cheap buffets in london

Great food and good-value restaurants and cafés in the capital

Bánh Mì Bay

4-6 Theobald's Rd,WC1X 8PN (020 7831 4079).


The locus of good Vietnamese food is slowly expanding throughout the city, and this friendly café on a busy Bloomsbury road is an enjoyable place to eat. The focus, as their name suggests, is on the Franco-Viet baguettes called banh mi – light, crisp baguettes filled with delicious morsels ranging from chargrilled pork to Vietnamese sausage, freshened up with pickles and coriander. But there are other highlights on the menu, such as handmade pork meatballs or bun – a cold noodle dish dressed with a punchy nuoc cham (fish sauce-based) dressing and topped with crunchy veg and meats of your choice. The freshly-blended fruit juices are great, too.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £30.


92 Berwick St, Soho, W1F 0QD (020 7437 8591)


This vegetarian café serves the kind of fast food that makes you feel like a better person – including bean hotpot, veggie shepherd’s pie, quinoa taboulleh and wholesome cakes.
Meal for two with soft drinks: around £15.

Bi Bim Bap

11 Greek St, W1D 4DJ (020 7287 3434)


In Soho, try big, filling stone bowls of Korea’s national dish of rice mixed with variations of meat and vegetables, stirred together and served piping hot.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £25.

Comptoir Libanais

65 Wigmore St, Marylebone, W1U 1PZ (020 7935 1110)


This Lebanese café is remarkably affordable for fresh dishes with zingy citrus and herb flavours. The small meze plate allows you to try several of the warm and cold dips and salads. Take note, though: it closes at 8pm.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £18.


12 Upper St Martin's Lane, WC2H 9FB (020 7420 9320)


Covent Garden can be a tourist trap for restaurants, but Dishoom – loosely inspired by the post-independence ‘Irani cafés’ of Bombay – is an all-day diner that’s good-looking, affordable, and offers brisk service with good Indian food. The biryanis, served as individual portions, would do an Indian kitchen proud, but it’s the Mumbai street food that we savour most – oddities such as the pau bhaji (spicy stew served in a toasted bread bun), and some excellent desserts which are far from authentic, and all the better for it.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £45.

Four Seasons

12 Gerrard St, W1D 5PR (020 7494 0870); 23 Wardour St, W1D 6PW (020 7287 9995)


The Chinatown spin-off of the Bayswater favourite, serving its signature juicy roast duck to the central London masses. Go early to avoid queuing. There's now another branch minutes away on Wardour Street, too.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £30.

Golden Union Fish Bar

38 Poland Street, Soho, W1F 7LY (020 7434 1933)

Fish and seafood

Here a ‘small’ cod and chips (£7.60) arrives with the freshly fried, hand-cut chips spilling off the plate, the fish encased in a tight, crisp batter.
Meal for two with wine and service: around £30.

Itadaki Zen

139 King’s Cross Rd, WC1X 9BJ (020 7278 3573)


Inexpensive, elegantly presented vegan Japanese food near the two King’s Cross stations that will suit even a monk’s budget.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £45.


4 Sutton Lane, Clerkenwell, EC1M 5PU (020 7490 2992)

Creative contemporary

Excellent produce – such as organic meat and proper breads – underpin these home-style dishes and retro cakes.
Meal for two with wine and service: around £35.


49 Frith St, W1D 4SG (020 7434 4463)


Far-removed from conveyor-belt sushi, Koya specialises in another staple of Japanese food culture: udon. The thick, chewy wheat noodles are available four different ways: swimming in big bowls of hot broth, cold with a side bowl of hot broth for dunking, or cold with a dip or (cold) pouring sauce. Broths vary from dish to dish and go from smoky clear liquid (with the tempura udon) to enoki and oyster mushroom-studded soup. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the menu: the food here is of outstanding quality, and even friends from Japan will be impressed by London’s udon specialist. For those who really can’t do without rice, a selection of dons (rice bowls topped with meat or tempura) is also on the menu. Expect queues in the evening, and a fair amount of background noise.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £30.

Leong's Legends

4 Macclesfield St, Chinatown, W1D 6AX (020 7287 0288)


The menu ticks off many Taiwanese classics – oyster omelette with crown daisies, sanbeiji and sticky rice cooked in a bamboo container – though some confident renditions of Sichuanese and northern Chinese dishes are present too. Recently, the chain expanded to a third branch in Queensway.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £40.

Maoz Vegetarian

43 Old Compton Street, London, W1D 6HG (020 7851 1586)

Middle Eastern

Falafel-filled pittas are the star at this global vegetarian fast-food chain. White or wholemeal pockets, crammed with crunchy falafel, are handed to customers, who can then top them off with a choice of garnishes from the buffet. Meal deals come with a side of thick Belgian fries, always perfectly cooked, and to drink we'd recommend the tangy own-made mint lemonade.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £15.


50 Frith St, London, W1D 4SQ (020 7494 9075)


This Soho takeaway joint specializes in Indian rotis (flatbreads), filled with spiced fillings such as chicken, chickpeas, beef, pork or goat, all with mixed vegetables.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £18.


52-54 Exmouth Market EC1R 4QE (020 7713 8575)


This Japanese café-bar in Clerkenwell serves keenly priced donburi (rice bowls), curry and noodles as well as a range of small tapas-like plates in the evening.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £35.

Pimlico Fresh

86 Wilton Rd, SW1V 1DE (020 7932 0030)


Hot main courses at this welcoming Wilton Road café are served in deep bowls in healthy proportions: aromatic chicken jalfrezi stew or a vegan Thai vegetable curry, both served with rice and costing a mere £4.95. Our baked eggs with chorizo, spinach, feta and tomato were slightly overcooked, but delivered on flavour and came with two lavishly buttered slices of good brown bread. It’s only open until 8pm weekdays and 7pm on weekends, but this is a commendable pit stop when you’re in the area, and is possibly your best pre-theatre option around these parts.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £25.


135 Wardour St, Soho, W1F 0UF (020 7478 8888)


Huge portions and sleek style mark out this Italian. The long counters feature an array of Italian goods, while separate counter at the back doles out hot pasta and meat dishes.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £30.

Rasa Sayang

5 Macclesfield St, Chinatown, W1D 6AY (020 7734 1382)


Nasi lemak, beef rendang – all done with aplomb in a restaurant that has clearly put in its best effort. The service is friendly and efficient, and mains barely top seven quid.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £20.


31 Catherine St, Covent Garden, WC2B 5JS (020 7836 6377)


At this South Indian vegetarian chain there are myriad variations on rice and spice to be had and the thalis (mild and light curries) are reliable too.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £35.

Soju Korean Kitchen

32 Great Windmill St, W1D 7LR (020 7434 3262)


A tiny Soho restaurant with plenty to offer on its comprehensive Korean menu. Greaseless japchae (stir-fried glass noodles) are spot on, and the kimchi is vibrant in flavour and presentation.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £40.


18 Old Compton St, Soho, W1D 4TN (020 7287 1066)


The menu at this delightful Soho institution has barely changed since the 1960s. Pasta dishes and Anglo-Continental dishes are the mainstay, from spag bol to fishcakes.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £20.

Vincent Rooms

Victoria Centre, Vincent Square, Westminster, SW1P 2PD (020 7802 8391)

Modern European

An inspiring dining experience featuring well-heeled dishes – such as crab bisque with eel – at everyday prices. The exquisite three-course menu (bookended by canapés, coffee or tea and petits fours) is a steal at £22.50.
Meal for two with wine and service: around £45.

Yalla Yalla

12 Winsley St, W1W 8HQ


The menu hasn’t changed vastly from the original in Soho, with a delectable selection of Lebanese-style meze (each presented wonderfully, with slick garnishes of fruity olive oil, herbs and pomegranate seeds where appropriate) and heartier main courses based around the grill. The sticky chicken wings slicked with pomegranate syrup are excellent, as is the grilled halloumi paired with bitter olives and shredded mint.
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £40.