Last month we put together a selection of 10 restaurants where you could dine out without breaking the bank. Due to popular demand, and largely thanks to suggestions from readers, here are another 10 meals to give a go for no more than a score a head. Please do let us know any other suggestions in the comments below; if we get enough, we’ll put another selection together.
You’ll be able to get a meal (starter and main, or a decent number of small plates) along with some booze for £20, or less, at all of the below. Our selection is spread across town and includes a variety of cuisines (not just those that are traditionally cheaper).
The warm glow of this tapas bar brightens up a quiet stretch of road equidistant from Clapham North, Clapham Common and Brixton tubes. Its off-the-beaten-track location is no doubt the reason for it being quite such good value, with boldly-flavoured small plates (but not that small) such as chorizo in cider, croquettas, braised octopus and meatballs all staying close to the £5 or £6 mark. A hefty list of wines and sherries is also well priced, with a fair few by-the-glass options for under a fiver. Be aware that it could be tempting to dive into some of the premium aged hams and splash out on more expensive wines (and do go and do that at some point) but with a little restraint, this place is perfect for a cheap meal that feels anything but.
Fish In A Tie, Battersea
Just a fishbone’s throw from Clapham Junction station, Fish In A Tie serves up loosely-Mediterranean dishes with less of a solely seafood focus than the name suggests. It’s old-school to the hilt, with hanging chandeliers and outlandish decorations, but this all adds to the charm. A two-course menu priced at £12 and available every evening might not be dynamic (examples of what to expect can be found on the website) but the dishes are exceedingly well put together all the same; almost unbelievably so given the price. Friendly service seals the deal. Wine starts at £12.50 a bottle.
Hot Stuff, Vauxhall
It’s easy to fall in love with this Indian restaurant just off South Lambeth Road. It has commandeered the Hot Wheels logo for its own, for a start. And then there’s the fact that it’s BYO. And that it’s open late (though times do seem to vary day by day). The food is still the best bit, though: from fluffy freshly baked breads the size of your face, to succulent kebabs and carefully spiced curries, it’s an all-round class act. The done thing is to tell your waiter how hungry you are, any dietary requirements and roughly what you feel like, and let them do the rest, but you can order from the menu if you prefer. Either way, you’d be hard-pushed to spend over £15 a head.
This Korean restaurant has been around for the best part of 10 years, and is pretty much on top of its game. It’s not the cheapest of the Korean joints you’ll find nearby around Tottenham Court Road or Holborn (or indeed, of those further afield), but it still sits firmly in the very affordable bracket. The slight extra cost is well worth it, not just for the quality of food on offer, but also for a higher level of service, and a less casual and rushed atmosphere; it elevates the notion of grabbing a quick bite to a proper restaurant experience. Barbecue dishes (of which many meats are brought raw to be cooked at your table) and bibimbap (sticky rice with other ingredients, served in a hot stone bowl) are two of the stand-outs; they are filling mains for under a tenner. Salads, pickles and a variety of starters (most at £5-£6) are also on hand, while beers and wines are equally competitively priced.
Kulu Kulu, Soho
It’s fair to say that sushi doesn’t come cheap, but at Brewer Street’s Kulu Kulu, it comes cheaper than pretty much anywhere else offering it at a high quality in central London. Take your pick of dishes as they move around the central conveyor belt, or order platters from the menu. For an idea of value, a basic 10-piece sushi selection comes in under £8, though sashimi, gyoza and plenty of hot dishes are also available. As a nice extra, green tea is provided free. Be aware that at busy times you may feel a little rushed if you’re looking to take your time.
Little Georgia, Bethnal Green
This intimate restaurant close to Cambridge Heath station must be one of the most authentic Georgian restaurants in London; it’s certainly among the tastiest and best value. Cheesy breads, nutty salads, blinis and hearty stews all feature on a regularly changing menu; portions are large, but there’s a finesse in the place of the stodge that can be found at lesser Eastern European joints. Mains rarely stray far over the £10 mark and it’s upped in the value stakes by a corkage-free BYO policy. There’s another, newer branch in Islington which we’ve heard equally good things about, but it doesn’t look quite as cosy.
Open Kitchen, Hoxton
A training restaurant that’s run almost entirely by catering and hospitality students from nearby Hackney Community College, the prices here are presumably kept low so that expectations match them. In fact, we have no doubt that £4.50 starters, £8.95 mains and £3.95 puds could easily sell for double in establishments of lesser quality and that this is a bargain destination. Dishes tend towards modern British and French-influenced numbers, but the short menu changes regularly so check ahead if you’re fussy. Don’t be put off by the fact that service isn’t as accomplished as it could be — it’s run by people in training, after all. Open Kitchen is open for lunch on weekdays and for dinner Wednesday to Friday only.
Ristorante Rosella, Gospel Oak
This family-run Italian nestled between Gospel Oak, Kentish Town and Tufnell Park tubes is a gem for north Londoners in the know. A slightly tatty frontage leads into a welcome among the warmest in town, while a menu of classics shows off the kind of effortless-seeming, but clearly skilled cooking that Italian chefs excel at. A margherita pizza is £5, with more complex varieties rising to no more than £7; pastas and other mains start at the same price and rarely cross a tenner. A short all-Italian wine list starts at £12 a bottle or £2.50 a glass. Oh, and you’ll know you’re on to a good thing when you spot how many Italians are among the diners...
Seven At Brixton, Brixton
Tapas and cocktails are at the heart of this trendy hangout in Brixton Market. Small plates of classics such as pan con tomate, calamari, chorizo skewers and charcuterie platters feel Mediterranean in price as well as flavour, with many a dish coming in at the £2, £3 or £4 mark, rising only to £20 for a large sharing platter featuring hams, cheeses and plenty more. Most of the cocktails are just a fiver, too. It’s good cooking at a very good price. The only downside? Well, you’ll probably want to stay for a few more cocktails than the £20 budget allows.
Yalla Yalla, Soho, Shoreditch and Fitzrovia
Whether the more polished style of this three-strong Lebanese chain adds to or takes away from the atmosphere of more traditional Lebanese hangouts on Edgware Road is a matter of opinion. Either way, all branches offer up high-quality, flavour-packed dishes in a bustling (if slightly squishy) atmosphere. From fattish salads to sujuk (Lebanese spicy sausages) via hummus and falafel, tastes are vibrant, portions decent and vegetarian options plentiful. Many of the small plates hover around the £5-£7 mark; the bigger group you go with, the more you get to try.
Let us know where else you’d recommend for dining on a budget in the comments below.
This article is part of our Best of London Food and Drink series. Visit the page for more recommendations of where to enjoy the capital's top food and drink, categorised by cuisine, food type and more.