generally 1 & 2 go together like e.coli and a trip to the hospital. These establishments are the hoe of the over cooked meat pie, the bargain basement packet of ‘crisps’ and the warm pint of beer.

    3. However, if the pub advertises that it is showing ‘6 Nations Rugby’ take a peek inside and at least look at the menu. The Rugby crowd is generally a little more civilised than the football crowd and they do enjoy a decent feed.

    4. If you find a pub you like, try to arrive a little early for the service or to call ahead and see if you can book a table. The quality pubs are always jammed with people and it never hurts to ensure you don’t have to fight some burly northern gent for a place to rest your weary feet.

    5. If you’re waiting for a larger group to arrive, don’t be afraid to defend your table with your life. A favourite tactic of the London Pub Cuckoo is to approach you smiling and ask if they can just ‘sit in the seats until your friends arrive’. Before you know it, they have 10 of their mates clustered around you and they refuse to move when your friends arrive. Don’t let them sit down in the first place and if they do, don’t be scared to mete out some justice with a baseball bat and a bicycle chain!

    See you all soon.

    ~M

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