Best cheap eats in east London

Good-value restaurants and cafés for great food in east London

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For every secret bar and pop-up sample sale in east London there's an equally interesting and delicious cheap eat on offer. From Korean fried chicken in Shoreditch to Turkish grills in Dalston or vegan fare in Walthamstow, find one that tempts you with our guide to the best budget restaurants and cafés in the area. Also check out our cheap eats guides in central, north, south and west London, or see all of east London's best cheap eats on a map. Do you agree with the choices? Use the comments box below or tweet your suggestions.

Counter Café

  • Rated as: 3/5

Café

A delightfully thrown-together-looking daytime joint behind artists’ studios, the Counter deals in brunches, salads and pies. Excellent herby lamb pie comes with well-dressed colourful salad leaves, and the flat white coffee is terrific. There’s good music in the ground-floor room right on the canal, and peace and quiet, plus a view of trees and the Olympic stadium from squidgy sofas and large tables upstairs.

Meal for two with hot drinks and service: around £25.

  1. Stour Space, 7 Roach Road, E3 2PA
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Hornbeam Café

  • Rated as: 3/5

Vegetarian café

Adverts on the wall for yoga and tai chi classes indicate where this daytime café’s heart lies. The welcome is friendly and the daily changing menu is short, wholesome and satisfying: a soup, a tabouleh dish and a salad, say, with ample cakes, and bread from the Hornbeam Bakers’ Collective. Exciting? No, but we can’t help liking the place.

Meal for two with hot drinks and service: around £20.

  1. 458 Hoe Street, E17 9AH
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Jubo

  • Rated as: 3/5

Korean café

Tucked in the corner of a bar in Shoreditch, this cosy pop-up serves KFC – that’s Korean Fried Chicken – with steamed buns and piquant pickles.

Meal for two with drinks and service: around £25.

  1. 68 Rivington Street, EC2A 3AY
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G Kelly

  • Rated as: 3/5

Pie & mash

Since 1937 Kelly’s daytime caff has been serving minced beef pie, mash, ‘liquor’ (parsley sauce) and eels (hot or jellied) to the street traders of Roman Road market. The menu has grown to include vegetarian pies and apple crumble, but in the simple white-tiled interior you’ll still sit at benches alongside ravenous costermongers.

Meal for two with hot drinks: around £15.

  1. 526 Roman Rd, E3 5ES
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Lahore Kebab House

  • Rated as: 4/5

Pakistani restaurant

Punjabi-style tandoori grilled meat and generous portions of ghee-laden curry at bargain prices draw crowds to this spartanly furnished spot. Piles of sweet onion bhajia and heavily spiced lamb chops might start a meal, before the choice velvety dals, boldly flavoured curries (many on the bone) and buttery nans. The house specials are worth ordering, especially the nihari and dry lamb curry.

BYO; no corkage charge.

Meal for two with soft drinks and service: around £25.

  1. 2-10 Umberston Street, E1 1PY
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Mangal Ocakbasi

  • Rated as: 4/5

Turkish grill

Prices have tripled in the 20 or so years since meat was first grilled at this famous Turkish café. The place is a mite tatty too, cash-only, and the starters aren’t worth bothering with. But grills from the enormous mangal by the entrance are still sublime. Try the cop sis (rich, succulent grilled lamb) or tavuk beyti (a delicately garlicky, melty kebab of minced chicken).

BYO; no corkage charge.

Meal for two with soft drinks and service: around £25.

  1. 10 Arcola Street, E8 2DJ
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Mien Tay

  • Rated as: 4/5

Vietnamese café

It may look slightly down at heel and a little cramped, but Mien Tay is nevertheless a great place to get authentic, top-notch Vietnamese food. The low prices attract young, mainly non-Vietnamese diners for the likes of stir-fried green mussels with ginger and spring onion (a delight), or scallops with black bean sauce. The chef here has a way with seafood.

Meal for two with drinks and service: around £30.

  1. 122 Kingsland Road, E2 8DP
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Miss Chu

  • Rated as: 3/5

Vietnamese café

This little hole in the wall stretches back to a long corridor and kitchen, where classic Vietnamese street and café food is handled with care. Among the many options, we rate the filling pho (beef noodle soup) and the bahn mi (filled baguettes).

Meal for two with drinks: around £25.

  1. 91 Whitechapel High St , E1 7RA
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E Pellicci

  • Rated as: 5/5

Caff

Opened in 1900, and still run by the same family, Pellicci’s is a Bethnal Green landmark. Chrome-rimmed Vitrolite panels line the outside, and the wood-panelled interior is filled with Formica tables and art deco touches. Fry-ups are first rate, and the fish and chips, daily grills, Italian specials and desserts (from bread pudding to Portuguese pasteis de nata) aren’t bad either. But it’s the vibrant welcome and lively banter that make this daytime-only place so special.

BYO; no corkage charge.

Meal for two with hot drinks and service: around £20.

  1. 332 Bethnal Green Road, E2 0AG
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Poppies

  • Rated as: 5/5

Fish & chip restaurant

Flipping fresh fish from Billingsgate (fried or grilled) and irresistible chips are served up by waitresses in diner-style outfits at Poppies. The interior – sparklingly clean and gloriously kitsch – incorporates a mini red telephone box and a jukebox, and the menu extends to seafood platters and jellied eels. Better than the real thing.

Meal for two with drinks and service: around £25.

  1. 6-8 Hanbury Street, E1 6QR
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Shepherdess Café

  • Rated as: 3/5

Caff

Strip lighting and plastic sauce bottles on the tables proclaim the Shepherdess’s greasy spoon credentials. Plentiful chips, full English breakfasts and steak pie lunches ram home the point.

Meal for two with tea and service: around £18.

  1. 221 City Rd, EC1V 1JN
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Song Que

  • Rated as: 5/5

Vietnamese café

The undoubted star of the Kingsland Road Vietnamese scene, Song Que is constantly packed with happy customers, including Vietnamese locals. It’s big, light, airy and buzzy, recently redecorated, and serves good food that’s highly authentic – and good value. The pho noodle soup is excellent, as are the assorted starters.

Meal for two with drinks and service: around £30.

  1. 134 Kingsland Road, E2 8DY
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Square Pie

  • Rated as: 4/5

Posh pie & mash

The daytime-only hours and the meat of the menu (pie, mash) might mirror those of the trad East End pie shop, but the similarities end there at Square Pie. Top quality ingredients are used throughout. Pies range from steak and Guinness to jerk chicken, served from a sleek red counter in cardboard boxes. Add mushy peas, or instead go for macaroni cheese, and finish with carrot cake and Monmouth coffee.

Meal for two with drinks and service: around £20.

  1. Old Spitalfields Market, 105C Commercial Street, E1 6BG
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Tonkotsu East

  • Rated as: 3/5

Japanese ramen bar

An offshoot of the Soho noodle joint, this Haggerston newcomer is a capacious venue in a cavern-like space under railway arches. The similarly minimal menu matches four types of impeccable ramen with a handful of side dishes to produce big bowls of comfort food.

Meal for two with drinks and service: around £30.

  1. Arch 334, 1a Dunston Street, E8 4EB
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Yum Bun

  • Rated as: 3/5

Pan-Asian snack bar

Growing from a street food stall, Yum Bun set up shop on the Clerkenwell-Shoreditch borders and is set to move again in April 2014. As the name suggests, buns are its mainstay to take-away or eat next door at Rotary Bar. The fluffy, steamed and folded dough wrappers come stuffed with the likes of slow-roasted pork belly and hoisin sauce; earthy portobello mushroom with miso and walnuts; or crisp-coated, deep-fried karaage chicken chunks with chilli sauce and mayo. All of these made satisfying bites.

Meal for two: around £20.

  1. 31 Featherstone Street, EC1Y 2BJ
More info
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Users say

5 comments
Terry P
Terry P

Has Timee Out never heard of Forest Gate, Stratford,Walthamstow, Leyton etc?  There is more to east London other than Shoreditch

Craves
Craves

not sure this article is headed up correctly. For 2 people to eat out for £45 to be classed as a cheap eat is all wrong. Between £30 and £45 is an average price to pay. With a title like Cheap eats, there should have been better venues and variety on offer. Re-hashing of the same old resaurants shows lack of imagination and as far as trends go this would be great advice 2 years ago. Should have mentioned the new nigerian restaurant on kingsland road, fish and chip restaurant on Hoxton Street or even the olde Mumma's off shoreditch high street. With a title like Cheap Eats it would have made more sense to do a Culinary kings/queens of the buffet world.

Raquel R
Raquel R

@Terry P Who the hell wants to go out for dinner in Forest Gate???!! Pretty sure the West London list doesn't send you to eat out in Osterley. Stop the East End hate and be appreciative that the east is growing.

IODcafe
IODcafe

@Craves Exactly! Come try out Café Forever on the Isle of Dogs, don't know why we aren't in here! Lunch is about £8/person for a main and some coffee and a muffin!

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