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The 100 best cheap eats in London: cheap breakfasts in London

Start your day in style, without making toast of your finances

Rob Greig

Whether you’re keen on a kipper or pining for porridge, here are our favourite London restaurants from our cheap eats guide that will guarantee you a money-saving breakfast.

RECOMMENDED: The 100 best cheap eats in London

Arancini Factory

Kentish Town never knew how much it loved arancini – Sicilian-style deep-fried risotto balls – until this affable caff opened in 2012. Now the place is a firm favourite locally. The arancini are served in several forms: plain (‘naked’), with salad, in wraps, or accompanied by a stew (we like the all-veg version). There are other options too, such as poached eggs, egg wraps and bagels for breakfast, and toasted sandwiches. Try the ‘full breakfast bagel’: ham, onion jam, roast tomato, fried egg and cheese. Note: the small garden eating area at the back is a haven of quiet in good weather.

Meal for two with drinks and service: around £16

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Camden Town

Café Below

Café Below first won a loyal following for its vegetarian-centric café food, and its memorable setting – the crypt of a Grade I-listed Wren church. It still serves breakfast and lunch five days a week, but now also offers dinner from Wednesday to Friday. The food tends towards rustic simplicity during the day, getting more ambitious (and pricier) in the evening. The fish pie (£11.50), a long-standing feature, is a hefty, pleasing plateful. Mixed salads, with optional extras such as cheese soufflé or smoked salmon, use excellent ingredients and are dressed with unusual skill. Café Below is always busy at lunchtime, and for good reason.

Meal for two with drinks and service: around £30 (lunch), £45 (dinner)

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Mansion House

Counter Café

A delightfully thrown-together-looking daytime joint behind artists’ studios, the Counter deals in brunches, salads and pies. Excellent herby lamb pie comes with well-dressed colourful salad leaves, while an all-day dish of perfectly poached eggs is topped by smoked salmon on potato cakes (ours were slightly under-powered). Own-made tomato relish is left on each table, and the flat white coffee is terrific. There’s good music in the ground-floor room right on the canal, and peace and quiet, plus a view of trees and the Olympic stadium, from squidgy sofas and large tables upstairs. A useful pit-stop when exploring this fascinating, evolving area.

Meal for two with drinks and service: around £25

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Hackney Wick

E Pellicci

Opened in 1900, and still run by the same family, Pellicci’s is a Bethnal Green landmark. Chrome-rimmed Vitrolite panels line the outside, and the wood-panelled interior is filled with Formica tables and art deco touches. All-day breakfast fry-ups are first rate – note the ‘quality’ sausage, and the option for extras such as black pudding and ‘homemade bubble’. The fish and chips, daily grills, Italian pasta specials and desserts (from bread pudding to Portuguese pasteis de nata) aren’t bad either. But it’s the vibrant welcome and lively banter that make this daytime-only place so special (NB: unlicensed; no corkage charge).

Meal for two with drinks and service: around £20

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Bethnal Green


It may resemble a concrete box, but this is Clapham Common’s best café by a jogger’s mile – created by those behind Balham’s über-trendy M1lk. Fields’ modestly furnished room belies a menu of great invention. Slow-braised oxtail arrives on sourdough toast with pickled shiitake mushrooms and basil leaves; burnt plum comes with Cornish cream, wet walnut and muscat grapes. Light bites include a yeasty, peat-smoked lardy cake, cooked in a tiny Bundt tin, or big Anzac biscuits. To drink, great coffee is made with either Workshop espresso or Koppi filter – plus there’s Kernel Table beer and even ‘natural’ wines by the glass. The large outdoor decked area adds child-friendly appeal.

Meal for two with drinks and service: around £30

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Franks Canteen

Franks is open during the daytime only, but what it lacks in opening hours it makes up in quality. The kitchen produces great breakfasts, brunches and lunches, with dishes starting at around £5 for sandwiches and most of the weekly changing mains costing less than £10. All egg dishes are excellent; the kedgeree in particular is a natural-born killer and quiches will make you newly aware of the virtues of this café cliché. Just to add icing to the cake, it’s a lovely place to look at: clean, crisp, and light-filled when the sun’s out.

Meal for two with drinks and service: around £28

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Hornbeam Café

Adverts on the wall for yoga and tai chi classes indicate where this daytime café’s heart lies. The welcome is friendly and the daily changing menu is short, wholesome and satisfying: a soup, a tabouleh dish and a salad, say, with ample cakes and fresh bread. The Hornbeam is now running as a partnership with local food business Norman Loves. It continues to serve vegetarian and vegan food with much of the veg locally grown by Waltham Forest-based workers co-operative Organiclea. Exciting? No, but we can’t help liking the place.

Meal for two with drinks and service: around £20

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Lucky 7

Lucky 7 gets you smiling the second you look at its OTT American roadhouse-retro décor. The menu is a smile too, long on breakfast, burgers and rich desserts. The fried breakfast is so big that two could easily make a meal out of it. Burgers feature excellent beef, good garnishes and ace fries on the side. Huevos rancheros include top-notch chorizo and a textbook guacamole. Even the salads are good. And please, please save room for the pecan pie. It’s a tiny place, and no bookings are taken, so you may need to queue – but it’s worth the wait.

Meal for two with drinks and service: around £35

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Westbourne Grove

Mario's Café

Set in one of Kentish Town’s prettiest streets, Mario’s has been an incredibly popular and community-minded daytime spot for decades. The emphasis on community means that prices are lower than much of the competition; a full breakfast for under a fiver is not so easy to find as Kentish Town moves upmarket. And the quality of the cooking is a cut above. Yes, you’ll find standard caff stuff – eggs, grills, sandwiches, jacket potatoes – but what sets this place apart is the Italian cooking, by Mario’s mum. It’s genuine casalinga (home-style) cuisine in a modest setting at modest prices. Small wonder that the caff is almost always packed.

Meal for two with drinks and service: around £18

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Kentish Town

Regency Café

This workman’s café on the Westminster/Pimlico border is a striking example of its genre. The Art Deco frontage is jollied up with red-and-white gingham curtains, and the interior sports a classic combination of brown plastic chairs, Formica-topped tables and photos of yesterday’s stars on the tiled walls. The menu is a carb-fest of lasagne, omelettes, jacket potatoes and cooked breakfasts of all descriptions, plus own-made specials such as steak pie with gravy – all with the option of chips on the side, and accompanied by builders’ tea (naturally). Desserts include cinnamon-flecked bread-and-butter pudding, though it’s doubtful you’ll have room.

Meal for two with drinks and service: around £16

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E Pellici? When Cafe 338 is 3 doors down, open on a Sunday, cheaper, far more popular?