While London life may not be getting any cheaper, its appetite for great value food has never been bigger. With the cost of rent and travel taking ever-growing bites out of our salaries, knowing where to find London’s best budget restaurants is more important than ever.
Some of the venues in the list below have been around for ages, while others have popped up mere weeks ago. What they all have in common in a dedication to serving excellent food at extremely fair prices. You'll find dinner for two with drinks and service for no more than £45 at all of the venues that made our top 100 list. Because nobody wants egg and chips every night – regardless of how cheap it may be – we’ve gone for as varied a range of venues as possible, so expect everything from Afghan restaurants to Vietnamese cafés, street food markets to friendly indoor eateries. So grab some shrapnel and slip on your scruffiest shoes – these are the best cheap eats in London.
The best cheap eats in central London
What’s the vibe? Nothing like the Meatball Shop in NYC (which is what we thought of when we first heard of its all-balls menu), this cute Soho newcomer is surprisingly elegant. Simple but smart, with cool geometric art.
When to go At lunch, when you can book. Dinner reservations are only taken for groups of eight or more.
What to eat Balls, balls, balls. Pick your protein (wagyu beef, chicken, pork, salmon or quinoa), then your sauce and side.
How much? Four pork meatballs with romesco sauce and a side of chips, mash, spaghetti or greens will set you back £14.Read more
What’s the vibe? Camera-wielding gastro geeks line Lexington Street for their chance to hashtag London’s best buns.
When to go There’s never not a queue outside this place but your best bet is a late dinner – last orders 10pm.
What to eat Bao’s signature buns, stuffed with tender pork belly, peanut powder and pickled lettuce, and the epic fried chicken and Horlicks ice-cream versions.
How much? These babies all cost £5 or less (the classic’s just £3.75). Order lots. And some sides.Read more
What’s the vibe? Sichuan noodles, buns and dumplings kick like a kung-fu fighter at this Communist Revolution kitsch-clad spot on Chinatown’s fringes.
When to go When your taste buds are in need of defibrillating.
What to eat The house baozi buns, Chengdu dan dan noodles, and a spicy cucumber salad.
How much? The flavours might sock you in the face but the bill won’t: £20 for two.Read more
What’s the vibe? Bright colours, IKEA-style furniture and walls plastered with Polaroid snaps of happy diners.
When to go Only the seriously hungry need apply.
What to eat Rib-sticking renditions of the Korean staple, bibimbap: a layered dish of rice, spiced vegetables and meat topped with a fried egg.
How much? From £7 per (very filling) serve.Read more
What’s the vibe? London’s most famous food market is chock-a-block with takeaway choices, should all that prime produce make you hungry on the hoof.
When to go Anytime but Sunday. The full market runs Wednesday-Saturday, but there’s now also a lunch market on Mondays and Tuesdays.
What to eat Slow-roast kid from Gourmet Goat, salt beef bagels from Nana Fanny’s and Thai coconut puddings from Khanom Krok.
How much? There’s something here for every budget. No, really. The super-skint can just about make a meal of free samples.Read more
What’s the vibe? Corbin and King (The Wolseley, The Delaunay) deliver big-ticket West-End dining for bus ticket prices at this buzzing Parisian brasserie.
When to go All day, mes amis – there’s no time limit on the set menu.
What to eat Bistro classics: carrots rapées and coq au vin.
How much? £9.75 for two courses: London’s biggest bargain. You could slip in a visit to the fromage trolley afterwards and still come in under £15 a head.Read more
What’s the vibe? A simple, café-style Chinatown favourite, where flavour-packed food is served on unclothed tables.
When to go All day, any day – they serve right through until 1am.
What to eat The huge menu can be intimidating. Stick to Cantonese dishes for the best results and note that seafood is a particular strength.
How much? Plenty of mains cost less than £9. Order a spread to share.Read more
What’s the vibe? Faithfully un-modernised Chinatown veteran.
When to go When you want substance over style.
What to eat Best known for satisfying one-dish meals based on rice or home-pulled noodles (both available with a range of toppings), Canton also does decent roast duck.
How much? Rice and noodle dishes hover around the £6 mark; half a duck will set you back £15.Read more
What’s the vibe? Cramped and plagued by lunchtime queues, this efficient little number nevertheless keeps the City crowd coming back.
When to go Open between 11.30am and 4pm, Monday–Friday; the queues are worst noon-2pm.
What to eat Spring rolls and banh mi if you’re taking out, delicious pho if you’re slurping in.
How much? £5 will feed you well.Read more
What’s the vibe? Roasted or fried, free-range chicken rules the roost at this stripped-back Soho spot.
When to go Before a show – it’s a short strut to a good handful of West End theatres.
What to eat A rotisserie chicken, sweet potato fries and coleslaw will feed 2–3 without ruffling any feathers.
How much? A whole chook is £19.95; fries start at £3.50.Read more
The best cheap eats in north London
What’s the vibe? Dalston’s prime spot for a Turkish grilling, 19 Numara Bos Cirrik I (try saying that after a few craft brews) is the hipsters’ ocakbasi of choice.
When to go While still sober enough to guide your Uber to 34 Stoke Newington Road. As if the name wasn’t complicated enough, the number 19 has nothing to do with the address.
What to eat Lahmacun (thin pastry topped with minced lamb, onions and mixed spices) from the wood-fired oven or an expertly grilled kebab.
How much? Most mains cost around a tenner and it’s BYO (corkage £5).Read more
Venue says: The Brothers are back on the streets. Come see us at this year's Moretti Grand Tour, Brick Lane, July 19-24. Serving until 10pm.
What’s the vibe? Amiable retro caff decked with boxes of the day’s fresh produce and dedicated to the famous Italian snack.
When to go Quick to eat and packing plenty of stodge, these balls could well be the ideal pre-gig fodder. Check what’s on at the Forum.
What to eat The namesake deep-fried risotto balls, served plain, with salad, in tortilla wraps, or accompanied by a hot stew.
How much? From £3.50 for five risotto balls, to £6.85 for the Moroccan lamb salad box.Read more
What’s the vibe? Heavy-metal kebab house, which dispatches mean chargrilled offal and pillowy breads from its graffiti-daubed oven to a thundering soundtrack.
When to go When you’re simultaneously craving meat and meaty riffs.
What to eat Flavours are as subtle as a Slayer single – well, what did you expect? – but the chilli-spiced Bakken Special rocks.
How much? Flatbread wraps hover around the £6 mark, veggies £4, mains more like £14.Read more
What’s the vibe? This Camden Lock cantina knows how to feed as well as fiesta.
When to go During Thursday and Friday happy hours (5pm–7pm) when margaritas are £5 a pop.
What to eat Choose a spread of tacos, tostadas and quesadillas over pricier mains that are harder to share. The Mexican hot chocolate (£2.75) is a cheap – and delicious – pudding alternative.
How much? £8.50 will buy you three tacos. At lunch, you get a large steak burrito for the same price.Read more
What’s the vibe? Crowd-funded community chicken shop, hatched in a former fire station in Tottenham. Profits subsidise meals for local school kids.
When to go Lunch or dinnertime – 3.30pm–5.30pm is reserved for the post-school chicken run.
What to eat We love the smoky, spicy SAS Sandwich with jalapeno-spiked Hot Chips but the two pieces + two sides meal-deal is the best value.
How much? An SAS Sandwich and Hot Chips will cost you a tenner; the meal deal is £9.50.Read more
What’s the vibe? Corrugated iron and walls plastered with Bollywood posters and Indian newspapers lend a ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ aesthetic to this upbeat Punjabi pit-stop on Chapel Market.
When to go On the hoof, for a wrap from the stall outside, or a quick sit-down inside. With insistent bhangra beats and unyielding seats, this is not a place to linger.
What to eat The kitchen majors in street-food snacks and slow-cooked curries.
How much? Mains all cost less than a tenner.Read more
What’s the vibe? Belting breakfasts, brunches and lunches beneath high ceilings in Highbury Park.
When to go Brunch, lunch and monthly supper clubs. Check @frankscanteen on Twitter before heading over as the owner sometimes closes for catering gigs.
What to eat The kedgeree is killer, with smoked haddock and poached egg served whole instead of being mixed into the rice.
How much? The mains will give you change from a tenner.Read more
What’s the vibe? Large, utilitarian – and the gobsmacking go-to for prodigious portions of excellent cooking in London’s main Turkish ‘hood.
When to go When you’re really, really hungry.
What to eat Meze, grills and stews to share, with salad and bread on the house. Approach the mixed kebab with caution: it’s a beast.
How much? Mains cost around £11 and are often large enough to feed two, particularly if you’re ordering starters.Read more
What’s the vibe? Stokey locals are scrambling for tables in this breezy new café-restaurant, where the colourful Middle Eastern-leaning food shines.
When to go Weekend brunch is the top ticket. Mercifully, bookings are taken.
What to eat Shakshuka. Not an ‘80s synth-pop band, but a sumac-laced baked egg dish with tomatoes and peppers.
How much? If you can resist the seductive extras, £20 for two.Read more
What’s the vibe? Will the moveable street-food feast from the trailblazing Kerb be returning to its fair-weather home in King’s Cross?
When to go Dates and permanent locations for 2016 were in the pipeline when we went to press. Check @KERB_ on Twitter for the latest.
What to eat Fundi’s Neapolitan pizza, fried chicken from Mother Clucker, Claw Food’s cracking crab rolls, halloumi fries from Oli Babas.
How much? You’ll have change from a tenner, but you’ll definitely spend it.Read more
The best cheap eats in east London
What’s the vibe? Restaurant-quality NY-style burgers from a hole-in-the wall shop in Spitalfields.
When to go When nothing but dry-aged beef, cooked pink, will do.
What to eat The standard bacon cheeseburger (£7) will be plenty for most people. If you’re in the mood for yabba-dabba-doo, go for the double (£9).
How much? Throw in some fries and a milkshake and you’re looking at £15 a head.Read more
What’s the vibe? Loud, low-lit fried chicken restaurant from serial pop-up enthusiast Carl Clarke.
When to go The atmosphere here is set to ‘party’ all week long so it’s a great one for a school-night birthday meal. Livens up dates a treat, too.
What to eat Next level Southern-style chicken, marinated in buttermilk, fried to crisp perfection and served alongside banging cocktails.
How much? Just over a tenner for chicken; a bargain £6 for sours.Read more
What’s the vibe? A javelin’s throw from the Olympic Stadium, this relaxed brunch joint looks delightfully thrown-together.
When to go Arrive early or you may find the most popular dishes sold out.
What to eat Veggies go gaga for the Counter Vegetarian Deluxe, a beautifully prepared plate of vibrant veggie tapas. For everyone else, there’s bacon sarnies.
How much? About £12 a head with a home-roasted coffee.Read more
What’s the vibe? A hipped-up East-End take on the Mexican diner by Wahaca’s Tommi Miers. Not a sombrero in sight.
When to go For that pre-emptive pit-stop ahead of a Brick Lane bar crawl.
What to eat The pork pibil torta, the boss of bocadillos, and a side of chilli fries.
How much? A muy barato £8-£9 for tacos, a torta or burrito with a side of fries, rice or slaw.Read more
What’s the vibe? Third generation family-run, this iconic greasy spoon is the East End’s pride and joy: a king among caffs.
When to go Whenever you’re in the mood for home-cooked food with a generous side order of convivial banter and mickey-taking.
What to eat First-rate fry-ups, plus daily grills and Italian specials.
How much? Nowt over £8.40 – plus it’s BYO (no corkage).Read more
What’s the vibe? Long-established, family-run Vietnamese, halfway down Mare Street.
When to go It’s open daily but only for dinner.
What to eat Stir-fries and grills based on marinated meats. The galangal-scented barbecue lamb with sour sauce is excellent.
How much? Around £8 for meat-based mains; a few quid more for seafood dishes.Read more
What’s the vibe? Wholesome veggie café, complete with a corporate social responsibility policy and a weekly crafts group.
When to go When you want to feel smug and comforted at the same time.
What to eat This place is all about the daily specials. Much of the veg is locally grown by Organiclea but the flavours are international. Expect anything from curry to quiche.
How much? Around a fiver for main meals.Read more
What’s the vibe? A suitably spartan place of pilgrimage for curry devotees who come for the Punjabi-style grills and vivid curries rather than the pampering.
When to go For East-End curry without the street touts.
What to eat Nihari and dry lamb curry, all served in utilitarian karahi bowls with minimal fuss.
How much? You’ll eat well for a tenner, especially in a group – there’s an offy next door for BYO.Read more
What’s the vibe? All about the mangal. Charred meat from the enormous grill by the entrance is some of the best you’ll find this side of Istanbul.
When to go Anytime from noon to midnight daily.
What to eat Don’t bother with starters: this place is all about perfectly cooked lamb and chicken.
How much? Generously proportioned grills (easily shared with a couple of sides) will set you back £11–£12.Read more
What’s the vibe? A meal for two for £15? With drinks? In the City?! Sounds too good to be true, right? Not at Pizza Union.
When to go The cramped seating and self-service policy make this place best for casual meals. Lunchtimes are busiest.
What to eat Try the spicy Calabria with ‘nduja sausage, rocket and mascarpone.
How much? Pizzas are a bargain: £3.95-£6.50.Read more
The best cheap eats in south London
What’s the vibe? A chic, pretty little vegetarian café that's situated in a charming old Victorian dairy in Dulwich.
When to go Breakfast is the highlight of the day here, thanks to the home-made beans, veggie sausages and top-notch coffee.
What to eat It’s all so colourful and hearty, even carnivores can get stuck into the spicy stews, soups, curry and pasta dishes.
How much? Mains hover around £7.50, starters and desserts at £4.50, and there’s a £2.50 corkage charge for BYO.Read more
What’s the vibe? Street food tops the bill at this chilled-out south London market, which declares itself proud of being ‘cooler than Borough’. Great value, too.
When to go Saturday lunchtime. Haggling is generally frowned upon, but you might bag a bargain just before closing at 2pm.
What to eat Fresh, fiery, boot-filling carnitas burritos from Luardo’s, buttermilk fried chicken from Spit & Roast, and pizza from Van Dough.
How much? £5–£6 a head will buy you lunch, for £10 you’ll get two courses.Read more
What’s the vibe? An Asian version of the working men’s caff, completely void of decoration and tucked away in the corner of a car park.
When to go When the pho craving hits you in the BHS Outlet (the car park’s attached to the Surrey Quays Shopping Centre). Note that it’s closed on Tuesdays.
What to eat Substantial bowls of steaming noodle soup, perhaps with some summer rolls on the side.
How much? Most dishes will leave change from a tenner.Read more
What’s the vibe? The superlative dosas are the highlight at this rudimentary Sri Lankan/South Indian caff in Tooting – along with the minuscule prices.
When to go Before payday – DnC’s wares are cheaper and tastier than a supermarket curry.
What to eat Stick to veggie – the Mysore masala dosa, served with spiced onion, potatoes and three house chutneys is a winner.
How much? You’ll come out with change from a fiver.Read more
What’s the vibe? Ghetto fabulous: looks ghetto, tastes fabulous. Don’t be put off by the bunker-like exterior – this is comfortably Clapham Common’s finest café.
When to go Look out for evening chef residencies (which cement this gaff’s foodie credentials).
What to eat Souped-up brunch favourites: confit duck, toasted brioche bun with remoulade and duck crackling.
How much? You’ll get change from £10 for brunch dishes.Read more
What’s the vibe? Tiny, homespun kitchen-with-tables in Brixton Market that dishes up Brit-Middle Eastern food that’s as full of heart as its ever-present owners.
When to go When you fancy a chinwag with your chermoula.
What to eat Seasonal mezze if you’re snacking – the peppery muhammara and creamy labneh are menu stalwarts – wraps if you’re dining.
How much? A pimped-up chorizo and halloumi wrap will cost you £7.50.Read more
What’s the vibe? Peckhamites cram into this boho Southern Indian café to soak up its feel-good, spice-licked home cooking.
When to go Lunchtime, for the £7.50 veggie thali special.
What to eat The legendary Kerala parathas, or the groaning thali platters for a taste of everything.
How much? £28 for two, with tap water and service.Read more
What’s the vibe? Authentic Algerian salads, tagines, breads and baked sweets are served in a cosy, colourful dining room at this fine, family-run Brixton BYO.
When to go For feasting – there’s a £15 three-course menu and atmospheric private room for groups.
What to eat Cooking, done by the owner, is really good across the board. Don’t miss the baked salmon, the mezze selection, or the cakes.
How much? Most of the mains are large enough for sharing, and prices run from £10 to £15.Read more
What’s the vibe? Minuscule yet outrageously popular, the original Meza is Tooting’s top spot for Lebanese meze and grilled meats.
When to go Off peak (it’s open all afternoon) – with all of SW17 vying for 16 seats, this place makes Glastonbury look easy to get into.
What to eat As much as you can in a two-hour slot, but especially the crisp falafels, smoky baba ganoush, pomegranate-licked chicken livers and spicy batata harra potatoes.
How much? Mains come in at under a tenner, there’s a set menu for £16.Read more
What’s the vibe? Lewisham’s answer to the top Turks of Green Lanes.
When to go For a cheap celebration meal with friends. There’s plenty of room and it’s smarter than north and east London’s ocakbasi.
What to eat Freshly baked pide (Turkish pizza) or grilled meats to share over salads and sides.
How much? £6–£7 for pide; double that for grills.Read more
The best cheap eats in west London
What’s the vibe? Acutely authentic north-eastern Thai cookery finds a no-frills home at this King Street canteen.
When to go When you’re bored of Anglicised Thai food but can’t be arsed to queue up for Som Saa or Smoking Goat.
What to eat Homemade sausages, green papaya salad and – if you’ve brushed up on the lingo – a treat from the Thai script specials board.
How much? Steer clear of seafood and you can have a slap-up meal for two for less than £30.Read more
What’s the vibe? Big helpings, low prices and a rollickingly relaxed setting are the draws at this capacious Syrian venue near Shepherd’s Bush Market.
When to go To load up on freshly baked breads, houmous, baba ganoush and Damascene specialities at the all-you-can-eat Sunday breakfast buffet, from 11am to 1pm.
What to eat It’s all great: cold meze, lamb kebabs, tabbouleh – order a small amount to start with to avoid overdoing it, as portions are vast.
How much? £8.99 is a bargain for the Sunday brunch, but mains from the regular menu come in under £10.Read more
What’s the vibe? Lucky Kilburn, having this modest Afghan spot for kebabs, curries and tasty regional specials.
When to go When a friend’s birthday falls the week before payday. Ariana’s BYOB policy will help keep your bill down.
What to eat Kabuli palow (a melting, slow-cooked lamb shank, buried in a mound of yellow rice, dotted with pistachios and peppers).
How much? Only one main course (the enormous mixed kebab) costs more than £10.Read more
What’s the vibe? Tip-top tapas rules the room at this long-serving, gloriously old-fashioned Spanish stalwart.
When to go Weekend lunchtimes are prime for people-watching, but the place really gets its fiesta on at dinner – make reservations.
What to eat Pulpo a la gallega, nuggets of paprika-laced octopus that are worth the schlep up Portobello Road.
How much? There’s a three-course set-lunch menu for £11.50, otherwise average spend works out at £15 a head.Read more
What’s the vibe? Cut-price conference room decor and cramped as hell, but the crowds continue to spill out onto Queensway for Gold Mine’s roast duck.
When to go Midday for lunch, or 6pm for dinner.
What to eat Anything roasted, but mainly duck – portions are generous, so a quarter of crispy duck will easily feed two with pancakes.
How much? Half a duck with a noodle or veg dish will set you back £24 plus service.Read more
Venue says: Come and see our exciting new menu and try our deep fried soft shell crab and curry powder on top. It's so yummy!
What’s the vibe? Thai food for Thais (yep, that means SPICY!) in a diminutive basement dining room at the back of a Bayswater boozer.
When to go Prepare for a lively evening: blaring Thai pop on the stereo gives way to karaoke after 9pm.
What to eat Authentic north-eastern salads, stir-fries and sour curries. The larb (ground meat salad) is excellent.
How much? You have to order cleverly to stay below £30 for two but it’s certainly possible to eat well on a budget here. Remember: this is food designed for sharing.Read more
What’s the vibe? Unassuming neighbourhood pizzeria opened on New Kings Road by a former Pizza Express kitchen porter. Locals can’t believe their luck.
When to go When you want proper Neapolitan pizza without the nonsense.
What to eat The deep-fried pizza, slicked with passata and mozzarella, is a game-changer. Ditto the (black) carbon mozzarella.
How much? For less than a tenner each (including service), you can leave stuffed with superlative dough.Read more
What’s the vibe? Harrow is happy to have this convivial BYOB venue serving Afghan comfort food to local families in its plain dining space.
When to go En Masa – not the place, or the portions, for a romantic dinner a deux. You could smother an armadillo with one of the pillowy naans.
What to eat Ask what’s been freshly cooked that day. You can’t go wrong with the sabzi lamb and a side of dhal.
How much? You’ll get a long way on £10 a head, especially in a group.Read more
What’s the vibe? Home-cooked Eritrean food with a side order of cultural education.
When to go In the mood to try and learn new things? This friendly Westbourne Park joint will leave you enriched – and stuffed.
What to eat On the spice route and later occupied by Italy, Eritrea serves up flavours from Africa, Arabia, Asia and Europe. Expect delicious stews, great vegetarian choice and tiramisu for pud.
How much? Mains, which can be shared, cost around £11.Read more
What’s the vibe? Mouthwatering meat curries, fragrant fish dishes and deftly spiced veggies bring a blast of the southern subcontinent to Hammersmith.
When to go Lunch is the time for buffet bargain hunters.
What to eat Stick to Southern Indian dishes – locals rave about the masala dosa, seafood curries, chilli cauliflower and grilled sea bass.
How much? At lunch, you can tuck into a veggie curry, chapatti and rice for £3 – not much more than a Happy Meal.Read more
Find some more bargain grub in London
Now browse our list of London's best restaurants
This list is surely the ultimate guide to the best restaurants in London. Here you’ll find it all: zeitgeist-defining celebrity haunts, the best new restaurants in London, Michelin star restaurants with starched linen napkins and restaurants serving cheap eats where you’ll have to eat with your fingers. What they all have in common is that they serve some of the best dishes in London at fair prices, with service befitting the setting. In short, if you’re looking for a great meal, you’ve come to the right place.Read more