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mickey lee

Five unexpectedly cheap things to do in London

Meals, movies and boat rides

Chris Waywell
Written by
Chris Waywell

London might sometimes feel like a pricey place to live, but there are some treats in our city that still cost the same as they did decades ago. Here are five you might not know about. 

1. A curry on the Strand for £6.50

The West End is a) notoriously expensive for eating out, and b) notoriously quite shit for finding a decent curry. From the daft-oligarch Mumbai small plates of Mayfair to the never-had-a curry-before-probably-won’t-have-one-again tourist traps of Covent Garden, the good old ruby is just not a culinary highlight of central London. So it’s quite a joy to find a decent one in some atmospheric old-school surroundings in Aldwych. The India Club Restaurant is in the Strand Continental Hotel. It’s not had a makeover in the last 70 years, and the same can be said of the menu. The egg curry – a kind of spicy Subcontinental shakshuka – remains a great, and great-value, Zone 1 dinner option.

2. A film at a Leicester Square cinema for £1

Most cinema chains do membership schemes and most are pretty good value – you tend to recoup the outlay if you manage to go and see more than a couple of films a year. However, they are but pallid simulacra of the membership offering at the Prince Charles, behind the National Gallery on the edge of Leicester Square. Annual membership is just a tenner. Members get to see the latest films for about £6 a pop, and – get this – it often screens classics which cost members exactly £1 to go and see. It’s definitely the best bang for your filmic buck in the capital. Plus they have a sense of humour.

3. A Thames boat cruise for less than £10

You can book a Thames cruise, no problem. You’ll be in the company of several hundred pensioners and out-of-towners craning their necks to try and spot where Princess Di was crowned by Elton John outside the Hard Rock Café, while their other halves complain about the cost of everything. Or you can get a lovely Thames Clipper (now rebranded Uber Boat) and sail elegantly down the river. You’ll have no daft commentary, no mithering northerners and you can even have a beer or a glass of wine as you glide beneath Tower Bridge. Best of all, it’ll cost you under a tenner, and less if you already have a travelcard.

4. A (decent) pizza in the West End for under £5

Icco dubs itself ‘The People’s Pizzeria’, and, costwise that is definitely true. A marinara (okay, almost no one’s pizza of choice, but bear with us) is a frankly staggering £3.95. That’s the price of a tiny ramekin of olives in any other West End pizzeria. A margarita (much more satisfactory) is just 80p more, and almost all the other menu options come in around the £6-£7 mark. It won’t be the best pizza you’ve ever had, but it certainly won’t be the worst and for the price of a Pret hot wrap, you really can’t go wrong.

5. A world-class haircut for £3

Opinion is divided on what you should spend on a haircut. Some people think that anything north of £20 is daylight robbery. Others consider it a grave risk to drop below the £100 mark, for fear of tonsorial catastrophe. Truth is, you can spend several hundred quid and get a rotten haircut or spend a tenner and get a rotten haircut. But if cash really is an issue when it comes to your barnet, save £££££s while minimising the risk by booking in at the Sassoon Academy. The training arm of Vidal’s hairy empire, its school needs models for its cutters to work on. Don’t worry – you won’t get some spotty herbert just let loose on your tresses. Many of the trainees are seasoned pros who just want to update their skillsets. All cuts are supervised by tutors, and they start at just £15. It’s even better if you are a human male person. Last autumn, male models at the school we being charged just £3 for a cut. And for that, they can do what they like. Pretty much.

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