By Meredith Franco
London can be a tricky city for dining. Long criticized for the quality of its fare ("It's no Paris!"), in recent years the city has undergone gastro-awakening 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.
Nowadays, London cuisine has a lot more to offer than fish and chips, though the British seafood standby is still a great option. Photo: Julia Manzerova.
1. Go for conveyor belt sushi!
We were initially turned off by the robotic, ever-moving feel of these establishments, which are frequently seen in London's malls and Tube stations, but the low prices always lured us back to the belt. Eventually, we even got a hang of it. (Not counting the time the California rolls spun out on our table.) We're big fans because you watch all the sushi and sashimi as it's prepared, so you know it's fresh. You can also ask the chef to add a little extra something (Wasabi? Extra roe?) to your particular dish. Hey, if we're conveyor converts, you can be too.
Try Yo Sushi, which has tons of locations all across London.
The Rock & Sole Plaice is a Cheapo choice for fantastic fish and chips. Photo: bradlauster.
2. Eat with the fishes—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.
The Chapel Pub in Marylebone serves up delicious food complemented by a welcoming atmosphere. Photo: Ewan Munro.
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 meats 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.
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