London’s Cheap Eats

London’s an expensive city, especially when you’re eating out often. The answer for affordable dining is to fall back on “ethnic” eats, and standbys like pizza and noodles. Here are a few places where you can stretch your budget.

16B Electric Ave, Brixton, London SW9 8JX, UK
In South London, just off the Victoria line, there’s a one-stop-shop for all your boozing and dining desires. But unlike Borough, this isn’t a market from which you walk, wait in line, and then eat while standing and walking and waiting some more. Rather, this is a cluster of small restos and bars all huddled in a pseudo-mall of sorts, their “garage doors” opened to the public, serving sit-down-and-dine cuisines to suit any fancy: Thai, Mexican, Italian, Indian and more. What’s more, even though there’s a “roof,” most tables are technically outside—and no matter how cold it is, Londoners will still sit and nosh under heated lamps. Some of the most talked-about London restos are here, including Franco Manca for pizza, Honest Burgers for (you guessed it!) burgers, and Seven at Brixton’s for ginger beer mojitos. Yum. It shuts down around 11:30/midnight, but the fun don’t stop ‘til closing time.
71a, 73 Marylebone Ln, Marylebone, London W1U 2PN, UK
The Golden Hind in Marylebone is a standout among the hundreds of fish and chips places in London. The modest place has been around since 1918 and has had only a few owners in that time, mostly Greek and Italian immigrants. The cod is coated in a thin layer of batter, and fried to come out extra crispy, somehow escaping the fate of so many others: The crust doesn’t fall off as you eat. The portions are generous.
13 Neal's Yard, West End, London WC2H 9DP, UK
It’s rare to find quality pizza by the slice in London—until now. This newly opened former pop-up at London Fields is a hidden gem worth finding your way to Neal’s Yard for. Each day, they offer 3 or 4 different slices such as the courgette (squash), lemon and cheese (above), along with a handful of other more clever and inventive options (think pork belly, duck and rocket) only to be ordered by the pie. Unlike a typical slice joint, there’s waiter service, but it’s all casual and you’ll be burning the roof of your mouth in no time.
Thurloe Pl, South Kensington, London SW7, UK
These green huts are known as Cabman’s Shelters. They first started appearing around London in 1875 to provide cheap hot meals to cabbies. Even though the huts are pretty small, there’s enough room inside for a little kitchen and some seats. I wasn’t particularly aware of these huts until I saw a documentary on TV. Apparently, there are now only 13 of them left. This one is located at Thurloe Place in Kensington, opposite the Victoria & Albert Museum. As you can see, it’s located in the middle of the road, and cabbies, stopping for a bite, park their taxis behind it. I walked past the back of the hut and peeped through the window. The place was packed full of diners (around 10 of them) all squeezed in side by side, enjoying their meals.
The Azulito Bar Lower Ground Floor, 80 Wardour St, Soho, London W1F 0TG, UK
There are a number of Wahacas dotted over London—fun, inexpensive restaurants set up by a former winner of Masterchef. A friend and I headed to the Wardour Street branch, in the heart of Soho; we were seated quickly, even though it was a no-booking restaurant and it was a busy night. We shared five sharing dishes—tacos, quesadillas, and the like. They were all delicious, and we came away absolutely stuffed. It cost us £10 a head, which is an almost unheard-of bargain in the West End. They do a wide range of tequilas, and have foosball in the basement.
41-43 Wardour St, London W1D 6PY, UK
Wong Kei is a place all Londoners know. It’s the go-to restaurant in Chinatown when you want a big plate of noodles or sweet-and-sour pork, and you don’t want to pay a lot for it. The service was legendarily rude. In the old days you would arrive at the door and be barked at: “Upstairs!” The multi-level restaurant is always busy, so you’re sent to whichever level currently has space. Then you sit at a table with others, and you order your food, which will be brought to you when the waiters can be bothered. Disappointingly, the service is now thoroughly civil; I can only hope it’s a temporary blip. Either way, this is a must-have London experience, and you’ll easily come away with leftovers.
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