10 Best Cheap Eats (North of the River)
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'London is expensive, blah, blah, blah'. Whatever mate, we've heard it all before. The actual fact of the matter is that we all like MONEY; we want it so bad and we don't wanna part with it once it's ours. So here are our picks for eating well without having to dip too deep into your mountains of acquired wealth and hordes of treasure. These picks are all found north of the River Thames because that felt like a fine place for an arbitrary divide.
The good people at The Hornbeam are all about community growing, local produce and keeping you green as a grasshopper. The seasonal menu (spelt out in fridge magnets by the lovely Kat) is primarily vegan and always tasty - come in the week for something simple like their pumpkin and kale tart or on the weekend for their full English brekkie.
The menu changes regularly but large dishes are around £5.80
Momo are a type of Nepalese dumplings - kinda like gyoza - and this canteen-style Dalston restaurant is their house away from home. They do them four ways: steamed, pan fried, in a creamy soy bean sauce, or tossed in a hot and spicy chilli. The chilli is the best, but we'd recommend getting all four and a couple parathas to share.
Chilli momo: £4.50, Paratha: £1.75
These guys are all about repping a side to Chinese cuisine that's often drowned out by all the luminous sweet and sour chickens and greasy chow meins. Think fragrant and sour smacked cucumbers; delicate 'pot stickers' (dumplings); and, best of all, hand-pulled noodles that are oh so thick and chewy.
Xi'an biangbiang noodles with chilli and tender beef: £10.80
Those in the know about this bargain basement tend to be pretty smug, and rightly so; Roti King is a bona fide Hidden Gem. Roti are flaky, buttery flatbreads, and the good people here have got theirs down to a T. We'd strongly recommend trying the murtabak; a dry roti filled with minced chicken and egg. Be warned the queue can get a bit nuts at lunch time, but it's worth the wait.
Chicken Murtabak: £5.50
Ariana II is Toy Story 2 of Afghan restaurants: heart warming, innovative, and maybe better than the original. The starters are phenomenal - think leek, yoghurt and herb dumplings and sweet, spiced pumpkin - but what keeps us coming back is the Kubali Palow, an unreasonably tender lamb shank served on a bed of spiced rice, raisins and almonds. Oh Lordy.
Kubali Palow: £11
Head to this stretch of Kingsland Road - affectionately know as Pho Mile - and you might find yourself a little overwhelmed by all the BYOB Vietnamese joints vying for your attention, but we'd tip this ugly duckling for its banging hand-pulled noodles, fragrant phos and vermicelli bowls packed with fresh, vibezy toppings. The sautéed pork belly with hand-pulled noodles and chilli are a good place to start if you're struggling to pick.
Mount Qi pork noodles: £8.50
All-you-can-eat restaurants may have a bad rap - and to be fair, it's probably deserved - but this here Indian restaurant is looking to shift those pesky preconceptions with their healthy and delicious vegetarian buffet that you can have UNLIMITED ACCESS TO for a measly £7.95. Just remember to either bring some self restraint or your loose-fitting trousers.
All-you-can-eat buffet: £7.95
This Turkish grill is king of the Dalston ocakbasi scene, and it's not hard to see why. Look past the snaking queue of punters waiting of their takeaway and you'll spy the gargantuan grill (if you didn't smell it first) churning out expertly cooked and seasoned meats alongside some delightful starters. The lamb chops and adana are our favourites, but for the hardcore budgeters, look to the lamacun: it's only £1.60 to takeaway!
Adana Kebab with rice and salad: £11
If you consider yourself fancy, this ain't the place for you. However, if you're a fan of delicious, slow-cooked tagines at wildly reasonable prices, then come on in. Olives, aubergine, potatoes, tender meats - all the stuff that makes Moroccan cuisine so goddam good - can be got here for little more than a fiver.
Lamb and vegetable tagine: £6
This is a proper East London pie shop, just like they used to be (apparently, we weren't there). Jellied eels, stewed eels, meat pie and mash are the options and that is all you're getting. Pies are a staggering £2.40 and mash is 50p per portion whilst liquor, that creamy parsley sauce, comes free if you're eating in, 25p if you're taking away.
Pie 'n' mash 'n' liquor: £2.90