Best cheap eats in north London

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

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© Elaine Sutton

North London's particularly good for Turkish food (along Green Lanes) and Indian food (in Wembley), but also has every other culinary taste covered too, from Georgian to Japanese. Also check out our cheap eats guides in central, south, east and west London, or see all of north London's best cheap eats on a map. Do you agree with the choices? Use the comments box below or tweet your suggestions.

19 Numara Bos Cirrik I

  • Rated as: 3/5

Turkish café

An ever-busy Turkish grill joint, this ocakbasi café has maintained its high standards. Bread comes piping-hot, feather-light, smoky and carrying hints of onion and tomato. As it’s grilled right beside the kebabs, waiters helpfully warn customers the bread may contain ‘meat juice’. Lamb beyti has just the right balance of garlic, chilli and smoky charcoal tones – far better than starters, which can be bland. A local institution that’s now a haven for hipsters.

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

  1. 34 Stoke Newington Road, N16 7XJ
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Afghan Kitchen

  • Rated as: 3/5

Afghan café

Straightforward Afghan home cooking is the deal at this clean, bright Islington venue. Choose from several dishes (three meat, one fish, four vegetarian) of which the focus is hearty, warming stews featuring plenty of yoghurt and mint. ‘Sarah’s’ combines chickpeas, kidney beans and chunks of potato in a yoghurty sauce. Meltingly soft aubergine and thick slices of orange pumpkin come drizzled in yet more yoghurt. Best arrive in a group, so you can share dishes. Cash only.

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

  1. 35 Islington Green, N1 8DU
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Arancini Factory

  • Rated as: 4/5

Italian café

Head for this affable caff to partake of Sicilian-style deep-fried risotto balls. The arancini are served plain, with salad, in tortilla wraps, or accompanied by a hot stew (we like the chickpea and Mediterranean veg stew). There are other options too, such as poached eggs on toast for breakfast, and Aussie-themed open sandwiches. Note there’s a little garden eating area at the back.

Meal for two with drinks and service: around £16.

  1. 115 Kentish Town Road, NW1 8PN
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Ariana II

  • Rated as: 5/5

Afghan restaurant

As well as being a neighbourhood darling, Ariana attract diners from across town for its budget prices, excellent Afghan cooking and BYO policy. The premises are easy to miss, blending in with Kilburn’s nondescript kebab shops. But in the simply-decorated dining room you’ll get a sunny welcome, a repertoire of dumplings, tikkas and kebabs and enticing Afghan specialities such as kabuli palow (slow-cooked lamb shank buried in a mound of rice dotted with pistachios and peppers).

Unlicensed; no corkage charge.

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

  1. 241 Kilburn High Road, NW6 7JN
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Delhi Grill

  • Rated as: 3/5

Indian canteen

Making the most of its Chapel Market location by setting up stall outside during the day (selling wraps), Delhi Grill is a lively canteen majoring in Punjabi cooking. Inside, walls are plastered in Bollywood posters and Indian newspapers. Start with street snacks such as samosa chat, before mains of hearty rogan josh or tilapia with coriander and coconut milk.

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

  1. 21 Chapel Market, N1 9EZ
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Gökyüzü

  • Rated as: 5/5

Green Lanes Turkish restaurant

Large, utilitarian, yet consistently the busiest joint on the Green Lanes strip, Gökyükü provides huge helpings of excellent Turkish cooking: tender güvec lamb stew, own-baked bread and a massive ‘small’ meze. Go and gorge, but be prepared to queue: there’s a permanent line at the takeaway counter by the entrance.

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

  1. 26-27 Grand Parade, N4 1LG
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Hala

  • Rated as: 4/5

Green Lanes Turkish restaurant

Everything has visual pzazz at this smart eat-in or takeaway joint: waiting staff wear black waistcoats and yellow ties; the ladies sitting in the window hand-rolling gözleme (filled crêpes) sport matching white T-shirts and hair nets; and excellent mixed meze comes in a colourful arrangement on the plate. The grill is the main attraction, whether succulent lamb with puréed aubergine, or huge mixed kebab platters. There are a couple of grilled fish options too.

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

  1. 29 Grand Parade, (Green Lanes), N4 1LG
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Kerb

Street vendors

Dynamic and ever-changing, Kerb is a collective of clued-up, accomplished street-food vendors trading in the walkway north of King’s Cross station on weekdays. Star turns might include Horn OK Please, with its vegetarian Indian street snacks, Bleecker St Burger, and Rainbo (gyoza dumplings, miso soup). You can also catch Kerb on the South Quad at University College London on the last Wednesday of the month. Check the Kerb website for current traders as they change daily.

Takeaway lunch around £5 per head.

  1. King's Boulevard, N1C
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Mario's Café

  • Rated as: 3/5

Classic caff

Set among pretty pastel-painted cottages, Mario’s is a bonhomous, community-focused daytime spot. It relies on locals’ indefatigable appetite for cut-above breakfasts – scrambled egg and salmon, or poached egg and prosciutto, on ciabatta; a full English of sausage, egg, bacon and tomato, plus extras (bubble, hash browns, black pudding). But don’t ignore the Italian mains; Mario’s mum makes even a simple spicy Italian sausage penne delicious. Decent ingredients, no fuss.

Meal for two with hot drinks and service: around £18.

  1. 6 Kelly Street, NW1 8PH
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Masa

  • Rated as: 4/5

Afghan restaurant in Harrow

Local Afghan families fill Masa’s long tables with chatter and enormous amounts of food, turning what might otherwise be a plain interior into a convivial hub. To start, tuck into aushak dumplings with a spicy leek filling, topped with yoghurt and minced meat. Next, head for warming, hearty stews such as okra and lamb: perfect comfort food. The affable staff bring huge discs of soft, fragrant bread warm from the oven.

BYO and unlicensed: no corkage charge.

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

  1. 24-26 Headstone Drive, HA3 5QH
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Le Rif

  • Rated as: 4/5

Moroccan café

Only one dish on the extensive menu costs more than £5 at Le Rif. The repertoire encompasses lunchtime sandwiches and spag bol, but the owner can also speedily conjure up North African meals. Best are the main courses: fish tagine with spinach, olives, potato, aubergine and lemon; couscous royale featuring tender, succulent chunks of chicken and lamb in a subtly spicy broth. Finish with pastries and a cup of fresh mint tea – a surreal experience in what otherwise resembles a standard Finsbury Park caff.

Unlicensed: no alcohol allowed.

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

  1. 172 Seven Sisters Road, N7 7PX
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Tatreez

  • Rated as: 3/5

Palestinian café

Proudly Palestinian, Tatreez offers a selective range of Middle Eastern café snacks, along with deli produce from the region. It’s a funky Stoke Newington spot, attracting artfully dishevelled locals having beers and snacks, listening to the music (there are regular free live sets) and generally having a jolly old time. After a bowl of Palestinian olives and a couple of easy-drinking Lebanese beers, perhaps sample a tart makdous – pickled baby aubergines stuffed with walnuts and chilli – or crisp manaeesh flatbread baked with a cheese and za’atar thyme mix.

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

  1. 188 Stoke Newington High Street, N16 7JD
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Tbilisi

  • Rated as: 4/5

Georgian restaurant

Outside is the frenetic Holloway Road, but you’d scarcely know it when ensconced at the back of this relaxing Georgian bolt-hole. To start, order a ‘combination’ (for two diners) of doughy flatbread with dips such as spicy liver stew with pomegranate seeds, before main courses of chashushuli (tender beef in a tomato-based sauce) or harcho (chicken with a ground walnut sauce). Weighty Georgian wines and hefty portions produce replete contentment.

Meal for two with drinks and service: around £35.

  1. 91 Holloway Road, N7 8LT
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Wembley

Great for Indian cafés

Ealing Road, which runs from Wembley Central to Alperton tube, has a cross-section of excellent little cafés from the diaspora of the Indian subcontinent. First among equals is the vegetarian Sakonis, but others of note include Asher’s Africana, Chennai Dosa, and Saravanaa Bhavan. If you’ve not been before, start at Sakonis.

Meal for two with soft drinks and service: around £12-£20.

Zeytoon

  • Rated as: 3/5

Afghan/Persian

Nigella seed-studded flatbread is baked fresh – crisp on the outside, cushiony soft inside – at this Cricklewood stalwart. Eat it with Afghan specialities such as kalleh pacheh (lamb’s head and feet in broth), mantu (meat- and onion-stuffed dumplings with spicy sauce) and quroot (a sour cottage cheese made from sheep or goat’s milk). Alternatively, try the more familiar Persian stews or kebabs. Murals depicting Persian myths grace the charming, kitsch interior. A good local.

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

  1. 94-96 Cricklewood Broadway, NW2 3EL
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