In recent decades, England has thrown off its reputation of being so lacking in the culinary department that its national dish was often declared to be an Indian Curry. There’s now no shortage of great English feeds available, from pub grub to old school pies and fish and chips, through to a cornucopia of eateries established from its vast immigrant communities, varying from Caribbean to Pakistani to just about anything. But if you’re heading out in this splendid city for a feed, what are some recommendations for some great eats that won’t break the budget, day or night?
1. Cookhouse Joe in Soho
Recommended by: Stefan & Sebastien from Nomadic Boys
London is our home town and as locals, we love to tell the world about it. One of the best places we recently discovered was Cookhouse Joe in Soho at 55 Berwick Street. They are famous for their really yummy slow roasted chicken served with delicious Lebanese sides like grilled halloumi, tabouleh and much more. It’s very reasonably priced with large portions – rare for Central London. We paid around £10-15 for a main with side. And the best is on weekday evenings they have excellent offers, like 2 cocktails for £10. The only problem is the inevitable food fight which always breaks out when we try to share food.
2. Polo Bar – 24 Hour Great British Café
Recommended by: Paula & Gordon from Contented Traveller
If you want a great British breakfast of sausage, bacon, fried eggs, black pudding, tomato, mushrooms, beans and thick buttered toast washed down with either a brew of tea or a coffee, then the Polo Bar – 24 Hour Great British Café (176 Bishopsgate, London) is the place to go. It looks pretty innocuous from the front in a greasy spoon cafe type of way. It is a 24 hour café serving up British staples at all hours of the day and the night, so you can guess when it becomes really popular. Having opening back in 1953 they self proclaim that the Polo Bar – 24 Hour Great British Café has been, “serving great quality British cafe fare to hungry City worker, commuter, builder and hard working policemen and women from the Bishopsgate Police Station two doors down”.
3. Happy Dumplings in Brixton Village
Recommended by: Hannah from ThatAdventurer
I’d like to recommend Happy Dumplings in Brixton Village. It’s perfect for a cheap dinner that’ll leave you feeling stuffed! It’s not a luxurious setting (think plastic chairs and tables with Tesco Value tissues to clean your fingers with), but it’s delicious food in hearty portions for a great price. Plus, the setting makes you feel like you’ve stumbled across a popular street food stall abroad! It’s always busy and you might have to wait a little while for a table, but I promise it’s worth the wait. Treat yourself to the delicious gyozas, some veggie fried noodles and some lovely Edamame! Dinner for two including one drink, starters and sharing mains comes to around £30.
4. BlueBelles in Notting Hill
Recommended by: Rachel from Small Town Girl, Big World Travels
This darling local cafe is perfect for large breakfast or lunches. Tucked a few blocks past the Portobello market (just keep walking!) BlueBelles (320 Portobello Road, Notting Hill) paints the idlylic Europe café picture. As you walk into this cozy joint fresh baked cakes, pastries and biscuits greet you in the winow. Once inside you may have to wait a few minutes since it’s where all the locals good for delicious breakfasts and lunches. BlueBelles is known for its crossaint french toast, but the health-conscious don’t need to break any New Years Resolutions here. See my latest breakfast above, the Super Green Breakfast which included two poached eggs, spinach, pesto, feta, red pepper flakes, all on rye toast.
5. Thanh Binh in Camden Town
Recommended by: Sabina from Girl vs Globe
One of my favourite cheap eats in London is Thanh Binh – a small Vietnamese restaurant in Camden Town. Although I’ve never visited Vietnam I’m something of a self-proclaimed pho expert. I realise that’s ridiculous, but thanks to my mild obsession with the dish I’ve tried it about half a million times. Hyperbolic much? Not even. The pho at Thanh Binh is one of the best one I’ve had in London, which is an achievement not to be scoffed at – especially at £6.50. There’s a lot more than pho on offer though. They have a daily set lunch for £6, served from 12-3pm. The deal includes prawn crackers and a full sized main. And if you’re feeling adventurous, do try the soft shell crab or frog legs.
6. Baileys in Fulham
Recommended by: Marcella from Fotostrasse
Baileys (115 Dawes Road) is the one of the best places you can go eat the traditional and world famous Brit fish and chips. With mega cheap promotions like “Cod and Chips only £5.65 any day of the week 12 to 5pm” and a strange sense of pride in things that makes no sense to me, like “We are proud to be rated currently in the top thirty of more than 18,000 restaurants in London by Tripadvisor” this place is a must try for everybody that is looking for the holy grail in an expensive city like London: good, clean and cheap. Grab your sit facing the street and don’t forget to order a side dish of mushy peas. Please, also don’t forget to grab as much napkins as you can since this amazing british food is, of course, full of oil.
7. Stables Market in Camden Town
Recommended by: Rossi from Rossi Writes
For a cheap and unique culinary experience the Stables Market in Camden Town is hard to beat, hands down. Stalls dish out piping hot Indian curries, delicious Mexican burritos and Japanese salmon teriyaki and miso soup. A quintessential London cab has been turned into a coffee stand, so that you can get a shot of caffeine on the go. Sweet and kitsch little booths mix up milkshakes blended with your favourite chocolate bar. Among it all dainty coffee shops tempt you with cupcakes and huge slices of moist English cakes. A branch of London’s cult Cereal Killer Cafe serves bowls of over 120 specially sourced types of cereal all day.
The Stables Market is huge too, so that you can easily spend a whole day there dipping in and out of the labyrinth of alternative and craft shops whilst sampling as many of the dishes on offer as you can humanly consume. A large seating area with wooden tables and benches is the perfect place to take your food to and enjoy it surrounded by some of the most interesting Londoners and fellow travelers you will come across.
8. Marcel & Sons at Elephant & Castle
Recommended by: Stu & Eloise from Am I Nearly There Yet?
I found a little gem while rocking through Elephant and Castle the other week – a place called The Artworks! Located in quite a typically hip location in a stack of shipping containers, locals businesses and other eateries form a tiered semi circle focusing on a central, covered courtyard space! There’s cuisine for every palate here – (Pizza, Thai, French, Jamaican) but my favourite spot has to be a Mauritius street food joint called Marcel & Sons right on the corner. They serve up the super affordable ‘Bol Renverse’, and upside rice dish stacked with epicness and finished with a fried egg (yum) – and ‘bao pao’, a sort of dumpling bread sandwich with spicy mayo and a fish or beef filling with chilli and garnish. Get yourself down there!
Want more expert tips on London? Join a Locals on Tap in London tour run by Urban Adventures (part of Intrepid) for £25, including a mini tour of Brixton.