Eating out doesn’t have to cost the earth. Hell, it doesn’t even have to cost more than £5, as our guide to London’s best penny-saving dishes proves. We’ve pulled together 15 super-cheap eats from city-best restaurants, basement-dwelling cult faves, brilliant bakeries and cracking cafés located across London, so you can stay stuffed without emptying your wallet. Get stuck in.
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This teeny-tiny Cantonese joint in Soho specializes in pillowy, sealed steamed buns, their contents stamped in red Chinese script on top. They’re all ace, so nab two: first the cumin-heavy lamb number, then a blood-laced (punchy, eh?) red choc bun for ‘pudding’.
This humble little joint near Tottenham Court Road station dispenses its wellbeing to loyal locals from bubbling cauldrons behind the counter. It’s the bowls of firecracker-red jigae stew – salty, sour and perfectly spicy – that really hit the spot. Sinking yourself into the soondooboo jjigae’s silky tofu-laden depths will save your Seoul.
London’s pertest bun remains Bao’s confit pork number – a steamed little cloud stuffed with impossibly tender pig, sticky sauce and deep-fried shallots (a veritable social media celeb in its own right). Their Soho branch is the original (be prepared to queue) but their new Fitzrovia outlet takes bookings.
Swerve the wet stuff at this Covent Garden yoghurt bar and pick up one of their bagels instead. The simit bread (a kind of skinnier, chewier, Turkish-er version of a bagel) stuffed with mild, melted kaseri sheep’s cheese and dry cured beef is an Anatolian marvel.
There’s not much to Ole & Steen’s perplexingly cheap breakfast roll on Haymarket, but it remains a thing of beauty: a slick of white butter and some mild Danish gouda wodged into – here’s the ‘eminent Scandi bakery’ bit – a biga, rye and durum-infused, salt-and-peppered bun.
If there’s a better way of pimping a bowl of rice than by dressing it in rendered pork fat and soy, and then piling it with glistening slivers of lardo and crispy fried onion, then we’d love to hear it. And that’s how they do it at dreamy Taiwanese teahouse Xu, wood-paneled little brother to Bao.
Padella’s killer USP isn’t just that it does London’s best pasta. It’s also insanely reasonable. Take the rough-cut stracci with sweet onions, thyme and unctuous gorgonzola sauce: £5 for you. Unbelievably, a plate of pillowy gnocchi with sage and butter is a whole quid less.
Okay, okay – it’s technically neither chicken nor sours, but the moreish combo of fine dripping-cooked fries and the genius soothing/spicy double-hit of sriracha-laced sour cream is bargain highpoint on a clucking brilliant menu.
£1 each (but minimum order of four)
Everything on the menu at Camberwell’s Xinxing stalwart is dirt cheap, but the maniacally economical should hit up the teeny, succulent lamb skewers, best scoffed straight off the grill (and ordered again, and again, and again).