Soho is London's gastro ground zero. And while it's full to the brim with a spenny selection of London's best restaurants, it's also packed with brilliant bargain spots, catering to almost every taste and all on a tiny budget (that's £10 a head or less, though you'll pay more if you want booze). From natty Neopolitan pizza to French bistro fare, poké and ramen bowls to kati rolls and burgers, this is our selection of Soho's best cheap eats.
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What’s the vibe? Camera-wielding gastro geeks line Lexington Street for their chance to hashtag London’s best buns.
When to go There’s always a queue outside this place (though you can book at the Fitzrovia branch), but your best bet is a late dinner – last orders 10pm.
What to eat Bao’s signature buns, stuffed with tender pork belly, peanut powder and pickled lettuce; also check out the epic versions with fried chicken and Horlicks ice cream.
How much? These babies all cost £5 or less (the classic’s just £4.50). Order lots. And some sides.
What’s the vibe? A snazzily decked-out pide house (aka a sort of Turkish pizza parlour) from unstoppable Hakkasan/Princi/Yauatcha/Busaba founder Alan Yau.
When to go From early lunch ’til late night daily. They do an egg-heavy brunch menu on weekends, too (who doesn’t?).
What to do For the elliptical pides, of course! Late-night kebab breads in all but name, though you’ll need to eschew meat to stay on budget. We’ll take one with potato, izmir tulum, kaşar cheese and chilli, ta.
How much? Veggie pides are nearly all under a tenner, mezes and salads less still.
What’s the vibe? Bright colours, Ikea-style furniture and walls plastered with Polaroid snaps of happy diners.
When to go Only the seriously hungry need apply.
What to eat Rib-sticking renditions of the Korean staple, bibimbap: a layered dish of rice, spiced vegetables and meat topped with a fried egg served in a molten-hot stone bowl.
How much? From £7 per serving – very filling.
Venue says: “Dine with us and enjoy live music! Our swinging house bands play six nights a week from 9.30pm (9pm on Sundays).”
What’s the vibe? Messrs Corbin and King (of The Wolseley and The Delaunay) deliver big-ticket West-End dining for bus-ticket prices at this buzzing Parisian brasserie.
When to go All day, mes amis – there’s no time limit on the set menu.
What to eat Bistro classics: carrots rapées followed by steak haché with frites.
How much? £9.95 for two courses: arguably London’s biggest bargain. You could slip in a quick visit to the fromage trolley afterwards and still have change from £15.
What’s the vibe? A Soho homage to handmade Cantonese steamed buns with a takeaway counter, a few tables and a speakeasy-style tearoom downstairs.
When to go Are you desperately seeking umami savoury or saccharine sweet? Any time will do nicely.
What to eat The pig’s blood and chocolate combo is the stuff of X-rated pudding pilgrimages. Add some ‘fries’ (deep-fried duck tongues) too.
How much? Buns are all £2.50; add-ons and small dishes max out at £4.80.
What’s the vibe? Posh pizza delivery service finally does the decent thing and opens a bricks ’n’ mortar restaurant on Dean Street.
When to go They’re open daily from 10am ’til late, so you can stuff your face with dough all-day long.
What to eat Pizza, dum dum! Oh, you want specifics? The margherita is a fine example of its kind; the ’nduja and chilli-covered piccante a stone-cold (and stone-cooked) classic.
How much? £8.25 for the margherita. If you’ve an extra 25p going spare, the piccante just pips the cheap eats remit at £10.25 (so share it if you must).
What’s the vibe? Part log cabin, part wet room, this is the most atmospheric of Herman's hangouts… and his sausages are sehr gut.
When to go Quick bite before a film or show? You could do wurst than a wiener.
What to eat Juicy sausages in crusty bread.
How much? Wurst in a roll is £5.95 (£7.95 with fries, £8.50 with salad). It’s also worth investing an extra 50p for toppings such as sauerkraut, chilli mayo and jalapeños. Note that currywurst combos are tad more expensive.
Venue says: “Build your poke bowl your way. Try tuna, salmon, octopus or tofu!”
What’s the vibe? A longboard outside the door points up the breezy surfing vibe at this addition to the surging poké roadshow.
When to go A grab-and-go lunch or an early-evening refresher.
What to eat Choose one of the ready-made raw fish salad bowls or build-your-own healthy combo from the colourful pick ’n’ mix assembly line.
How much? A signature Honi Poké bowl with salmon is £7.90, a tofu variant is just £6.30. Extras 50p.
What’s the vibe? Seriously good houmous – and a lot more besides – at London’s prime practitioner of chickpea worship.
When to go Weekday lunch is chickpea(k) time, when Soho locals pitch up for their protein fix.
What to eat The silky-smooth houmous topped with chunky beef stroganoff and aubergine stew.
How much? £5.95 buys the beef-topped houmous; for an extra £2.95 those benevolent bros will throw in a salad and a non-alcoholic drink.
What’s the vibe? The poké trend (raw fish rice bowls for the uninitiated) rolls ever onwards at this serene little South Pacific spot on Kingly Street.
When to go Lunchtime – it’s only open during the day. In any case, the combination of ‘clean eating’ and knockout fusion flavours makes it a perfect foil to Pret.
What to eat The house ahi bowl: soy-marinated tuna, sushi rice, pineapple salsa and spring onions. Top with nori and sriracha mayo for an umami-packed mouthful.
How much? At £7.80 for the ahi bowl (nori and other sprinkled toppings are a cursory extra, the mayo is free), this is one of spenny Soho’s best bargains.