London's best cheap eats



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


346-348 Garratt Lane, Earlsfield, SW18 4ES (020 8874 9036)


Book well in advance and bring a bottle to enjoy surprisingly sophisticated Thai dishes, prepared to order at the hectic kitchen on the ground floor.
Meal for two with service: around £28.

Bonnington Café

11 Vauxhall Grove, SW8 1TD


Located just off the suitably bohemian environs of Bonnington Square, this vegetarian restaurant is community run, and uncommonly friendly as a result.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £25.

Brunswick House Café

30 Wandsworth Rd, Vauxhall Cross, London, SW8 2LG (020 7720 2926)


A slightly louche daytime café, which from Thursday to Saturday is also open in the evenings, serving cocktails and wine.The dinner menu used some British produce, but mixes it up with Italian influences. British pork shoulder (Gloucester Old Spot) might be served with spicy ’nduja (a spreadable Calabrian ‘sausage’) and fennel; or celeriac served with as a gratin with gorgonzola and walnut.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £25.

Café East

Surrey Quays Leisure Park, 100 Redriff Row, London, SE16 7LH (020 7252 1212)


To do one of Vietnam’s signature dishes and to do it well is commendable enough. But to do it so consistently well is even better. This simple Vietnamese café located in Surrey Quays Leisure Park is often mentioned in our Cheap Eats round-ups, and for good reason – it’s dead cheap, delicious, and most of all reliable. The basic beef pho is extraordinary, with clarity of flavour; the spicy broth version is equally enticing, with plenty of chilli oil to turn up the heat. Fried Vietnamese sausage slices wouldn’t merit a second glance, but the meaty discs are bouncy on the teeth and packed with umami. The rice dishes are popular with many of the students who frequent the café, but trust us when we recommend the pho.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £25. Cash only.

Cah Chi

394 Garratt Lane, Earlsfield, SW18 4HP (020 8946 8811)


The barbecues are a big hit if you’re a Korean food novice; more experienced diners may want to specify their own choices of panch’an (side dishes).
Meal for two with service: around £35.

Dosa n Chutny

68 Tooting High St, SW17 0RN (020 8767 9200).

South Indian/ Sri Lankan

It’s ridiculously difficult to spend more than a tenner a head on the South Indian and Sri Lankan delights here, especially if you stick to the vegetarian specialities such as idli (steamed cakes of fermented lentils and rice) or the superlative dosai (crisped rice pancakes, usually supplemented with spicy lentil dip and coconut chutney).
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £25. Set lunch (takeaway only) £3.95-£4.95.


481 Upper Richmond Rd West, Barnes, SW14 7PU (020 8878 5738)


A consistently excellent menu in a restaurant that emulates the warm familiarity of bustling Tehran kebab houses.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £40.

French Café

16-18 Ritherdon Rd, SW17 8QD (020 8767 2660)


A two-course prix fixe at this charming French bistro will set you back £9.95. The food is simple but cooked well, and the modestly priced wine list is a bonus.
Meal for two with drinks and service around £30.

The Georgian

27 Balham Hill, London, SW12 9DX (020 8675 4975)


Very good renditions of Georgian classics such as borsch, blinis, pelmenis and khachapuri grace the menu beside more standard breakfast items like muesli and croissants. Opening hours have recently changed – it's now open Tuesday to Saturday nights for dinner, but it's still BYO.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £25.

Kitfo House

49 South Lambeth Rd, Vauxhall, SW8 1RH (020 7735 8915)


Vauxhall café with Eritrean food. We recommend sharing any of the 'special platters', which feature a dazzling variety of dishes selected from the à la carte. We discovered that sharing just one special platter feeds two people easily.
Meal for two with wine and service: around £25

Le Wei Xiang

80 Lee High Rd, SE13 5PT (020 8318 2525)


At first glance, the menu (with its 200-plus dishes) at this Chinese restaurant seems to offer the usual takeaway crowd-pleasers. But from number 137 onwards, there are Sichuan and Dong Bei (north-eastern China) dishes too. We tried ginger-tinged shredded potatoes (£3) and a wobbling plateful of silky chilled tofu in a vinegared soy sauce base and chopped, creamy preserved duck eggs (£5) – the best dish. The staff are happy to recommend the more esoteric dishes, provided you show an interest in something other than special fried rice.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £35.

Maltings Café

Sarsons Brewery Works, 169 Tower Bridge Rd, SE1 3NA (020 7378 7961)


Maltings runs five days a week (though not for dinner), serving a small menu of Mediterranean-style pasta dishes, grilled meat and fish and various vegetarian salads. Nothing costs more than £8, with a main of succulent grilled rump steak coming in at £7.95 and a massive plateful of squid ink risotto topped with grilled squid a laughable £7.75. The al dente mafaldine pasta with roasted broccoli (£5.50) exceeded expectations with incredible flavours springing from just a handful of ingredients.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £30.


First floor, Elephant


The large communal tables are filled with loud students who are here for cheap Polish beer and filling food. Whether you choose the deliciously chewy pierogi Mamuski! (filled with cabbage and smoked bacon) or a tower of potato pancakes topped with ladles of saucy gulasch, the portions of traditional Polish fare are humongous. A main course will set you back only £5, and increase the circumference of your belt by another hole.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £25. BYO no corkage charge.


34 Trinity Rd, London, SW17 7RE (07722 111299)


This Lebanese restaurant is currently the sensation of Tooting Bec. The home-style Lebanese cooking is excellent. The aubergine dishes come in a few variations, all rich in fresh herb flavours. Ful medames (mashed brown broad beans) is seasoned with lemon juice and garlic, then served swimming in olive oil, just as it would be in Beirut. Wines by the glass, some of it Lebanese, cost less than £4, or there are bottled beers.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £40. Cash only.

Mien Tay

180 Lavender Hill, SW11 5TQ (020 7350 0721)

Southern Vietnamese

This is the second branch of the Kingsland Road original, which specialises in the lighter, fresher flavours of southern Vietnam. The pho is fantastic, with a clear yet beefy broth, and no regular would come without ordering the sticky spiced grilled quail. Service is friendly; combined with the excellent food, it’s easy to overlook the slightly dated decor.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £35.

Panda Panda

8 Deptford Broadway, London, SE8 4PA (020 8616 6922)


Dreary Deptford Broadway is enlivened no end by this sparkling little Vietnamese cafe – visit for the excellent banh mi (baguette with chilli, pickles and pate).
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £20

Ragged Canteen

Beaconsfield, 22 Newport St, Vauxhall, SE11 6AY (020 7582 6465)


Serving up wholesome vegetarian brunches and lunches with a cheery and uplifting service. The dishes are freshly prepared with real care using high-quality ingredients.
Lunch for two with service: around £18.

Silk Road

49 Camberwell Church St, SE5 8TR (020 7703 4832)

Northern Chinese

The food here is based on the hearty, diverse cuisine of Xinjiang in north-western China, and the ‘medium chicken’ (a meaty, anise-and-chilli-heavy stew) comes with chewy handmade noodles to soak up any leftover broth.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £30.


4 Canvey St, Bankside, SE1 9AN (020 7928 2228)


At this daytime café, the focus is on reasonably priced Japanese food that is ethically and/or locally sourced.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £25.

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