London is known worldwide as one of the most expensive cities in Europe but it is also one of the cities that offers the most to its visitors. There are activities for all tastes, ages and interests and while it is undeniable that certain basic things on a trip like accommodation and transport are quite expensive, eating doesn’t have to be.
The capital of the Thames is also one of the continent’s culinary references and the gastronomic scene is constantly evolving. The hamburger in all its variants -from the most basic to the most gourmet- is still at the top. The pizza makes star appearances and the chicken tries to take over a stall. Then there is the street food that reinforces its popularity with covered markets during the winter.
It’s easy to keep up with these foodie fads and even easier to afford to try them all. We’re not talking about Michelin stars or restaurants with thick, immaculate white tablecloths but generally very cool places that try to reinvent concepts. They are fun, they are cheap and they change constantly but here are some of the places to eat in London for very few pounds.
Despite its fame, we discover the best places in London to eat cheaply and enjoy the experience.
The best burgers in London
The queen of fast food, the hamburger, refuses to give up her crown. At the Lebanese chain BRGR.CO you can enjoy a drink, 6oz burger and chips for only £10, that is, starting at 9pm. A similar offer is available at Yeah! Burger, who have taken up temporary residence at the hilarious Catch in the heart of Hoxton: chips, burger and pint of beer for £10. All day, every day.
When it comes to pizza, there’s no argument. Pizza Pilgrims have gone from baking pizzas in a van to running their own restaurant in Soho, London. They don’t take reservations so the queues are usually terrible but worth the wait. Crunchy dough, exquisite tomatoes and toppings ranging from traditional salami to more elaborate versions like mushrooms and truffle. Soft drinks cost £2, beers £4.50 and pizzas between £7 and £11. Be sure to try their Nutella-stuffed pizza doughnut.
Chicken Shop is another of the phenomena that are hitting hard in London. With restaurants in Kentish Town and Tooting and plans to open a third in the Hoxton Holborn Hotel in the summer, their roast chicken is perfection at its best. Their cooking method of marinating, steaming and finishing in the oven, results in chicken that is cooked to perfection, juicy and with a crispy skin. The best part is that for £16.50 you can have half a chicken, a pint of beer and potatoes and for only £5 more you can have a dessert.
The odd couple
Another fun and very popular place in the British capital is Burger & Lobster where the menu is very simple: hamburger, lobster roll or lobster – steamed or grilled – with fries for £20 . One price, three options and an extraordinary success.
If you feel like trying something more genuinely English, Albion, near Brick Lane, is a good choice. Fish and chips for £12 or your “Albion breakfast” (bacon, sausage, black pudding, baked beans, roasted tomatoes, mushrooms, eggs to taste and toast) is available all day for £11, a dream for all those who think breakfast is the best meal of the day.
A great trick to try out good restaurants without going broke is to sign up for so-called set menus, which offer two or three dishes for a fixed amount, similar to the menus of the day in Spain. They are usually available only at midday or for limited periods but it never hurts to check the websites for offers and conditions and book before you travel.
At the new The Fable in Farringdon , and all the other restaurants of the Drake&Morgan group, for example, they offer until the end of April a traditional English roast with a drink for only £10 and at the incredible Indian restaurant on Carnaby Street, Cinnamon Soho, you can enjoy five courses for £10 per person from Monday to Saturday between 12pm and 5pm.
Continuing with the international cuisine, the Greek restaurant Mazi is ideal for lunch after a visit to Portobello Road Market and at lunchtime its three-course menu costs only £16.95 per person.
Peruvian or Peruvian-Japanese fusion restaurants are also on the rise and Coya is one of the best. Their two-course lunch menu is absolutely worth it and includes some stars from their a la carte menu such as Nikkei Salmon or Classic Sea Bass.
On the same line Chotto Matte has a quick lunchtime menu with sushi sets -prepared in full view of everyone in the restaurant-, bento boxes -a combination of different small dishes- or donburi from £12.
And to finish, we have to go back to the food on the street. Hawker House, Street Feast’s solution to the cold winter, ends on March 22nd but Street Feast itself will return on May 16th. It’s the gathering of the best vendors in one space. You can try the “lobster sandwiches” from Bob’s Lobster, the mini burgers and tacos from Breddo’s tacos and many other things. The key is to share and try different dishes while enjoying the festive atmosphere that is always present thanks to the music and cocktails.
There is also Broadway Market, Malby Street Market and even the Camden stables as well as countless chains like The Breakfast Club, Byron or VaPiano and the small restaurants hidden in China Town. They are not El Celler de Can Roca nor do they pretend to be, they are the essence of a city as eclectic as London and the proof that you don’t have to spend a fortune to eat well in London.
If you are planning a visit to London don’t miss our London Guide:
10 amazing hotels in central London
10 hotels near Heathrow Airport
What to do in London: 10 must-see attractions
The 7 best real attractions in London
The 6 best budget accommodation in London