London's best cheap eats

Great food and good-value restaurants and cafés in the capital



Albion at The Boundary Project

2-4 Boundary St, Shoreditch, E2 7DD (020 7729 1051)

British

High-end British caff in Shoreditch, run by Terence Conran and providing nicely made British nostalgia food. Breakfast is served all day, plus, of course, sandwiches, fish and chips, pies, and school puddings.
Meal for two with wine and service: around £45.

Boho Mexica

151-153 Commercial St, E1 6BJ (020 7377 8418)

Mexican

Those expecting a Mexican pastiche in Whitechapel might be disappointed. Try the sopes, small corn bowls with beans and a choice of filling; delicate fish tacos; or corn on the cob, here served with lime, chilli and cheese as a dessert.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £40.

Gourmet San

261 Bethnal Green Rd, E2 6AH (020 7729 8388)

Chinese

Numbing Sichuan peppercorns and dried red chillis are used liberally to pep up portions of beef, while barbecued lamb skewers (a speciality of northern China) are cumin-spiced and juicy.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £35.

Green Papaya

191 Mare St, Hackney, E8 3QE (020 8985 5486)

Vietnamese

Vietnamese food veterans tired of the usual offerings in east London should head to Green Papaya, where ingredients like banana flowers and smoked tofu are used with great effect.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £35.

Lahore Kebab House

2 Umberston St, Whitechapel, E1 1PY (020 7488 2551)

Indian

As noisy and boisterous as a school canteen, this long-established Pakistani caff offers earthy cooking with plenty of smoky grills and hot, buttery breads.
Meal for two with service: around £25. BYO no corkage charge.

Mangal Ocakbasi

10 Arcola St, Dalston, E8 2DJ (020 7275 8981)

Turkish

This Turkish ocakbasi (charcoal grill restaurant) was London’s first in 1992, and just look what they started. This remains one of the most endearing, and simplest; for heaps of prime meat at low prices and its BYO policy.
Meal for two with service: around £35.

Moo!

4 Cobb St, E1 7LB (020 7377 9276)

Argentinian

This casual Argentinian café (from the team behind meat temples Santa Maria del Sur and Garufa) offers larger-than-life steak sarnies (‘lomitos’) as well as juicy beefy empanadas.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £25.

My Old Place

88-90 Middlesex St, London, E1 7EZ (020 7247 2200)

Chinese

At this low-key Sichuan/Dong Bei restaurant, food is very cheap (around £7-£11 for massive main courses) and uncompromisingly authentic: many plates come mined with Sichuan pepper and cluster-bombed with sliced dried red chilli – the ma la (numbing-spicy) combination typical of that area. Local classics such as twice-cooked pork belly and kung pao chicken are faithful renditions, and vegetables are treated well here too: dry-fried green beans with chilli makes a good sharing dish.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £30.

Needoo Grill

87 New Rd, E1 1HH (020 7247 0648)

Indian

While the chargrilled lamb chops might not quite be up to the standard of the life-changingly tasty ones at Tayyabs, the smoky seekh kebabs and Bihari mutton tikka, assertively spiced meat curries and smooth dhals are almost on a par with Needoo’s Fieldgate Street neighbour.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £25.

Poppies

6-8 Hanbury St, London, E1 6QR (020 7247 0892)

Fish and seafood

Poppies takes a modern approach to sourcing fish and chicken – sustainably caught haddock, halibut, rock, etc and free-range fowl – and drinks such as Meantime beers and wines by the glass encourage diners to sit in. Chips are handcut every day, tartare sauce is handmade. This is no ordinary fish and chip shop.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £25.

Railroad

120-122 Morning Lane, London, E9 6LH (020 8985 2858)

Global

A quirky little place that feels perfectly at home in Hackney. It's open from breakfast till dinner (some nights), and the food is of an ambition you wouldn't expect given the size of the kitchen and the location. The small but enticing menu changes daily.
Meal for two with wine and service: around £45

Rosa's

12 Hanbury St, Brick Lane, E1 6QR (020 7247 1093)

Thai

If there was a restaurant to epitomise ‘cheap and cheerful’, Rosa’s would be it. But this small restaurant off Brick Lane offers home-style Thai cooking with flair.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £40.

Song Que

134 Kingsland Rd, Shoreditch, E2 8DY (020 7613 3222)

Vietnamese

There’s a distinct canteen-style feel about Song Que – it's all terribly efficient, the Vietnamese food on offer is always fresh and satisfying, and all dishes offer great value for money.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £30.

Tayyabs

83 Fieldgate St, Whitechapel, E1 1JU (020 7247 9543)

Indian

This legendary Pakistani eatery is a veritable temple to meat, with diners coming in their droves to sample as many of Tayyabs’s specialities as their stomachs will allow. The portions are epic and sharing is encouraged.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £25.

Tippy's Café

291 Barking Rd, London, E6 1LB (020 8552 4227)

Thai

Squeezed between a mosque and a bingo hall, Tippy’s is half friendly east London caff, half family-run Thai restaurant. Our veg and herb packed Thai noodle soup with butterfly prawns and a simple pad Thai both had surprising depth of flavour for the price.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £24. BYO no corkage charge.

Tsuru

Unit 3, 201 Bishopsgate, EC2M 3AB (020 7377 1166); Aldernary House, 15 Queen Street EC4N 1TX (020 7377 6367)

Japanese

The original branch of this Japanese café is hidden behind Tate Modern, but luckily these new, larger premises have a far less esoteric location. The food is, as ever, excellent. The eight-hour katsu curry is one of our staple orders, but the small plates of Japanese classics, such as spry nuggets of tori karaage (fried chicken) or yakitori (grilled chicken skewers – including crisp chicken skin), are also worth trying. Other bitesized dishes such as gyoza (pork and vegetable dumplings), creamy potato korokke (the Japanese answer to the croquette) and sea-fresh sashimi and nigiri are all excellent, and fairly priced. A newer branch is near Mansion House.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £25.

Zengi

44 Commercial St, E1 6LT (020 7246 0700)

Middle Eastern

At first glance, Zengi would appear to be a fairly typical Middle Eastern restaurant – there are twinkly lanterns and colourful cushions, meze and grills, mint tea and sugary sweets. Turkish and Arabian staples – houmous and moutabel, okra stew, kofte and sis – are cooked well and prettily presented, and the wood-fired oven ensures bread is fresh and flavoursome. But what sets it apart is the Iraqi dishes the Kurdish owner Sam has introduced to the menu: the local versions of kibbeh (mosul kuba and hallab kuba) are recommended.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £25.


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