15 Central London Cheap Eats
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Whether you're killing a couple hours before a gig, meeting up with your homies mid week, or just feeling a touch depleted in the wallet area - there are plenty of times when you want a quick, cheap and tasty feeding. But finding such a thing in the big city can be a bit of a minefield: where can you trust? And more importantly, where can you take your friends without giving everyone a belly ache or, worse, having them judge your taste?
Well don't worry kiddo, we'll show you our favourite Central London cheap eats: wraps, dumplings, noodles, curries and rice bowls - it's all hearty stuff that should go down an absolute treat.
Sagar is all veg, so you can have free rein of dishes from all over India. We were impressed with their lentil pizzas called 'uthappams', and their lassis are great at taking the fire out of anything you may have over confidently ordered. Decor is minimal and colour schemes are bland, but their lunchtime deals keep us coming back for more.
This little and lively Lebanese & Middle Eastern can get pretty busy. The mixed mezzes, grilled skewers and takeaway wraps are all very tasty - as are the larger plates like that scrummy lamb shawarma. It's a cosy wee spot with simple wooden tables, stools and a cute blackboard covered in menu items - we're a sucker for a cute blackboard we are.
Greasy spoon by day, authentic Thai restaurant by night. Sound familiar? Probably not - because Marie's is truly one-of-a-kind. As soon as 6pm hits, Marie swaps up the fry ups for lemongrass and duck soup - all of which are fragrant and flavourful to the nines. The atmosphere kicks, the dishes are cheap, it's BYOB and a mere hop from Waterloo station.
The name might sound like some kind of super expensive vegan, gluten-free place, but this unglamorous spot actually does a fine line in very cheap, tasty and relatively healthy Korean fast food. Set up similarly to a sandwich bar, plenty of the dishes are around £5 and there's lots to choose from: like noodle soups and katsu curries.
In this pokey wee spot, the amiable Paolina serves up homely and satisfying Thai grub within an intimate, authentic-feeling cafe that has all the welcoming vibes you'd like to imagine would greet you were you to stay at someone's house in Thailand. It's a verified cheap eat with most meals around the £7 mark: and to top it all off, it's BYOB.
Roti King really is royalty. It's authentic, tasty and cheap Malaysian food in a tightly packed basement where those in the know squeeze in to get their fingers on soft, flakey rotis dipped in perfectly spiced curries. With menu selects coming in at around £6-7, this is the kind of hidden gem you're going to feel all kinds of smug telling your friends about.
You can't help but have a soft spot for this Chinatown resto's pleasing green facade, reasonable prices and rough-and-ready look. And we know those dumplings are made fresh each day 'cause we stood at the window and watched them at it. Spicy pork and cabbage pan fried dumplings (£5 for 7) are absolute bangers, especially when dipped in chilli oil, soy and vinegar - yum.
They whip up a kati roll so quickly here, you'd think the taste would suffer. No, no, me old china, these are spicy wonders. You can get Indian flatbreads or paratha rolls filled with chicken tikka, grilled tiger shrimp cooked in coconut milk, and even Indian cheese marinated in a spicy pickle. And you can grab two rolls for under a tenner!
Praise be for King's Cross staple Sen Viet which is exactly as we want it: inexpensive, flavourful and very accommodating to groups who wanna pop a few bottles and get a little loose with their meal. The extensive menu has all the usual fare ranging from phos to noodles to meat dishes to baguettes. Our tip would be the banh mi heo nuong (chargrilled pork) baguette.
Al Dente is a pastificio: a takeaway pasta shop where you might grab an indulgent takeaway lunch during the week; buy some tortellini for a slap up meal at home; or come in the evening for a quick, casual feeding. A warm bowl of pasta around the £6.50-7 mark should do the ticket eh?
This late-night Chinese noodle bar is cheap, fast, and entirely frill-less. But we’ll take thrills over frills any day - in this case, the thrill of watching your noodles hand-pulled before your very eyes. Take your pick and watch as the chef pulls, flips, chops and flicks your noodles into shape before serving them fried, dry or in a soup.
The canteen to the drab, brutalist Indian YMCA in Fitzrovia, it immediately reminds us of being in school - had we gone to school in Delhi. Anyone who has been to Indiyah will recognise the gargantuan portions of rice that serve as the base for your meal; from there just pick a couple of curries, a daal, some eye-wateringly salty lime pickle, a paratha, and maybe a mango lassi, and you'll still be under a tenner.
This friendly spot may not be a looker but by George does it feed you up. The laid-back feel, simple decor and hearty dishes (around the £8-9 mark) make it perfect for a casual weekday dinner or a late night catch up with pals. What says friendship better than a menu of homely Malaysian and Singaporean dishes from laksa to workaday Hainanese chicken with a Tsingtao beer?
Xi'an Impression has quietly been pumping out regional, authentic street food from north-western China to happy Highbury punters for years now. But not content to stay as a pokey hidden gem, they've made a leap for the big leagues with a comparatively vast canteen space on Commercial Street. Our fave is the hand-pulled biang biang noodles with cumin and lamb - a heavenly £8.90.
We've long seen the queues outside OnTheBab on Old Street and wondered just what's going on inside. Well, it's food. South Korean comfort food to be a little more precise. A quick and casual place for dinner, come here to treat yourself and indulge. A rice bowl filled with beef, chicken or pork for £8.50 should do the trick eh?