London's got great value street food all over the place, with markets and food trucks blooming out of every spare patch of pavement. But for this piece we’ve narrowed it down to the best value places you can eat-in — the restaurants, cafes and bars waiting to feed you miraculous things for miniature prices.
Vijay India Restaurant, Willesden Lane
The dishes at this southern Indian restaurant should by all logic be smaller than they are, or not as good as they are, or pricier than they are. By some stroke of fortune they’re not, so go for one of the lamb curries, all under the £8 mark, and a few of the Keralan-style sides or dosai (potato-stuffed rice pancakes) to share.
Vijay India Restaurant, 49 Willesden Lane, NW6 7RF
Silk Road, Camberwell
£15 for two should cover you at this no-frills Xinjiangese restaurant. Go for any dishes featuring hand-pulled noodles, like the £9 Middle-Plate Chicken, a spicy stew filled with chicken, potatoes and chilli. They’ll tip extra noodles into the stew when you run low for £2 a portion, but save space for the £1 cumin-chilli lamb skewers.
Silk Road, 49 Camberwell Church Street, SE5 8TR
The Kati Roll Company, Soho
This kitsch diner serves spicy paratha wraps stuffed with meat, vegetables or eggs. The Unda Chicken Roll – paratha stuffed with grilled chicken and a layer of beaten egg – comes in under £5 and is great for winter, with its mix of carbs and heat.
The Kati Roll Company, 24 Poland Street, W1F 8QL
This is among the best kebabs in a city filled with them. The fact that they’re also marginally healthy — no deep-fat fryers, everything grilled over charcoal— and the meat’s ethically-sourced is a bonus. So are the prices, about £4 for a short kebab and £6 for a regular-sized lamb kofte with chilli, feta and green mango chutney.
Chifafa, 41-45 Clerkenwell Road, EC1M 5RS
This Korean chain has a few canteen-diners scattered around central London. It's not a place for a lingering dinner, but the namesake bibimbaps come hot or cold, and heaped with rice, egg and enough beef, seafood or vegetables to make one plausibly enough for two medium-hungry people to share.
Bibimbap Soho, 11 Greek Street, W1D 4DJ. See website for other locations
There’s a restaurant at this Italian bakery, complete with table service and higher prices. But head right when you come through the door and you’ll be in the canteen area, with bar stools, counter service and maybe the best pizza al taglio — pizza by the big, square slice — in London.
Princi, 135 Wardour Street, W1F 0UT
Another pizza al taglio place, doing Italian standards for £4 a slice, as well as a range of calzone and a pasta of the day. Most punters are there for lunchtime takeaway, but there is a tiny seating space for a less-rushed calzone experience.
Malletti, 174-176 Clerkenwell Road, EC1R 5DD
F Cooke, Hoxton
The Cooke family are an institution on London’s pie and mash market. This is one of their strongholds, where £4.30 will get you a large pie and mash – leaving enough change from a tenner to cover a couple of teas (60p each) or, for the traditional, a portion of jellied eels.
F Cooke, 150 Hoxton Street, N1 6SH
Antepliler, Green Lanes
You could fill a whole article with the cheap eats on Green Lanes alone, but if you have to narrow it down, we’d go for the perfectly grilled meat at this Antep restaurant. Kebabs clock in at about £12, come with free salads and warm flatbreads and are easily enormous enough for two people. If you can manage more, throw in some lahmacun (meat-topped flatbread) for £2 each or a plate of baklava from the patisserie counter.
Antepliler, 43 Grand Parade, Green Lanes, N4 1AG
Bonnington Café, Oval
The guest chefs at this backstreet caff change daily – see the website for the line-up – but the prices are fixed (£8 for a main, £3 each for starters and dessert). The menu changes with each chef but tends towards the hearty: vegetarian stews, pastas and curries. Like that’s not enough, there’s a no-corkage-charge BYO to keep the cost down.
Bonnington Café, 11 Vauxhall Grove, SW8 1TD
Flamingo, Goldhawk Road
This Ethiopian restaurant isn't high on frills, but if you’re there for lamb stew or Doro Wat (spicy chicken stew), you’ve struck dense, ginger and berbere spice-rich gold. The dishes come with a communal disc of injera bread, acting as a table — tip out the curries onto the injera and tear off pieces to scoop it up with.
Flamingo, 31 Goldhawk Road, W12 8QQ
Roti Joupa, Clapham North
You can eat well from the curry menu at Caribbean caff Roti Joupa for £5 or less, but for the best of their food, hit the side dish section. That’s where they’re keeping the macaroni pie and the pholourie (spiced, fried doughballs and chutney), all £1.50 a portion.
It’s also where you’ll find the king of the menu, the Hot Double: two flatbreads forming a pocket, filled with chickpea curry and fiercely hot sauce. They're close to being a meal in themselves and cost just £1.50 each.
Roti Joupa, 12 Clapham High Street, SW4 7UT
Tas Firin, Bethnal Green
Great though the kebabs at this eastern Turkish restaurant are, the mezze are even better. A plate of hot mixed starters will set you back £8 — top up with Imam Bayildi (stuffed aubergine) or Arnavut Cigeri (spiced, fried lamb’s liver) for £4.50
Tas Firin, 160 Bethnal Green Road, E2 6DG
Keu!, Old Street
This place is on the border between restaurant and deli, and comes with few frills — unless great bao can be considered a frill, in which case, as many frills as you can eat, for the tiny price of £3.50 per really substantial steamed pork bun. The braised beef brisket or kimchi BBQ pork bánh mi, both £6.50, are excellent as well.
Keu, 334 Old Street, EC1V 9DR. See website for other locations
Beigel Bake, Brick Lane
The seating’s seriously token here, but if you want to perch with a 90p plain bagel or £3.50 version crammed with salt beef and mustard, the sheer number of punters pouring through the doors at any hour of the day – and they’re open all 24 – makes for great people-watching. Those punters are flooding in for a reason: they do some of the cheapest, freshest and deservedly, most famous bagels in London.
Beigel Bake, 159 Brick Lane, E1 6SB
Indian YMCA Restaurant, Warren Street
Not remotely rolling with any times, the Indian YMCA Restaurant’s still riding off the same success it was 60 years back: good, unpretentious food, canteen dining, low prices. A lamb curry will cost you £3.50 at lunchtime – an extra 90p for a paratha to soak it up – and a weekend dinner of impressive proportions is £8. It’s not just the portion sizes that are impressive – this is one of the better Indian curries you’ll get in London, at a tiny murmur of the usual cost.
Indian YMCA, 41 Fitzroy Square, W1T 6AQ
Roti King, Euston
There’s nothing regal-looking about this dark, basement restaurant – but it turns out roti canai (hot, layered Malaysian flatbreads) of such brilliant quality and at such low prices, you can’t argue with the claim to sovereignty. The menu’s a mash-up of Malaysian curries and Chinese, but for the best-value go for the roti dishes, a pair served with dhal for £4, and stuffed with spinach and cheese or minced lamb for £5.
Roti King, 40 Doric Way, NW1 1LH
Also doing great Malaysian food, there’s this small, bright canteen down a Holborn alleyway where £8 should be more than enough to cover your dinner. The menu changes daily but runs to vivid, spicy curries – try the beef rendang, the nasi lemak rice dishes or anything covered in their homemade sambal pastes.
Dapur, 13 Lamb’s Conduit Passage, WC1R 4RH
Lahore Kebab House, Whitechapel
It's easier to get at a table here than at the nearby Tayyabs, which also offers good value for money. The grilled kebabs and Pakistani meat curries at Lahore Kebab House already look like good value on the menu — and even more so when you see the size of the portions and factor in the BYO policy.
Lahore Kebab House, 2-10 Umberston Street, E1 1PY
The sushi and gyoza at this unassuming Japanese restaurant is decent — and reasonably priced — but ultimately is a distraction from the main event: the ramen dishes, with their thick pork and chicken stock, and heaped noodles. At lunchtime a bowl of ramen will set you back £8, and comes with a drink.
Seto, 5 Plender Street, NW1 0JT
This stretch of Kingsland Road isn’t short of low-cost, no-frills Vietnamese. This small café claims the ‘only authentic Bún Chả Hà Nội in London’. We don’t know how true that is, but it's definitely one to boast about. The búnnoodle salads, all around the £8 mark, come with rice vermicelli noodles, mixed salad and toppings of roasted peanuts, crisped shallots, pickles and nuoc cham sauce. The Hanoi version comes with grilled lemongrass pork, more grilled pork balls in a bowl of broth, and a spring roll, for good measure.
BunBunBun, 134b Kingsland Road, E2 8DY
Xi’an Impression, Holloway Road
The restaurant’s got a spartan feel to it, but there’s nothing bare about the food — or levels of chilli — at this Holloway Road Chinese. Try the pao mo (a pile of bread, noodles, beef broth and meat, topped with chilli sauce) and, for the bold at heart, the Xinjiang chicken, with a very serious and accurate double-chilli marking on the menu.
Xi’an Impression, 117 Benwell Road, N7 7BW
Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, Brixton
One of the best of Brixton's many brilliant cheap food options, Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen’s also one of the more restaurant-like setups in the Pop Brixton shipping containers. It'll be a welcome shelter as winter draws in — you’ll have a roof, wall and tables to go with your Jollof Spiced Fried Chicken and grilled lamb cutlets marinaded in chilli.
Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, Pop Brixton, Brixton Station Road, SW9 8PQ
Stop Fix, Haggerston
The salt beef sandwich at this workspace and coffee shop sounds like decent value at the £5 mark. When it arrives, a mountain of a sandwich — all falling apart meat, bread with bite to it and a liberal way with pickles — it stops looking like decent value and starts looking like a freak pricing mistake you should fall upon like a flash.
Stop Fix, 8 Lee Street, E8 4DY
Lucky Chip, Camden Assembly
You can’t have a cheap eats round-up without a burger on it, surely – king of the fast, pre-gig dinner or the work pub lunch. There are cheaper burgers out there, but for joy per pound sterling, Lucky Chip’s cheeseburger (£8) is one of the best. Fortunately the empire is spreading, with a long-term Camden residency recently added to the Islington and Dalston outposts.
Lucky Chip, Camden Assembly, 49 Chalk Farm Road, NW1 8AN. See website for other locations