London's best cheap eats
Great food and good-value restaurants and cafés in the capital
101 Thai Kitchen
352 King St, Hammersmith, W6 0RX (020 8746 6888)
The 'sour curry' hot pot with seabass (£9.95) and sour prawn curry are extraordinarily flavoursome, and are the specialities of one of the owners and cooks, who hails from southern Thailand.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £30.
128 Edgware Rd, W2 2DZ (020 8749 5107)
In many ways this new branch of Abu Zaad is a generic Edgware Road Middle Eastern restaurant – no alcohol, tiled interior, big ornate lanterns, Arabic satellite TV – but the menu lists many brilliantly executed Syrian dishes. A bowl of fattet hommos (£3.75) comprises chickpeas, crisp fried pieces of flatbread and garlicky yoghurt, garnished with paprika and chopped parsley, served warm. Of course, the grilled meats are good too, but it’s the more unusual dishes, such as molokhia (Egyptian-style jute leaves – slightly bitter, slightly slimy – cooked with pieces of chicken, £6), that differentiate Abu Zaad from the Lebanese norm.
Meal for two with drinks and service around £30. No alcohol sold or permitted.
472 Chiswick High Rd, London, W4 5TT (020 8994 4217)
A welcome pit-stop along the Chiswick High Road, this friendly, family-run Persian is a branch of the original in East Sheen, but is no less homely. Starters cover the expected: chopped salads, yoghurts, pickles, feta and dolme... though we could eat just the kashk e bademjan (a smoky aubergine purée) with fresh sesame coated bread and leave happy.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £35.
104 Ladbroke Grove, W11 1PY (020 7229 3010)
This compact, no-frills Turkish BYO on Ladbroke Grove is dominated by a huge charcoal grill. Deft hands move a line of hefty meat skewers (the main draw) hypnotically across its blistering surface, while billows of smoke disappear up into the cavernous copper hood. Scoop up simple vegetable dishes and dips, with heated slabs of flat bread while your meats sizzle. The succulent skewers come served on rice with a colourful trio of raw veg – carrots, purple cabbage and wild rocket (this is Notting Hill), or on bread, smothered in tomato sauce and sharp yoghurt. Turkish tea and baklava round off the meal.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £30. BYO no corkage charge.
144 Chiswick High Rd, W4 1PU (8747 4822/www.francomanca.co.uk)
This pizza parlour has its roots in Brixton, but its second branch in Chiswick is not a penny different. The premises may be larger but your bill will be just as mini – Franco Manca's wood-fired pizzas are truly one of London's greatest cheap eats, with the priciest version (tomato, cured organic chorizo and mozzarella) coming in at £6.95, while a frugal tomato, garlic and oregano number is £4.50. We challenge you to find a better quality pizza for the price elsewhere.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £20 Meal for two with drinks and service: around £35.
102 Queensway, W2 3RR (020 7792 8331)
The roast meats are the main attraction, enticing diners to wedge in unceremoniously for a quick bite. The Cantonese-style roast duck is pink-fleshed, crisp-skinned, served with a balanced sauce (not too much anise), and with a thick layer of glistening fat. Sizzling hot plates and pots fill out a meal with minced gingery pork and tofu or aubergine and crunchy vegetables.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £35. BYO corkage from £5. Set meal £15-£20 per person (minimum two people).
444 Edgware Rd, W2 1EG (020 7258 3696)
This tiny Burmese restaurant in a simple shop unit is an unexpected treat. Expect plenty of fish and seafood, fragrant bowls of rice and noodles, and light aromatic curries.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £35.
5 Goldhawk Rd, London, W12 8QQ (020 8743 5194)
This is hearty Polish comfort food, and much like visiting granny, you get the feeling you’re being filled up to last a while. Plump for the varied set menu and be prepared to eat a lot. Bread smeared with smalec (pork fat), leads into borscht (white or red) and crisp potato pancakes.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £45. Set meal £15.50 for three courses incl. vodka shot.
203 Kenton Rd, Kenton, HA3 0HD (020 8907 2022)
New owners took over this iconic Gujarati café in Kenton in 2009, but the staff and vegetarian cooking have remained reassuringly unchanged. Framed images of Hindu deities add a splash of colour to an otherwise spartan café, but the main attraction is the chef, who consistently serves a taste from 'back home' to local Gujarati families.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £25.
332 King St, Hammersmith, W6 0RR (020 8748 0002)
As a specialist in kushiyaki (grilled skewers), izakaya-style dishes, saké, beer, sushi and sashimi, Tosa is consistently packed with Hammersmith locals and suited Japanese businessmen. The skewers are cooked on a smoky robata grill at the front of the restaurant, where a few diners can get a front-row seat; otherwise, the small wooden tables at the back under a skylight make a cosy perch.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £40.