Where to go when you’re scrimping the cash and are all but counting down the hours until your next paycheque? Given how expensive London is, it can seem like there’s nowhere to go where food doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Well, have no fear readers – we’ve done the work and research for you. From takeaway, street-food-style spots to BYOB gems, here’s our rundown of the best cheap eats in London:
1. Marie’s Cafe, Waterloo
Proper British fry-ups by day, Thai food by night – what could be better? How about the prices and portion sizes? Marie’s Cafe is an absolute godsend for those after a cheap meal out – and their BYOB policy is pretty great, too! Stir fries and curries start at just £5.50, and you can even get Pad Thai or Drunken Noodles for a piddling £6.50. With corkage just a quid per person, you can net yourself a tasty Thai meal for under a tenner! Be warned though – it gets very popular so be prepared to queue.
📍 90 Lower Marsh, SE1 7AB. Nearest station is Waterloo.
A common bug-bear for lovers of tacos is the sheer cost of them in our capital. Heck, I’ve seen individual tacos priced at £6 or more – for just one taco! Fortunately, the cult-fave Sonora Taquería is here to save the day with its flour tortillas and affordable prices. Tacos start at £3.50, but it’s on the ‘sides’ menu where you’ll find the IYKYK cheap eats. Sonora’s Bean Taco and Bean Quesadilla – priced at £1 and £2 respectively – belie their relative simplicity with incredible quality and unbelievable taste. They’re so good that I’ve never visited without ordering at least one Bean Taco, regardless of what else I order… Like Marie’s, it’s a popular joint so be prepared to queue on the weekends! (Or just head over on Thursday and skip the line entirely).
📍 208 Stoke Newington High Street, N16 7HU. Nearest station is Stoke Newington.
3. Delhi Grill, Angel
We’ve got some pretty banging Indian food all across our beloved capital, but if you’re looking for something that won’t break the bank, then you could do worse than heading to Delhi Grill. The small Punjabi-style ‘Dhaba’ (or Indian roadside restaurant) has been decked out in Bollywood posters and the food is bloomin’ delicious. With a focus on street food specialities, you can get everything from sheekh kebabs (£7.25) to lamb biryani (£12.95). If there are two of you, you could opt for the ‘Delhi Grill’, which serves two for less than £10 each. They’ve also got some vegan-friendly options on the menu.
📍 21 Chapel Market, London, N1 9EZ. Nearest station is Angel.
4. Roti King, various locations
Roti King started as a tiny Malaysian/Singaporean spot in Euston that has now set its sights on London domination, with new sites opening all over our city. The roti canai is the star attraction here, but there’s much more on offer. The nasi lemak – steamed coconut rice served with peanuts, fried anchovies, cucumber, egg, sambal and spiced fried chicken – is pretty much to die for, and there are some excellent noodle dishes to boot. A good half of the menu comes in at under £10, with generous portions, earning its place on this list.
📍 Find your nearest Roti King here.
5. Pizza Union, various Locations
Pizza Union is ideal for the times you fancy a carbalicious treat, but you’re not up for splashing the cash. A proper, human-sized Margherita costs just £5.95. But, if we were you, we’d opt for the Calabria for a modest £7.95, with mozzarella, mascarpone, nduja, and rocket. Even if you opt for the most expensive pie on their menu, you’ll pay just £8.95 for a pizza piled high with meats. That’s less than a Margherita at most London pizzerias! And, for the ultimate carb overload, finish your meal with a Sicilian cannoli for just £1.50. No, seriously! (Psst… there are gluten–free options too.)
Find your nearest Pizza Union here.
Given London’s propensity for outrageously expensive Italian restaurants, this may seem a surprising inclusion – but hear us out… At Padella, the pasta dishes (which people queue up to try!) largely run between £12-14. Now that may cause some sticker shock compared to other inclusions on this list, but it’s a far cry from many places that charge well in excess of £20 for a plate of pasta. And you can even get a plate of tagliarini with dried chilli, garlic, and pangrattato for less than a tenner.
Oh, and did we mention that they’ve even been recognised by MICHELIN with a Bib Gourmand for “good quality, good value cooking”? How’s that for a recommendation?
📍 6 Southwark Street, SE1 1TQ & 1 Phipp Street, EC2A 4PS. Nearest stations are London Bridge and Shoreditch High Street.
7. Poptata, Croydon and Shoreditch
There’s never a bad time to pop-ta Poptata (sorry)! These roving, loaded fries vendors don’t just serve up cheap eats, they might just serve up your favourite fries in the city! A particular favourite (especially in the wake of Barbie fervour) is the Loaded Miss Chicken – parmesan fries with pink garlic mayo (!) and pulled chicken. We’re also partial to their Guaca Fries, topped with smashed avo’, halloumi and a red roasted pepper sauce. Portions are so huge that you might need a lie down afterwards. And the best thing of all? These cheap eats start at just £4.50 a pop.
📍 Unit 31, Boxpark, 99 Upper Level, George Street, Croydon, CR0 1LD & Unit 55, 2/10 Bethnal Green Road, E1 6GY. Nearest stations are East Croydon and Shoreditch High Street.
🛻 Poptata also appears around the city, and the country, for temporary pop-ups and residencies. Keep an eye out for their newest location!
8. Phat Phuc Noodle Bar, Chelsea
You may be surprised that one of the best cheap eats in London is based in Chelsea, but our capital often has a way of throwing a spanner in the works. Phat Phuc – which translates to ‘happy buddha’ in Vietnamese by the way – has some brilliant food at pretty decent prices. Take a seat at the noodle bar and you can enjoy everything from spicy coconut laksas to steaming bowls of pho – almost all of which will run you a mere tenner.
📍 The Courtyard, 151 Sydney Street, London, SW3 6NT. Nearest station is Sloane Square.
9. Xi’an Impression, Highbury and Islington
Another Angel/Islington establishment here, Xi’an Impression is a cosy little spot that serves some of the best Chinese food in the whole of London. Fact! They serve everything here from slurpable, hand-pulled noodles to wonton chicken soup and melt-in-the-mouth dumplings. A hefty majority of the menu comes in at under £10, too, so if you’re looking for some real bang for your buck, then this is the spot!
📍 117 Benwell Road, London, N7 7BW. Nearest stations are Arsenal and Holloway Road.
10. Falafel & Shawarma, Camberwell
Now this cheap eats spot is a right little hidden gem in Camberwell. Falafel & Shawarma specialises in, as you might have guessed, falafel and shawarma. And as you also might have guessed – their prices are incredible. The heaving wraps are just £4 here (at least, last time we visited they were!), with all sorts of goodies to fill them with. Just be warned: it’s cash only, so make sure to hit up an ATM ahead of time so you’re not caught out.
📍 27 Camberwell Church Street, London, SE5 8TR. Nearest station is Denmark Hill.
Now, how about a cheap burger as well? That’s a rarity in our city, for sure! Well for that you can head to Fat Hippo, an independent burger chain that only recently dropped down in our city. A quick glance over their menu may not present any particularly cheap burgers, but it’s the deals that you want to have a look at. The Fast Hippo Lunch menu sees you able to enjoy select burgers and fries for just £8.50 until 4pm. Oh, and there’s also the ‘Hippo Hours’ special which nets customers two courses for £16.90 and three courses for under £20, from 5-6pm on weekdays.
📍 5-9 Great Eastern Street, EC2A 3EJ & 68-70 Wardour Street, W1F 0TB. Nearest stations are Shoreditch High Street & Leicester Square.
12. Roti Joupa, Stratford
At one point this cult roti vendor was tucked away in Clapham, doling out some of the best Trinidadian food in all of London. Following a sad closure, they recently relocated and opened up shop in East London, where they’re treating customers to everything from curried goat to macaroni pie, doubles, buss-up shot, and more. And nothing – not a single thing! – on the menu costs more than £10. Our Jack raved about the size of his chickpea roti, which was just £5.50 and almost too big to finish! In London, cheap eats don’t come much better than that…
📍 85 Vicarage Lane, Stratford, E15 4HG. Nearest stations are Stratford and Maryland. There are also takeaway sites in Shepherd’s Bush and Finsbury Park.
13. De Nadas Empanadas, Notting Hill and Shoreditch
Bookmark this one for your next lunchtime craving when you need plenty of food without dishing out too much money. De Nadas Empanadas’ lunch deal sees them doling out three empanadas of your choice, with a side salad, with change for a crisp £10 bill. And with so many empanadas to choose from you can keep on coming back for even more cheap lunches without getting bored!
📍 61 Golborne Road, Notting Hill, W10 5NR & 65 Rivington Street, Shoreditch, EC2A 3QQ. Nearest stations are Westbourne Park & Shoreditch High Street and Old Street.
14. Ewarts Jerk, Dalston
Net yourself some proper real-deal Jerk at Ewarts, where the prices are mind-bogglingly good. We’re not talking £12-15 for a meal either. No, no, no – we’re talking £6.50 for a Jerk Chicken Meal with rice and peas. We’re actually not sure if a better deal can be found in London! You can even get a jerk wrap for a fiver, or patties for just £2 each. Imagine paying for a meal with one coin!
📍 Unit 8 Gillett Street, Dalston, N16 8AZ. Nearest station is Dalston Kingsland.
15. Marugame Udon, various locations
London’s relationship with noodles is a confusing one at the best of times. Bowls of hot noods can be eye-wateringly expensive, or surprisingly cheap. Fortunately, Marugame Udon, which has locations scattered all across our fair city, errs very much on the cheap side. Even ignoring their near-constant giveaways and promotions (walk in on a random day and you might just luck yourself into some free food), Marugame Udon’s namesake udon bowls start at just £4.95. Join their Marugame Club and you’ll even get two free pieces of tempura to thank you – as well as being kept abreast of ALL of their promotions and sales.
📍 Find your nearest Marugame Udon here.
16. eat TOKYO, various locations
eat TOKYO is so popular with Londoners that it even earned itself a spot on our list of restaurants that Londoners could exclusively eat at for the rest of their lives. And it’s not just the quality of the food that earned it a spot on the list, but also the incredible value. You can nab yourself a katsu curry for just £8! With so much to choose from, you can easily splash out – but it’s also just as easy to net yourself some delicious cheap eats.
📍 Find your nearest eat TOKYO here.
17. MR FALAFEL, Shepherd’s Bush
Over in New Shepherd’s Bush Market, you’ll find another cut-price falafel vendor that doesn’t skimp on portion size. MR FALAFEL is the source of many a ‘best falafel in London’ argument in our office, and one bite will have you weighing in on the debate, too. With a ‘budget’ falafel wrap costing just £3.65, and a King Size wrap (which is bigger than their X-Large by the way!) running you less than £7, MR FALAFEL easily earns their place on this list. Heck, even their heaping Falafel Salad Boxes are a mere £6.25 each!
📍 New Shepherds Bush Market, Units T4/T5, Uxbridge Road, W12 8LH. Nearest stations are Wood Lane, Shepherd’s Bush, and Goldhawk Road.
Baban’s is the stuff of London legend at this point, so beloved that they’ve even been immortalised on a t-shirt from wine shop/restaurant/distributor Top Cuvée. The hole-in-the-wall tandoor often commands a queue from its devotees (and from hungry football fans on match days thanks to its proximity to the Emirates Stadium. How cheap is it? A naan wrap and drink will run you just £6. But a topped naan could run you as little as £1.50. Might as well grab two or three, eh?!
📍 51a Blackstock Road, Finsbury Park, London N4 2JW. Nearest station is Finsbury Park.
19. Ararat Bread, Dalston
If you’ve ever bought a bag of naan from a corner shop or organic produce store in East London, it’s like come from Ararat. The bakery’s naan have become Londoners’ go-to options thanks to their quality and affordability, but if you go direct to the bakery – tucked away down Ridley Road Market – you’re in for a treat. As well as watching the naan get made and shoved into bags in a mesmerising dance – you can get hot-from-the-oven naan topped with cheese or meat and cheese, for just a few pounds each. Dig into your pocket, grab a few coins, and grab some delicious flatbreads. You’ll be telling EVERYONE about them.
📍 132 Ridley Rd, London E8 2NR. Nearest stations are Dalston Kingsland and Dalston Junction.
Yup, that’s right, another flatbread vendor joins the list. But once you’ve tried the food at this place (and seen the prices) you’ll see why! Rounding out our round-up of cheap eats in London is Hiba Taboun. Their manakeesh comes topped with the likes of cheese, za’atar, or minced lamb, among other choices, none of which cost more than a trifling £3.50. It’s the sort of warm, welcoming place to settle in, grab some food, and relax without burning a hole in your wallet.
📍 2, Golden Parade, E17 3HU. Nearest station is Wood Street.
So there you have it – a roundup of the best cheap eats in London. Whether you’re feeling the squeeze due to the cost of living crisis (sigh) or are counting the pennies near the end of the month, we hope this roundup gives you all the inspiration you need for a cheap night on the town! You can thank us later…
Also published on Medium.