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Sambal Shiok
Photograph: Angela Sam

The best cheap eats in London

The best restaurants and cafés in the capital for great food and good value

By Time Out London Food & Drink
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London might well be the world’s greatest food city (that’s right, we’ve gone there) but with spiralling living costs and a small thing like a pandemic putting the brakes on the concept of ‘spare’ cash, it’s not like any of us can eat out as much as we’d like to. Don’t worry: our list of London’s best cheap eats will help remedy that.

Everything here has been priced at £10 a head or less – many restaurants in this list will have you well fed for a fiver – to eat in or takeaway. And variety is the name of the game – so expect London staples like fish and chips and pie and mash, but also discover the best for banh mi, patties, gozleme, shawarma, steamed buns, lahmacun, kebabs, bagels, baps and sarnies.

Not only will visiting these places give you the kind of buzz only a bargain bite to eat can deliver, but you can also relish in the fact that you’re supporting small London businesses when they need you the most. So gather your pennies and hit the streets – filling up in London’s best restaurants needn’t empty the wallet.

The best cheap eats in London

Andu Cafe

Restaurants Ethiopian Dalston

This Ethiopian cafe bashes out hearty vegan food in a friendly, no-frills setting. Inside, it’s simple: take a seat among the fairy lights and artificial plants and you’ll be asked whether you want traditional injera (a spongy, savoury pancake) or rice, which will then be served up with six sample dishes. It’s all about the greens and aromatic stews made with beans or lentils here, which are pimped out with plenty of garlic, ginger and turmeric. It's BYO, too. 

Price: £7 per person or £12 for two. 

 

Anima e Cuore

Restaurants Italian Kentish Town

A panuozzo is essentially a pizza-dough sandwich, and as you can imagine, it’s pretty darn filling. This dinky Kentish Town café and gelateria makes a speciality of them: a caprese buffalo mozzarella, tomato and rocket version will fill you up.

Price: Panuozzo from £7.50

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Addie's Thai

Restaurants Thai Earl’s Court

Going strong for more than three decades, this plain-looking Earl’s Court restaurant and bar is still packed to the rafters – and as good as it ever was. As soon as the proper caramel-coloured prawn crackers arrive, you know that this place is the real deal. So dig into their great-value menu for all the usual Thai suspects – from the fresh and frighteningly spicy som tum (green papaya) salad served in a deep bowl to curries, stir-fries and luscious pad thai topped with a traditional lattice pancake. 

Price: Pad thai £8; red Thai curry with steamed rice £10.

Arancini Brothers Factory Café

Restaurants Italian Kentish Town

The first permanent location from marketeers Arancini Bros is an affable retro caff cluttered with boxes of fresh produce – although all eyes are on the food coming from the open kitchen at the back. The food’s now 100 percent vegan, from the namesake deep-fried arancini (risotto balls served plain or stuffed into tortilla wraps) to burgers, salad boxes and stews (butternut squash and lentil, say). You can also BYOB. Branches in Old Street, Dalston and Maltby Street.  

Price: Arancini balls from £5.50 for five; salad boxes, burgers and stews around £9.

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Ariana II

Restaurants Afghan Kilburn

Kilburn’s pride and joy, this modest Afghan spot also attracts people from across London with its excellent cooking, budget prices and BYOB policy. Dumplings, tikkas, curries and kebabs show the cuisine’s cultural diversity, but also look for more distinctive ideas – from mantu (minced meat in steamed pastry topped with yoghurt, chickpeas and mint) to the must-have kabuli palow (slow-cooked lamb shank buried in a mound of yellow rice, dotted with pistachios and peppers). To drink, order minty yoghurt ‘dough’ or cardamom tea. 

Price: Lamb mantu £8; kabuli palow £9. 

The 100 best cheap eats in London, Bao
The 100 best cheap eats in London, Bao
Credit: Rob Greig

Bao

Restaurants Taiwanese Soho

Camera-wielding gastro geeks still line Lexington Street hoping to hashtag London’s finest bao, and there’s always a queue outside this iconic no-bookings eatery – your best bet is a late dinner. Spend your tenner wisely by picking from the line-up of steamed buns (the ‘classic’ with braised pork belly, peanut powder and fermented greens is a must), but don’t ignore the ‘xiao chi’ snacks such as trotter nuggets or mapo aubergine with chi shiang rice. If you prefer to book, head to Bao Fitzrovia

Price: Bao from £5.25; Taiwanese fried chicken with hot sauce £6.75. 



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Bánh Bánh

Restaurants Vietnamese Peckham

Now happily embedded in Peckham Rye, this former street food outfit serves up fail-safe Vietnamese dishes in a modest, neutrally decorated, plywood-clad setting. Affordable classics such as summer rolls, pho and ‘bun’ noodle salads abound, but it’s worth tossing in an extra quid for more unusual ideas such as the bò kho beef stew with lemongrass or bánh khot turmeric and coconut pancakes filled with prawns and sprinkled with shrimp dust. There’s a second branch in Brixton.  

Price: Pho £9; ‘bun’ noodle salad £10.

Berber & Q Shawarma Bar

Restaurants Middle Eastern Clerkenwell

A pocket-sized offshoot of Haggerston’s feted Middle Eastern grill, Berber & Q’s Exmouth Market outpost is great for a boozy catch-up over some dirty cocktails and spit-roasted meat. If you want to eat dinner for under a tenner, stay with the meze or filled pittas – perhaps lamb kofte, lamb shawarma, chicken thighs or cauliflower, piled with pickles, herbs and tahini (plus some Yemenite Dynamite hot sauce for extra oomph). Spend any spare change on one of the lush ice cream desserts.   

Price: Meze with chollah bread from £5.50; cauliflower shawarma in pitta £8.  



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Bibimbap

Restaurants Korean Fitzrovia

Bright colours, Ikea-style furniture and walls plastered with snaps of happy diners set the scene at this popular Korean hangout. Budget-conscious punters should go for rib-sticking renditions of the eponymous bibimbap: a warming layered dish of rice, spiced vegetables and meat, topped with a fried egg and served in a hot stone bowl. Other bargains range from bulgogi BBQ with rice to ‘rameyon’ noodle soups, and you can also get a ten-piece bucket of KFC (Korean fried chicken) for under a tenner. There’s a larger branch in Soho.

Price: Bibimbap from £8.50; beef bulgogi with rice £8.90.

Bleecker

Restaurants Burgers Victoria

When only a filthy-good US-style burger made with rare-breed dry-aged beef will do, Bleecker comes up trumps for London’s meat-mad hordes. The oozing bacon cheeseburger is a carnivore’s dream – especially when it’s loaded up with ketchup – although adding a side of ‘angry fries’ drizzled in blue cheese and hot sauce will take you over the £10 limit. Bleecker also has a market kiosk in Spitalfields and a bricks-and-mortar outlet in Bloomberg Arcade

Price: Cheeseburger £6.75, double cheeseburger £10.

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Bun House

Restaurants Chinese Chinatown

Fun buns in Chinatown might make you think of Taiwanese bao, but these beauties are of the Cantonese variety – closed-up, then stamped with their identity. There are pig buns, fish buns, custard buns and more, but do order some small dishes too (curry fish balls, chilli tripe or glass noodle salad, say) and bulk things out with a rice pot of beef brisket. They also do a ‘tea service’ if you’re eating in (£2), but note that BH is strictly first-come, first-served.

Price: Buns from £2.50; chu hou beef brisket rice pot £6.80.

Butchies

Restaurants Chicken Shoreditch

Butchies’ original street food stall made its name with fast-fried chicken, but their first proper restaurant ups the ante by matching superlative nosh with friendly counter service and sharp decor. As the unofficial chicken burger champions of London, they serve up dreamy buttermilk-fried ‘sandwiches’ and voluptuous bacon-stacked numbers with playful names like ‘Jenny from the Block’. Also don’t write off their moreish chicken strips served with house ‘OG’ sauce and extra dips if you want them (trust us, you will).

Price: Buttermilk chicken sandwiches from £6; ‘OG’ meal (‘original’ sandwich, fries and soft drink) £9.50.

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Café Maja

Restaurants Polish Hammersmith

Tucked away in Hammersmith’s Polish Social and Cultural Association is a back-to-basics caff serving some of the best dumplings in west London. Soft, pillowy and as comforting as David Attenborough whispering in your ear, the pierogi here come boiled, fried and filled with everything from roast pork and cabbage to sweet strawberry.

Price: Pierogi from £5.20 to £5.50.

The Best Cheap Eats in London, Cafe TPT, Chinatown
The Best Cheap Eats in London, Cafe TPT, Chinatown
Ben Rowe

Café TPT

Restaurants Chinese Chinatown

Big menus are commonplace in Chinatown, but such a vast repertoire seems impossible from a galley the size of an origami boat. Still, Café TPT manages to deliver its flavour-packed pan-Chinese bonanza with commendable aplomb – despite functional decor, bare tables and matter-of-fact service. Best bets are Cantonese staples such as succulent roast duck on rice, although we crave the Hong Kong-style ‘Tai pai tong hawker dishes’ too. Anything with seafood is worth ordering. 

Price: Mixed roast meat on rice £6.50; nasi lemak £8.

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The Cheese Bar

Restaurants Street food Camden Market

A bricks-and-mortar spin-off from the legendary Cheese Truck, this handy Camden pitstop peddles its wares in a bar-like space beneath a burlesque club. Oozing cheese sandwiches and messy riffs on raclette are the main contenders in the food stakes, but don’t miss bigger plates such as five-cheese macaroni or the flavour-bomb sundae (X-rated food porn involving blue cheese lusciously laced with quince, honey and shards of honeycomb). 

Price: Grilled cheese sandwiches from £7; chicken poutine and chips £9.50. 

Chaiiwala

Restaurants Indian Walthamstow

If you’re after a cooked breakfast with a difference, it’s worth taking a peek under the dangling lights at modern Walthamstow tea house Chaiiwala (part of a small London chain). For £4.50, you can kickstart your day with a masala omelette, a roti, masala beans or creamy dahl, and a cup of karak chai. It sure beats a lukewarm McMuffin and a tepid stewed coffee.

Price: Desi breakfast from £4.50

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Chik'n

Restaurants Chicken Baker Street

Not your average chicken shop, this colourful wood-panelled 25-seater spot on Baker Street is the first fast-casual offshoot of Chick ’n’ Sours. Come here when you’re dying for some KFC (that’s Korean Fried Chicken, for the uninitiated) and you don’t mind ordering at the counter to get it. The ‘Straight Up Chik’n’ (a crisp-battered chook fillet topped with herb mayo and pickle) is a useful standby, but there are more fancy riffs too. Most dishes can be made with vegan chik’n if that’s what you’re after. 

Price: Straight Up Chik’n £5.95; K-Town Double Trouble £8.95.

Cook Daily
Cook Daily
Andy Parsons

CookDaily

Restaurants Vegan Hackney

Having built a cult following at Boxpark in Shoreditch, charismatic plant-based food champion King Senathit (aka King Cook) has migrated to a cool location under an arch close to Netil Market. Expect affordably priced bowls of vegan rainbow goodness, crammed full of vegetables, tofu or fake chicken – try the jerk combo on brown rice, the udon noodle bowl with char siu ‘crumbles’ or the ‘full English’ with scrambled tofu ‘egg’ etc. Simply order and pay at the counter, then collect when your number is called. 

Price: Bowls from £8.50 (plus toppings).

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C&R Café

Restaurants Malaysian Chinatown

Laksa may be oh-so-trendy these days, but this Malaysian café-diner has been peddling its giant bowls of noodle deliciousness for two decades – and punters can still look forward to humongous helpings of spicy coconutty broth packed with juicy prawns, thin rice vermicelli and much more. C&R also serves up umami-rich plates of char kway teow noodles, piled-high rice-based nasi goreng, buttery roti canai bread and the celebrated beef rendang. Expect a functional but contemporary vibe. 

Price: Penang assam laksa £9.50; beef rendang £8.50.

Da Maria

Restaurants Italian Notting Hill

The spirit of old Napoli lives on in Notting Hill, thanks to this cramped and glorious local legend, which famously survived a threat from the developers at the end of 2017. Mamma Maria’s food is always an affordable treat, although the soundest bets for those on a budget are the pastas and pizzas: the former might include spag bol, penne carbonara, lasagne and cannelloni, while the latter could feature names like marinara, margherita and spicy diavola. 

Price: Pastas from £8.50; pizzas from £7.

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Daebak

Restaurants Korean Vauxhall

Just over the road from fellow Korean restaurant Jihwaja, Daebak is worth a punt if you don’t want a side order of karaoke with your kimchi. Occupying what was a greasy spoon, the cramped premises still feel like caff, but prices are low, portions large and flavours are bang-on. The Korean classics (kimchi, glass noodles, bibimbap) are all here, along with Japanese imports in the shape of katsu curry, tempura and teriyaki – affordable is the name of the game. ‘Daebak’ is Korean for ‘awesome’, and we reckon it’s heading in the right direction.

Price: Ramen soups £8.50; bibimbap bowls £9.50.

Del 74

Restaurants Mexican Dalston

A garish, grungy Mexican pop-up bar/taqueria gone permanent, Del 74 promises banging beats, good vibes and easy-drinking margaritas, plus a bar menu of well-crafted classics – pork pilbil tacos, brisket tostadas, tinga quesadillas, that sort of thing. Veggies are guaranteed to do well here. Drop by at any time for a cheap eat, although the best value is on ‘Taco Tuesday’ when the happy hour lasts all night long and you can pick up tacos for £2. Their brunch offer is also worth knowing about. 

Price:  Pork pilbil tacos £5.50; brisket quesadilla £6.50. 

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Delhi Grill

Restaurants Indian Angel

Corrugated iron and walls plastered with Bollywood posters lend a ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ aesthetic to this upbeat Punjabi pit-stop on Chapel Market. If you’re planning a sit-down dinner indoors, be aware that the insistent bhangra beats and unyielding seats may put paid to any thoughts of whiling away the time. The kitchen majors in street-food snacks and slow-cooked curries, from sev puris and fish pakoras to railway lamb, rogan josh and chicken tikka makhani.  

Price: Tandoori lamb chops £5.50; butter chicken £9.50

Dosa n Chutny

Restaurants Indian Tooting

Done out like a Tamil truck stop with lurid lighting, furniture the colour of Sunny Delight and movies on the flatscreen TV, this rudimentary Sri Lankan/South Indian caff is famed for its minuscule prices and superlative dosas – although you can still eat cheaply if you veer off into ‘gravy’ territory. Veggie options are the standouts – the Mysore masala dosa, served with spiced onion, potatoes and three house chutneys is a winner, as are the onion utthapam and veg biryani.  

Price: Dosas from £4.25; Chettinad fish curry £6.95.



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Dumplings
Dumplings
Andy Parsons

Dumplings' Legend

Restaurants Chinese Chinatown

It doesn’t matter whether you opt for hot or classic spiced meat, the pork dumplings at this Cantonese stalwart in Chinatown work out at an extremely reasonable 94p each. The only problem? They taste so damn good (herby, satisfying and substantial) that we guarantee you’ll finish a portion of eight (£7.50) ready to take on even more.

Price: Pork siu long bao from 94p each.

Eat of Eden

Restaurants Caribbean Brixton

Fast-growing south London mini-chain Eat of Eden has recently brought its Caribbean-inspired vegan goodies to Shepherd’s Bush. There are stews, curries and sticky plantain, but we like the plump patties best. Light, flaky pastry encases a well-spiced but not too spicy filling of dhal, vegetables or – our fave – callaloo (a spinach-like vegetable). At a bargainous £2.20 each, you should really try all three.

Price: Callaloo patty from £2.20

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esarn kheaw
esarn kheaw
Credit: Ming Tang Evans

Esarn Kheaw

Restaurants Thai Shepherd’s Bush

A mural-laden SheBu favourite, Esarn Kheaw has been serving north-eastern Thai food to an appreciative crowd of locals for more than 25 years. The dark dining room may be starting to show its age, but the cooking is as good as ever and most dishes are budget-friendly – witness marinated chargrilled beef, spiced catfish or blisteringly hot vegetarian jungle curry. Also don’t miss the boiled and deep-fried ‘son-in-law eggs’ – a delicious mouth-cooling foil to the spicy food. 

Price: Ox tripe soup £7.95; spiced glass noodle salad with minced pork £7.95.

Everest Curry King

Restaurants Indian Lewisham

You can choose between four Sri Lankan curries and rice at this ever-changing Lewisham hangout. Think: pumpkin, vibrant beetroot or chilli-spiked dry-spiced potato numbers, ladled from behind a counter. The decor’s constantly transforming so expect a different experience every visit.

Price: Curry and rice from £7.95.

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Falafel and Shawarma

Restaurants Lebanese Camberwell

A glowing wall of photographs of meaty flatbreads, falafel dishes and salads sits above the rotating meats at Falafel and Shawarma in Camberwell. Don’t let it distract you from the best deal in the house, though. At this beloved café-takeaway you can get a juicy chicken shawarma wrap and four spicy, fragrant samosas for just a fiver.

Price: Shawarma wrap and samosas from £5

Fez Mangal
Fez Mangal
© Jael Marschner

Fez Mangal

Restaurants Turkish Ladbroke Grove

There’s usually a queue at this Med-inspired Turkish grill, but no-nonsense service means you’ll bag a table pretty quickly. While you wait, get the juices flowing by watching Fez’s meat maestros as they rotate the hefty barbecue skewers and shave slices off the own-made doners. They also score highly with cut-above accompaniments including crunchy red cabbage, spice-rubbed flatbreads and tangy Turkish yoghurt. It’s BYO and they don’t charge corkage – hooray!

Price: Lamb doner £9.20; falafel, rice and salad £7.20.

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Fish, Wings and Tings

Restaurants Caribbean Croydon

Locally renowned as one of the dreamiest sites on Brixton’s rumbustious market, FW and T has a communal vibe with its battered, bright-orange tables, effervescent service, reggae tunes and easygoing menu. To start there are ‘codfish’ fritters, jerked-up pepper prawns and kingfish curry with rice ‘n’ peas; then come the ‘reggae’ wings, and finally there are loads of ‘tings’ – from goat roti with green mango chutney to oxtail stew. Thirsty? Slam down a Trinidadian beer or a fruity rum punch. 

Price: Reggae wings with pineapple and mango chutney £6.50; goat curry £10.

Foodilic King's Cross
Foodilic King's Cross
Ilaria Cannava

Foodilic

Restaurants Pentonville Road

Squiggly cartoon colours and rough-hewn ‘Flintstones’-style furniture set the scene at Yugoslav chef Peter Ilic’s health-promoting venture a short stroll from King’s Cross station. Everything feels carefully made and quirky (in a good way), from the Ottolenghi-style salads such as roasted sweet potatoes with kale and tofu dressing to the hearty, comforting hot dishes (Thai chicken curry, vegan moussaka etc). All-you-can-eat buffets are the main attractions at lunch and dinner, while BYOB adds to the overall value. There’s an offshoot in Putney. 

Price: All-you-can-eat buffet £7.50.

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Four Seasons

Restaurants Chinese Chinatown

Decidedly utilitarian but a famous purveyor of Cantonese roasted meats, long-serving Four Seasons still deals in the ‘golden trio’ of Cantonese cuisine: crispy duck (a contender for London’s best), char siu (barbecued pork) and siew yoke (crispy pork belly). Everyone is here for plates of these chunky specialties on rice, and they are the go-to dishes for cheap eating, although the mammoth 20-page menu is full of possibilities if you have a bit more to spend.   

Price: Three combination BBQ meats on rice £9.30; stewed beef brisket soup with noodles £8.20.

Gold Mine

Restaurants Chinese Queensway

It may look like a provincial function room, but this Chinese roast meat specialist attracts as many visitors from the Far East as it does local students. The must-orders are the Cantonese duck and char sui pork, which can be seen hanging in the open kitchen by the front window. Order them on rice if you want to stay within budget, although it’s also worth investing in the equally generous noodle dishes (either stir-fried or in soup). 

Price: Roast crispy pork on rice £6.80; fried noodles with mixed seafood £8.50.

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Green Papaya

Restaurants Vietnamese Hackney

Long-established, family-run, simple and well loved, Green Papaya is a real Vietnamese charmer with laid-back yet welcoming staff and superb food – including a spot-on version of crispy, crunchy soft-shell crab with salt and chilli. The cooking also absorbs some Xi’an Chinese influences, and their hand-rolled noodles are some of the best-value items on the menu. Pho soups, grills and filled buns are also considering for a cheap dinner. There’s also a branch in Hoxton

Price: Hand-rolled Xi’anese noodles from £6.20; pho from £8.95.

The Heron
The Heron
Ming Tang-Evans

Heron

Restaurants Thai Paddington

Housed in the basement of a shabby boozer around the back of the Edgware Road, the Heron is a rough diamond, but beyond its slightly dingy interior, you’ll discover some of the most authentic Thai food in London (yep, that means spicy!). The kitchen specialises in north-eastern cooking, with an impressive range of salads, sour curries and stir-fries – all budget-friendly stuff. Expect things to get lively after 9pm, when the dining room doubles as a karaoke lounge. 

Price: Spicy pork liver salad £8; fried rice with crab, egg and onions £9.

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ICCO

Restaurants Italian Goodge Street

A whole pizza? In central London? For just £6? That’s the magic of Icco, a family-run Italian that’s been serving up cheap, cheap pies from its bright green corner site on Goodge Street since 1999. You can bag a margherita for £3.95 here, but you should level up for the indulgence of the fiorentina – a salty, oily feast featuring a runny poached egg.

Price: Pizza from £6

India Club

Restaurants Indian Strand

Hidden behind the colossal grey frontage of the Hotel Strand Continental and reached via two rickety flights of stairs, this intensely charming Indian restaurant is a genial throwback to colonial times with its lino floors, wipe-clean tables, ornate metal lanterns and portraits of Indian independence. Everything on the menu is stonkingly good value, whether you opt for a thin crisped-up ghee dosa, chunky lamb bhuna or the legendary tomato-based curry with hard-boiled eggs. 

Price: Keema peas £7.50; egg curry £5. 

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Indian Veg 2016
Indian Veg 2016
© Ian Phillips

Indian Veg

Restaurants Indian Angel

A popular Indian canteen on Islington’s Chapel Market, serving an all-you-can-eat buffet in karmic (some might say preachy) surrounds. As the name suggests, it’s totally veggie and a lot of the stuff also ticks those vegan boxes – think vegetable curries, dhals, colourful salads and feather-light parathas. No wonder this place is a stalwart for cheap dates and early-evening carb loading, especially if you BYOB. Also don’t forget to bring some cash – they don’t accept cards.  

Price: All-you-can-eat buffet £7.95.

Jai Krishna

Restaurants Indian Finsbury Park

From cauliflower and chickpea, to long bean and paneer, there’s no reason not to treat yourself to a whole damn platter of veggie curries at BYOB spot Jai Krishna (handily across the road from an off-licence) in Finsbury Park. One of the more expensive items on this list (but still very cheap) is the thali, but its vastness makes it well worth it.

Price: Thali from £9.50.

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Kati Roll Company

Restaurants Indian Soho

Hindi film posters, Bollywood soundtracks and relaxed staff strike an authentic tone at this Indian street food stop just off Oxford Street. The main attraction here is a line-up of eminently affordable kati (pronounced ‘karti’) rolls: marinated meats, vegetables and cheeses, all bundled up in flaky paratha flatbread that’s been griddled and spread with beaten egg. Veggies should also look out for the Kati’s latest creation – a kale and kachumber medley with lime dressing. 

Price: Unda aloo roll £4/£7.50; beef tikka roll £4.25/£8.  

Kintan

Restaurants Japanese Regent Street

It’s all about roll-your-sleeves-up DIY at this branch of Kintan – a bargain-priced Japanese yakiniku restaurant in a basement off Oxford Circus. Smoky thick-ridged grills are built into each table (much like Korean BBQ) and the fully illustrated medley ranges from USDA kalbi short-rib to excellent pre-marinated spicy pork. Wipe-clean menus are splashed with red-sticker deals, while daily happy hours just keep rolling on. There’s also an outlet in High Holborn.

Price: BBQ pork belly with shiso and miso £7.50; pepper beef bibimbap £9.

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Kokeb Ethiopian Restaurant

Restaurants Ethiopian Holloway

Run virtually single-handedly by delightful one-woman army Getenesh Gabiemichael, this tiny Ethiopian restaurant opened in 1999, and the prices barely seem to have shifted since. The veg basic – three dishes, served on flatbread – will set you back just a tenner.

Price: The Veg Basic from £10.

Lahore Kebab House

Restaurants Indian Whitechapel

A suitably spartan place of pilgrimage for East End curry devotees who want to avoid the touts, this consistently reliable Whitechapel canteen deals in full-flavoured Punjabi street food, from snacks and karahi bowls to the eponymous grilled meat-on-a-stick. Despite the moniker, there are only two kebabs on offer – one seekh (a sausage of seasoned, finely minced lamb on a skewer), and a classic chicken kebab: both are excellent. You can BYOB, and there’s a handy off-licence next door. 

Price: Chicken kebab roll £4.50; meat biryani £9.75.

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100 best cheap eats in london, 15 dishes for under a fiver, lanzhou
100 best cheap eats in london, 15 dishes for under a fiver, lanzhou
© Jael Marschner

Lanzhou Noodle Bar

Restaurants Chinese Covent Garden

Watch noodles being hand-pulled and cooked to order, then tuck into bowls of nourishing soup at this late-night joint near Leicester Square (open till 5am at the weekends). Skip the neon Chinese buffet in the window and stick to the composite rice plates or noodles – we love the twisted and stretched lamian version with stewed beef (ask for extra broth and fewer noodles). Also look out for affordable set deals. 

Price: Noodles from £6.15; char siu pork chop with rice £8.

Le Rif

Restaurants Moroccan Finsbury Park

It’s tough finding tagine for under a tenner in London these days, but this Finsbury Park caff will satisfy your longings and leave you some spare change for sticky pastries and mint tea too. Various riffs on the couscous and tagine theme are the Moroccan mainstays in the evening, although things are a bit different during the day, when the place is a jolly mash-up of British greasy spoon and North African backstreet bolthole. 

Price: Lamb tagine £6.50; royal couscous £7.50.

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Mamuśka

Restaurants Polish Waterloo

South-east London’s perpetually upbeat Polish restaurant has bounced around locations a few times lately, becoming fractionally fancier each time – the cheap milk-bar vibes are a thing of the past at its hipstery Lambeth venue. But a hearty plate of pierogi ruskie is still kind on the wallet.

Price: Pierogi from £5.60.

The Best Cheap Eats in London 2015, Masa, Harrow
The Best Cheap Eats in London 2015, Masa, Harrow
Britta Jaschinksi

Masa

Restaurants Afghan Borough of Harrow

Harrow is happy to have this convivial BYOB venue serving Afghan grills and comfort food to big family gatherings – neither the setting nor the portions are built for a romantic dinner à deux. It’s worth asking what’s been freshly cooked that day: you can’t go wrong with the sabzi lamb (with spinach) plus a side of dhal or some naan bread. Also look out for the mantoo and aashak (pasta dishes), as well as the rice-based palow and chalow riffs. 

Price: Kobeda chicken (two skewers with naan and salad) £6.95; kofta chalow £8.95.



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Meza
Meza
Ed Marshall / Time Out

Meza

Restaurants Lebanese Tooting

Following the huge success of its pokey original branch by Tooting Bec tube station, Meza’s second coming is now the go-to for Lebanese food in Tooting itself. The same standards apply (welcoming service, low prices), but there’s a bit more space – and you can book. Eat cheaply by sharing and grazing on hot and cold ‘meza’ or pick one of the cheaper mains – perhaps kafta djaj (skewered minced chicken with chilli sauce and pitta) or memieh (okra in tomato sauce) served on vegetable rice.  

Price: Kafta djaj £10; memieh with vegetable rice £9. 

Meze Mangal

Restaurants Turkish Deptford

Lewisham’s answer to the top Turks of Green Lanes, refurbished Meze Mangal also looks smarter than many of its more northerly contemporaries thanks to an uproarious clean-lined dining room with parquet floors, spotlights and clothed tables. The menu combines mangal classics with more unusual suggestions such as skewered quail or grilled swordfish, while budget-friendly pides (oval-shaped Turkish-style ‘pizzas’), sharing dishes and Turkish wines help to keep things affordable. 

Price: Pide from £7; böbrek (grilled lamb’s kidneys) with salad £10.

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Mien Tay
Mien Tay
Ming Tang-Evans

Mien Tay

Restaurants Vietnamese Hoxton

Having expanded into the premises next door, this well-liked Vietnamese stalwart has gone upmarket – although it’s lost none of its allure as a destination for first-rate cooking. Seafood is the big draw here and the kitchen proves its mettle with punchy ideas such as stir-fried green mussels with ginger and spring onion or scallops with black bean sauce. The fragrant rare beef pho, bursting with noodles, beef balls and green herbs is a must for under a tenner. There are outlets in Battersea, Fulham and Wood Green.

Price: Beef pho £9.50; claypot curries from £8.50.

Morty & Bob's King's Cross

Restaurants Cafés King’s Cross

Formerly a street-food stall in Hackney, Morty & Bob’s has gone permanent in King’s Cross, although its USP remains the same: grilled cheese toasties for breakfast, lunch or dinner, with a huge, tangy pickle on the side. Of course, that’s not all: there are burrata focaccias, avocado and chilli sourdough soldiers and a tahini-slathered kale, buckwheat and roasted squash salad for the vegans – plus brownies and ice cream from Hackney Gelato for afters. Payment by card only.

Price: Grilled cheese sandwiches from £6; chicken bun with pickled cucumber £9.

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Mr Bao

Restaurants Taiwanese Peckham

Zeitgeist or no, this Taiwanese joint is a tip-top contender that brings a slice of Soho to SE15 with its fluffy steamed bao buns, small plates and cocktails. The classic Mr Bao (pork, pickle and peanut powder) is both larger and cheaper than its uptown rivals (but just as good), and we also like their extended list of vegan offerings such as the ginger-braised tofu bao. And for god’s sake, don’t skip the Bao S’more, with marshmallow and chocolate.

Price: Mr Bao bun with pork belly £4.20; ginger-braised tofu bao (vegan) £4.60.



Murger Han

Restaurants Chinese Euston

Dishing up gutsy Northern Chinese food in a boxy little room off Euston Road, Murger Han trades on value. Although the place is synonymous with murgers (slow-cooked meat in flatbread), the highlight of the wipe-clean menu is a deep bowl of hand-pulled noodles topped with pak choi, omelette and braised pork. The flavours are bold, prices are low, and the food comes fast with absolutely no ceremony. Similar deals are available at Murger Hanhan – an upmarket offshoot in Mayfair.

Price: Pork murger £6; beef soup with ox tripe and tofu £8.50.

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Okan

Restaurants Japanese Brixton

Delivering cheap Japanese eats on Brixton Village Market, this fun little canteen specialises in that Osaka street-food staple, okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes with assorted toppings and sesame-spiked Japanese mayo). You could put pretty much anything into your batter mix, but pork, squid and kimchi are top choices. Otherwise, the menu is small but perfectly rounded – think edamame, fried aubergine with miso dressing, tofu miso soup and yaki onigiri (fried rice cakes). 

Price: Okonomiyaki from £8; fried soba noodles from £8.

Pizza Union

Restaurants Pizza Spitalfields

It’s super-quick, it’s satisfying and the Roman-style base has all the shattering crunch of a Ryvita Thin. Pizza Union’s margherita won’t be the best slice you’ve ever had, but it’s only £3.95 for a very respectable fire-baked 12". That’s twelve inches, for the cost of an overpriced coffee. Plus you get handed one of those buzzy things to tell you when yours is ready. Literally minutes of fun.

Price: Pizza from £3.95

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Poppies Soho
Poppies Soho
© Georgia Glynn Smith

Poppies

Restaurants British Fitzrovia

Fish and chips is one of those fast-food meals that, if you want to get a nice version of in London, always seems to be unnecessarily expensive. The solution? Head to one of the city’s best chippies (that’ll be Poppies) but skip the £15 fish in favour of some of its crisp-on-the-outside-soggy-on-the-inside chips squished into soft bread for £3.95. Order with lots of butter and even more vinegar.

Price: Chip butty from £3.95

Panda

Restaurants Leytonstone

Clapton’s My Neighbours the Dumplings might be the most-hyped east London dumpling chain, but true dump heads know that cheaper, tastier ones can be found just a few miles away in BYOB spot Panda Dim Sum in Leytonstone. The best-value of them all are the pork-and-prawn siu mai at just 90p each.

Price: Pork-and-prawn siu mai from 90p.

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The Best Cheap Eats in London, Princi, Soho
The Best Cheap Eats in London, Princi, Soho
Rob Greig

Princi

Restaurants Italian Soho

Launched by Alan Yau in 2008, this smart outpost of a Milanese bakery chain is a good-looking spot and the food is varied enough to keep punters coming back for more. During the day it’s all about the frenetic self-service counter (cakes, pastries and breads, filled focaccia, hot dishes, slices of pizza and lots of attractive salads). In the evening, the adjoining pizzeria comes into its own with table service and a menu of wood-fired pizzas, pastas and other seasonal stuff.

Price: Pizzas from £7.50; spaghetti carbonara £8.

Randy's Wing Bar

Restaurants American Olympic Park

Former street-food upstarts Randy’s now have a permanent ranch-style roost by the canal in Hackney Wick, and their wings are the business. Look for the BBQ-slathered Kansas, the sweet ’n’ sticky Korean-style Gangnam or the harissa-infused Casablanca with sumac onions and pomegranate seeds. There are loaded fries, chicken strippers, buffalo shrimp and chook burgers too (try the Big Coq for size). Bag a deckchair on the grassy verge by the water when the sun’s out. Note: cards only. There’s another outlet in Aldgate

Price: Buffalo chicken ‘strippers’ £8; Casablanca wings £9.

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Late-night restaurants in London, Ranoush Juice
Late-night restaurants in London, Ranoush Juice
© Ming Tang-Evans

Ranoush Juice

Restaurants Lebanese Edgware Road

Marble countertops give this Lebanese takeaway near Marble Arch a vibe that’s almost as decadent as the shawarma it serves up. If you’re after all the indulgence of black pepper and nutmeg sesame marinated lamb at less than half the price you’d pay for a main here, get it in a sarnie with tahini, salad, parsley and sumac for just £6.50. Extremely good stuff.

Price: Shawarma lamb sandwich from £6.50

rasa.jpg
rasa.jpg
© Francesca Yorke

Rasa

Restaurants Indian Stoke Newington

Over the past ten years, Stoke Newington Church Street has filled with pretty chic shops, bars and restaurants, but none of them have the star quality of Rasa and its bright pink restaurant front. Get Keralan speciality avial here – a yellow curry made with turmeric, coconut, green bananas and mixed vegetables.

Price: Avial from £5.95.

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Simeon Boys-Layton

Rossella

Restaurants Italian Kentish Town

Sit down and eat for under a tenner at this intensely cosy, family-run Italian – an honest down-home ‘neighbourhood’ restaurant in the old-fashioned sense of the word. Regulars know the menu by heart, there’s an ice-cream bar up front and a couple of alfresco tables for that faux-Italian vibe. Neapolitan-style pizzas and generous pastas (the spaghetti napoli is a classic) are the go-to choices for the garrulous groups who regularly pack the place.   

Price: Spaghetti napoli £7, pizzas from £7. 

Foti Jupa
Foti Jupa
Britta Jaschinski

Roti Joupa

Restaurants Snack bars Clapham

As its name suggests, this dinky Caribbean takeaway specialises in huge discs of springy bread. Get one stuffed with spinach, potato, pumpkin, beans or chickpeas, or, for a mere fiver, all of the above. Despite the veg being smooshed together inside the fat roti parcel, individual flavours cut through. Curried meat versions are also available for an extra few quid. It’s the most nourishing snack in town.

Price: Mixed veg roti from £5

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Roti King
Roti King
© Rob Greig

Roti King

Restaurants Malaysian Euston

As the name suggests, this teeny Euston backstreet basement serves up astounding Malaysian rotis, either stuffed or with equally first-rate curries for dipping. They’re crisp, chewy and feather-light but also dense – perfect with an ambrosial glass of teh tarik (chilled sweet tea). Also look out for great-value ‘local’ dishes such as nasi lemak, nasi goreng and beef rendang. RK is really is small, so dining solo or in pairs is probably sensible. Go early evening to beat the queues.  

Price: Sweet and savoury roti canai from £5 (two pieces); nasi goreng £7.

best cheap eats in london, sakonis
best cheap eats in london, sakonis
Credit: Jamie Lau

Sakonis

Restaurants Vegetarian Harrow

Wembley’s stalwart veggie/vegan emporium turned juice bar, snack counter and restaurant serves up a broad menu of South Indian, Gujarati, Indo-Chinese and, er, Italian-style pizzas in utilitarian, Formica-heavy surroundings. Dosas, wraps, daily curries, noodles and street-food bites are all decent value and perfectly pleasant for those on a tight budget, but Sakonis is best known for one dish: the super-celebrated, best-in-town chilli paneer. There are branches in Harrow and Hatch End

Price: Chilli paneer £8.25; triple hakka (rice and noodles) £7.50.

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Sambal Shiok
Sambal Shiok
Photograph: Angela Sam

Sambal Shiok

Restaurants Malaysian Holloway Road

It may look a bit like a backpacker café, but Malaysian-born Mandy Lin’s laksa bar offers food that’s quality as well as fun. Prices are a tad higher than you might expect, but you can’t go wrong with the standard laksa – puffy, satisfyingly chewy strips of tofu, rice or egg noodles all set in the rich, fiery red, fragrant, coconutty broth. It’s hands-down the best – and best-value – dish on the menu, although you might also consider the noodle salads. 

Price: Standard laksa £9.70; chicken and rice noodle salad £10.

Shilpa

Restaurants Indian Hammersmith

A welcome blast of subcontinental warmth on Hammersmith’s frenetic main drag, Shilpa quietly goes about its business, delivering South Indian and Keralan cooking at surprisingly low prices. The food regularly outshines the unassuming surroundings as the kitchen knocks out mouth-watering meat curries, deftly spiced fish dishes and plenty for veggies. Choose carefully to keep within budget in the evening – dosas, tandooris and biryanis are among the promising possibilities.

Price: Tandoori chicken wings with mash and salad £9.95; lamb biryani £9.50.

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Sichuan Grand
Sichuan Grand
Andy Parsons

Sichuan Grand

Restaurants Chinese Stratford

A whopping great restaurant outside a shopping centre in Stratford, Sichuan Grand lives up to its name on both counts and there are dishes on its vast menu that linger long in the memory – like the crunchy but gelatinous shredded jellyfish with black vinegar dressing. Portions are almost impossibly generous, so fill up for less than a tenner by ordering the soupy wontons, a plate of hot-and-sour glass noodles with pig’s intestine or some cold noodles with shredded chicken.   

Price:  Chongqing spicy and numbing noodles £8.20; dumplings with chilli sauce £6.80 (six pieces).

Silk Road
Silk Road
Rob Greig Time Out

Silk Road

Restaurants Chinese Camberwell

A pioneer of regional Chinese cuisine in London, this Camberwell cutie puts the focus on dishes from the north-west frontier province of Xinjiang. It’s a friendly haven for fans of hand-pulled noodles, skewered shish, dumplings and stews, so look for regional classics such as the chilli-spiked ‘big plate’ or ‘middle plate’ chicken’. The flavours can be fiery, although they’re tempered with a plethora of spices – a legacy from the namesake Silk Road of yore. Cash only.

Price: Beef cube and potato stew £7; ‘middle plate’ chicken with belt noodles £9.

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Singburi

Restaurants Thai Leytonstone

A veteran of the Leytonstone scene (and still something of a local secret), this tiny family-run Thai café scores in every department. The BYO policy is key to its boozy appeal, but the food is also a blast – staunchly traditional, potently spiced and delivered without ceremony from the open kitchen. Staples such as pad thai and massaman curry are terrific value, but also take a look at the chalked-up specials board. Be warned: Singburi is rampantly popular.

Price: Tom yum goong soup £6.25; yellow chicken curry £7.75.

The Best Cheap Eats in London 2015, Snackistan at Persepolis, Camberwell
The Best Cheap Eats in London 2015, Snackistan at Persepolis, Camberwell
Britta Jaschinski

Snackistan at Persepolis

Restaurants Iranian Peckham

Colourful, crowded and charmingly bonkers, Sally Chambers’s Middle Eastern café is shoehorned among the paraphernalia of Peckham’s Persian delicatessen. Expect a full-on veggie interpretation of Levantine and Persian cuisine, from traditional meze and wraps with seasonally inspired fillings (quince, halloumi and caramelised celeriac) to daily soups and hotpots, and all-day fillers such as baked sweet potato topped with Persian baked beans. Also, don’t miss the lush Turkish delight sundae. BYOB for supper.

Price: Meze platters £4.50/£8.50; wraps £5.50.

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Sutton and Sons

Restaurants British Stoke Newington

Sutton & Sons are London fishmongers of repute, so freshness is guaranteed at this high-end chippy across the road from their Stokey shop. In addition to the usual battered suspects, local foodies are rewarded with crab on toast, grilled mackerel and moules marinière, while vegans have a full menu of plant-based imitations involving everything from banana blossom to tofu. Mrs Sutton’s homemade cakes and Hackney-brewed beer are further reasons to be cheerful. There are offshoots in Islington and Hackney Central.   

Price: Coley and chips £8.95; ‘tofish’ and chips £7.50.

Taco Queen

Restaurants Mexican Peckham

Peckham’s hip Mexican joint has pivoted to takeaway. Baja fish tacos shot through with lime cream are sublime for just £3.95 each and while you may question the appeal of hot avo, battered avocado tacos with ‘coconut bacon’ are the bomb for vegans. The menu recommends two tacos per person, but on large tortillas, you could get away with just the one on a budget – then grab a michelada to go as a substitute.

Price: Baja fish tacos from £3.95

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Tayyabs
Tayyabs
Rob Greig / Time Out

Tayyabs

Restaurants Indian Whitechapel

A huge, full-on East End curry house that has acquired almost mythical status since launching back in 1972, Tayyabs remains as frantically busy as ever – don’t come here expecting a relaxed chilled-out ruby. No matter, because the food at this Punjabi stalwart is a bargain and the flavours are potent – tuck into the fiery grilled lamb chops, rich dahls and generous karahi bowls (‘small’ versions are big enough and cheap enough for one person). Corkage-free BYO is a budget-friendly bonus.

Price: Tandoori lamb chops (four pieces) £7; karahi ghost (small) £7.50.

Temple of Hackney

Restaurants Vegan Hackney

London’s first vegan ‘chicken shop’ (yes, you heard right) was born out of Hackney’s Temple of Seitan street stall.  It’s all about ‘meaty’ wheat gluten (aka seitan) here, whether you order one of the Temple burgers, the twist wrap or the hot wings in spicy buffalo sauce with ranch mayo (a gluten-free option), plus sides including popcorn bites. Brace yourself for blaring music, no indoor seating and a booze-free nosh. Also try Temple of Camden.

Price: Temple burger £6; twist wrap with two wings £5.

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Umut 2000

Restaurants Turkish Dalston

It doesn’t matter if you go kofte, shish, liver or heart, the thing to order at Umut 200 is lamb. Juicy, spicy, fatty, excellent lamb. You can get any of the above tucked into a wrap for just £7. Hell yes.

Price: Lamb wrap from £7

The 100 best cheap eats in London, Viet Food
The 100 best cheap eats in London, Viet Food
Credit: Jamie Lau

Viet Food

Restaurants Vietnamese Chinatown

Throwing down the Vietnamese gauntlet outside the entrance to Chinatown, this hip outfit puts an ultra-chic spin on things with its industrial interiors and throbbing dance music. The cooking’s pretty cool too, with a pick ’n’ mix menu of stellar street food devised by ex-Hakkasan chef Jeff Tan – do try the so-called ‘150’ pho (based on slow-boiled bone marrow and chicken), the bún vermicelli specials and modern Vietnamese tapas such as smoky spiced quail or crispy coconut calamari. 

Price: ‘150’ pho tom with freshwater prawns £9.20; grilled chilli sirloin beef salad £8.

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What The Pitta Camden

Restaurants Vegan Camden Town

It was only a matter of time before kebabs got the vegan treatment, and this flagship branch of What the Pitta! is custom-built for trend-conscious Camden. Nuggets of marinated soya (that’s the ‘meat’) are packed into thin, floury home-baked flatbread with crunchy salad, soya yoghurt, tzatziki and houmous. The whole thing looks and tastes almost healthy! Also check out WTP’s falafel wrap, couscous box and £10 meal deal. Outlets in Boxpark Shoreditch, Boxpark Croydon and Brighton.

Price: Vegan doner £7.95; falafel wrap £6.95.

X'ian Biang Biang
X'ian Biang Biang
Andy Parsons

Xi’an Biang Biang

Restaurants Chinese Spitalfields

The folks at Xi’an Biang Biang know a thing or two about pulling and twirling strands of starchy goodness, so drop by for some excellent hand-pulled ‘thin’ noodles or their hot-ticket biang biang ‘belt’ versions – bowls of chilli oil-slicked ribbons slathered with any number of delicious sauces and toppings from ‘special’ spicy beef to ‘big plate’ on-the-bone chicken. Yes, it’s going to get messy. 

Price: Hand-pulled noodles in broth from £8.80; stir-fried flat noodles with beef £8.20.

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Xian Impression, North London
Xian Impression, North London
Britta Jaschinski

Xi'an Impression

Restaurants Chinese Highbury

Chef Wei Guirong’s no-frills restaurant opposite the Emirates Stadium peddles street food from her birthplace, Xi’an (home to the Terracotta Army). Trained in the cuisine of Shan Xi province, her cooking is marked by rich combinations of spices and soft hand-pulled noodles – although hardcore fans come for the stonking Xi’an pork burger with special sauce, the pot-sticker dumplings, the smacked cucumber with garlic, and the shredded Xi’an bread in beef broth.    

Price: Xi’an pork burger from £4.80; hand-pulled noodle bowls from £9.40. 

best cheap eats in london, yada's
best cheap eats in london, yada's
Credit: Andy Parsons

Yada's

Restaurants Middle Eastern Peckham

Located down a dingy cobbled alleyway opposite Peckham Rye station, Yada’s is a ramshackle Kurdish joint with zero interest in PR but a huge talent for producing honest, flavourful food. Its shish kebabs, shawarma, BBQ platters and slow-cooked duck fezenjan (with walnuts and pomegranate molasses) are all grand, and they also do some unusual veggie/vegan dishes such as razziana (chilli, coriander and tomato stew with fennel and asparagus). There might also be some Irn Bru shisha, if you’re interested. 

Price: Chicken shawarma £10; razziana £9. 

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Yalla Yalla
Yalla Yalla
Rob Greig / Time Out

Yalla Yalla

Restaurants Lebanese Fitzrovia

Cosy vibes, faultless service and terrific food seal the deal at this modish self-styled purveyor of Beirut street food. Lunchtimes are mega-busy as crowds pile in for its takeaway wraps; otherwise, take pot luck at one of the long faux-rustic tables and graze from the all-day line-up of mezze – with some Arabic bread, olives and torshi (pickles) on the side, plus a cup of refreshing mint tea to quench the thirst. There’s an offshoot in Soho.  

Price: Falafel wrap platter £8.95; ‘village’ mezze platter for one £9.95.

Photographer Paul Winch-Furness

Yamagoya

Restaurants Japanese Southwark

Founded by a former lorry driver, this small, stripped-back restaurant is the first London branch of a global ramen chain. With drinks in the chiller and a buzzer sounding when your food’s ready, it feels a bit like a fast-food joint, although the signature yamagoya ramen passes muster for value and depth of flavour – think fatty slices of pork and half a soft-cooked soy-marinated egg resting on top of luscious slippery noodles.

Price: Yamagoya ramen £9.50; cold ramen salad with tofu £8.