London's best cheap eats

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



8 Station Terrace

8 Station Terrace, NW10 5RT (020 8960 0277)

European

An appealing Kensal Rise brasserie-café where the European food is simple but satisfying and generously proportioned.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £40.

Ariana II

241 Kilburn High Rd, NW6 7JN (020 3490 6709)

Afghan

Order the Afghan specials: dumplings such as aushak, delicate ravioli that are filled with leeks, then topped with spicy meat sauce and a drizzle of yogurt. Kabuli palow (pilau) is a heap of long-grained brown basmati rice concealing a bone of lamb shank, a luxe version of the rice dish peppered with raisins, almonds and pistachios, and carefully spiced. The kebabs are, well, kebabs. But some of the food is unusual and wonderful, and the prices are low.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £25. BYO no corkage charge.

Delhi Grill

21 Chapel Market, London, N1 9EZ (020 7278 8100)

Indian

Inspired by roadside stalls, Delhi Grill replicates the earthy flavours of Punjabi street food with a short menu of smoky grills and traditional slow-cooked curries.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £35.

Dotori

3 Stroud Green Road, Finsbury Park, N4 2DQ (020 7263 3562)

Korean

Lanterns covered in hangul (Korean phonetic script) indicate the culinary emphasis at Dotori, though the mixed clientele clearly relish the gyoza and the salmon sashimi on the Japanese side of the menu, too.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £40.

Gilak

663 Holloway Rd, N19 5SE (020 7272 1692)

Iranian

Gilan is a northern province in Iran and the owner of this modest and brand new restaurant, Maji Hokami, is Gilaki. Gilaki food is strong on vegetarian dishes, and a starter of smoked aubergines with walnut, garlic and sour pomegranate juice, called kale kabab, was an interesting twist on the usual Middle Eastern aubergine dips. But better still was the lamb kebab called chellow kabab torsh.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £40.

Hala

29 Green Lanes, N4 1LG (020 8802 4883)

Turkish

If the sight of women making fresh gözleme (filled pancakes) in the window isn’t enough of a draw, the huge portions of flavoursome Turkish dishes – from mixed grills to crisp pizza-like pide – will be.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £35.

Masa

24-26 Headstone Drive, Harrow, Middx, HA3 5QH (020 8861 6213)

Afghan

The menu here incorporates a medley of flavours from the region, plus low pricing and sublime dishes. Expect meaty kebabs with strains of Middle Eastern character, Central Asian dumplings, Indian-inspired curries, and a selection of pastas and flatbreads.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £40.

Nice Green Café

Cecil Sharp House, 2 Regent's Park Rd, NW1 7AY (020 7485 2206)

British

Cecil Sharp House is the HQ of the English Folk Dance and Song Society in Primrose Hill, and hidden within is this cosy little cafe. The short menu offers lots of healthy homemade options such as chunky soups, organic sausages and pies.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £20.

Oasis

236 Neasden Lane, London, NW10 0AA (020 8450 5178)

Polish

Hearty and filling Polish food is the order of the day in this cheery café, and it’s served in indecently large portions at very low prices. The classics are here – bigos, barszcz, beef stroganoff, pancakes – but the menu lists many other Eastern European choices. Bigos is an immense helping of sauerkraut hiding chunks of chicken and wonderfully smoky bacon nuggets, with juniper berries adding piquancy. It costs £3.80, and virtually nothing costs more than £8.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £30. BYO no corkage charge.

Ottoman Palace

14-16 Camden High St, NW1 0JH (020 7383 7245)

Turkish

The food comes from an extensive menu taking in cold and hot meze, all forms of kebabs, meat grills and some token vegetarian dishes, salads and freshly made pide breads. Our karisik meze (for two, but big enough for at least three) was a mammoth portion comprising seven types of starters. A recommended lamb sarma beyti used good-quality, well-seasoned, hand-minced meat cooked over a charcoal grill. Sharing is a great way to keep the bill down here – and with portions this hearty it’s easy to do too.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £40.

Rasa

55 Stoke Newington Church Street, Stoke Newington, N16 0AR (020 7249 0344)

South Indian

This, the original branch of the Rasa chain, caused a stir when it opened in 1997. It may not create quite the same excitement as when it opened, but the dishes are excellent and the execution still good.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £30.

El Rincon Quiteno

235 Holloway Rd, London, N7 8HG (020 7700 3670)

Ecuadorian/ Bolivian

This warm and buzzing little Ecuadorian-Bolivian restaurant is all about huge portions of meat and carbs at very agreeable prices. Big flavours preside over dishes such as ceviche de camaron (prawns) and pique macho (beef stew).
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £35.

Satuma

8 Fortess Rd, Kentish Town, NW5 2ES (020 7485 7078)

Japanese

The food at this tiny-but-stylish restaurant is what marks Satuma apart from the usual hole-in-the-wall Japanese joints. Presentation is simple yet stylish – the lunchtime bentos, ranging from £6.50 to £8.50, represent the best value for money.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £45.

Tandis

73 Haverstock Hill, Chalk Farm, NW3 4SL (020 7586 8079)

Iranian

This striking Iranian restaurant serves up a feast of subtly marinated chicken or lamb kebabs, slow-cooked khoresh stews and faloodeh shaved-ice desserts – we suggest skipping the starters to order one of these instead.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £25.

Tbilisi

91 Holloway Rd, Holloway, N7 8LT (020 7607 2536)

Georgian

It’s remarkable that despite everything working in its favour – great Georgian food and wine, friendly service and modest pricing, with mains coming in at less than £10 – Tbilisi is still something of a secret.
Meal for two with wine and service: around £40.

Tenshi

61 Upper St, Islington, N1 0NY (020 7226 4665)

Japanese

This little Upper Street Japanese restaurant impresses with a wide selection of Japanese dishes: sushi, sashimi and tempura, yaki-soba (fried noodles), katsu curry and udon noodle soups.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £25.

Tong Kanom Thai

833 Harrow Rd, Kensal Green, NW10 5NH (020 8964 5373)

Thai

This is a real find, hidden on a rather derelict stretch of Harrow Road. Staggeringly, most dishes here are under the £5 mark, but there are no discernible corners cut.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £25.

The Village

421 Green Lanes, N4 1EY (07785 187 715)

Bulgarian

This Bulgarian grill in Green Lanes brings together an intriguing combination of dishes, with East European, Greek and Turkish influences. The Balkan dishes, such as fried chicken livers and hearts, are specialities worth seeking out.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £40.

Vy Nam Cafe

371 Regents Park Rd, London, N3 1DE (020 8371 4222)

Vietnamese

The menu largely covers the usual north and south Vietnamese classics, and continues for a bit longer than is probably necessary, although the presence of goat and frogs’ legs mean it’s possible to try something a bit different. But despite the length of the menu, there’s no cutting corners on quality.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £35.

Yum Cha

27-28 Chalk Farm Rd, London, NW1 8AG (020 7482 2228)

Cantonese

Disregard the more undemanding pan-Asian fare and jump straight to the dim sum selection. Classics such as Chinese prawn and chive dumpling (£2.60 lunch, £3.50 dinner) and Sichuan minced pork and peanut dumplings (£3.50 lunch, £4.50 dinner) sit next to turnip cake with wind-dried meat and shrimp (£2.60 lunch). The evening dim sum menu might be less extensive than its lunchtime equivalent, but head to Yum Cha on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday night to indulge in the dumplings, all at half-price.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £20.

Zeytoon

94-96 Cricklewood Broadway, NW2 3EL (020 8830 7434)

Iranian/ Afghan

This Cricklewood restaurant is done up with elaborate tapestries and dramatic brick arches, but the food – an enticing Irano-Afghan mix – is family-style.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £35.


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