Friday, September 12, 2008

Hungry in London

Being a tourist: St. Paul's Cathedral and on the Tower Bridge

Sounds like a title for a personal ad, but yes I am in fact hungry in this big old town. I've been in London for almost a month now and haven't a clue where to go for good food. I must admit that I have been trying to eat on the cheap lately, and cheap doesn't always equate to good. Wow, eating out in London can really eat into your budget. I had been warned before I left, although never really paid any mind to such sagacious counsel until it was my own pounds that had to be spent.

So, right now I have been straying from anything too pricey, but once the pocket gets filled with a few more pounds, I'm definitely not opposed to some fine-dining here and there.

So I'm putting out the call to any Londoners out there or anyone else in the know, for places I should wine and dine or do it on the cheap. Fancy eats, cheap eats, pub grub, be it your favourite places to go and secret finds please direct them all my way. I can't stay hungry (and poor) for much longer.

Also, I might have mentioned in previous posts but I have a bunch of dishes I made in Australia that have never made its way onto blog yet. So look out for those in the next few weeks. I don't have an internet connection at the moment, and am making use of free wi-fi in London, so posts are probably going to be more sporadic than before, until I am once again reunited with the world.


VeggieGirl said...

"Sounds like a title for a personal ad" HAHA!! That made me laugh out loud :0)

Eek, I'm so sorry that you haven't been able to find a lot of good dining options :0( I'm not from London (I'm in the States), so I can't provide any good recommendations, I'm afraid. Hang in there, Jen!!!

liz said...

check out the borough markets. you will find anything you could possibly want there -- including a cheap lunch. Top Table is also a good place to browse for good deals.

Meaghan Fitzgerald said...

Hi there, hope you don't mind the random commenter - I came across your blog and happened to have a relevant suggestion for your foodie woes!

I moved to London myself not too long ago from California and I read a review the other day that Wahaca (near Covent Garden) had the best Mexican food and guacamole in London so I had to check it out. I didn't have very high expectations (I haven't had proper Mexican food since I left CA) but it ended up being wonderful and so inexpensive! My girlfriends and I had, between the three of us, two orders of the guacamole (it *was* good and wonderfully spicy), a round of beers, chorizo and potato quesadillas to share, and a burrito each for a total of just under £40.

Alright, my restaurant review has now gotten quite rambling but do check out Wacaha. Other great option, although quite a bit more pricy, is Putney Thai (I think it's called) which you can't miss as it's the building directly next to the Putney dock.

Hope I've helped somewhat!

Anonymous said...

I quite like Taro for its ramen and no-nonsense atmosphere. For London, I think it is affordable - though coming from Australia you might have different standards for Asian food. (More reviews here.)

There's also a nice place for dimsum in the middle of the south side of Gerrard Street (Chinatown), but I only know it on sight, I don't remember the name. It feels authentically Cantonese, they are efficient to the point of bordering on rude, it looks like you're in HK, the dimsum and the seafood dishes are good (but it's very much Cantonese cuisine only, which is not what most people expect from Chinese food). I found that for 5-8 pounds, you can order enough dimsum to last you a while, especially if you order sticky rice stuff.

There are a couple of PAUL outlets in London as well, which have the same assortment of basic but good French bakery goods as in Paris (I love the salmon sandwich), but I've not checked out their prices.

Best of Luck in finding some more cheap eateries - and do report back if you find a nice place, would you?


Anonymous said...

try this,
a lovely notting hill brassery for a great saturday brunch, ideally after a nice stroll at portobello's market. great atmosphere, nice staff, excellent food and not too much expensive. everytime I have been there, I did not find too many tourists, but lots of local small groups of friends and families. hope you enjoy your time in london, it's a great place (although I'm writing from Rome which is not that bad too!)

Anonymous said...

Tas is always a good cheap option - and they're dotted about all over the place;

Lisa-Marie said...

Try Nambucca on Holloway Road, good food, good beer, good music, awesome atmosphere, not expensive.

Kajsa said...


Maraka said...

Hi Jen I am not sure where you are living in London but as an Aussie who has been living here in London for almost 10 years, I am sure I can offer some advice on where to eat. Eating out in good places in London can be expensive but here are some suggestions;
Esca Delicatessen,Clapham High St
Ottolenghi-they have a few locations so look on their site for the nearest one to you.
Whole Foods on Kensington High St is a lovely shopping experience.
Hummingbird Bakery- best cupcakes in town. Try the red velvet they are to die for.
Carluccios- a great staple
Tate Modern Cafe- Great views as well as some interesting art.
Leon Resturants-

Hopefully that will get you started. I look forward to hearing about some more of your adventures. Take Care Maraka

Em. said...

I had a lovely lunch at restaurant called Ozer near Langham Place, W1B.....

I found it by accident, in a day trip the big city from sunny Wales. They had some good lunch time deals and the food was delicious; they did a tasty set meal thing for about a tenner.....delicious

Alice said...

Try Patogh (just off Edware Rd), Food for Thought (in Covent Garden) Great Queen Street (on Great Queen Street) or any number of other decent gastro-pubs - I really like Anchor and Hope on the cut. Also on the cut is a nice tapas bar (can't remember the name) though they are patchy - I've had the best chicken livers there and the worst, hope for a good day. Mondellos on Goodge St is a nice traditional London Italian, complete with photo of Mick Jagger on the wall - always good, though a tad cheesy!

If you don't mind traveling out of the centre, places like East Dulwich, Stoke Newtington or Clapham can be food delights. The first of those is harder to get to but worth it - good deli, great cafes, nice wine bar or three, very good organic butcher, proper fishmonger, a couple of bakeries, excellent cocktails and the best breakfast in London, bar none is the one done in 'Franklins', SE22, on a saturday morning, even the Guardian said so (they do seriously good dinners too) Seriously. Worth the trip, even on a saturday morning.

For a really good meal, try the Wapping Project, in Wapping. Again, a while out but VERY good (you do pay for it, but not super-pricey). North Londonwise, there is a cool pub with nice food called the Pembury Tavern in Hackney. For British meat, you *have* to go to St John (have their eccles cake with cheese for pudding).

Leon (chain) worth it for lunch.

I think Time Out have a food special this week - try them for advice! If they say its good, its generally worth a punt.

Andrew said...

Cheap food in London will quite often mean crap, processed stuff. To eat cheap is easy if you like white bread, tinned beans and sausages.

When I first moved here 8 years ago from Oz I lived on 8pence tins of spaghetti, toast and toad in the hole. Things were tight until I found a decent paid job.

I have found these days that to eat out both cheap and good food, you really need to develop a taste for Asian food (like a lot of places).

I am going through a Vietnamese phase at the moment. I eat endless bowls of Pho Bo for £3.50 to £7 per bowl along with various other noodles soups.

My favourites are;
Hai Ha in Mare st, Hackney - £4 for a decent Pho
Green Papaya in Mare St - about £6 for a very good Pho and £8 for a huge serve of steamed fish with garlic, ginger and soy.
Noodle King in Bethnal Green Rd. All their mains are less than £4 and you will need a doggie bag and excellent quality mainstream chinese food. It's always busy because it is good and it is cheap because it always busy.

Indian food is good and cheap. Try the cafes rather than the restaurants. Same with Turkish food.

Go to an area that has a load of a particular ethnic group and eat that type of food. Since I am in Hackney I eat Vietnamese and Caribbean food with the occasional Turkish.

hunty (off to Broadway market for Vietnamese coffee in the morning)

Zoe said...

First thing to do - go buy Time Out's Cheap Eats book, or look on their website. I'm not sure where you live but there are cheaper places away from the centre of town - for example there's a great pan-asian place on my high street that does lunch specials like a big bowl of laksa for £4.95. Then of course there's the standards like Wagamama, Busaba Eathai and the various sushi chains (itsu, Yo, wasabi), as well as the sandwich places that often do some extra stuff like soup, pies and hot wraps (Pret, Eat). There are other chains too but they're not all worth your time - I'm not a fan of Pizza Express, but I do like Gourmet Burger Kitchen because they have excellent chips. For London restaurant blogs, I like londonelicious, dos hermanos and food and drink in london (not updated often).

The bottom line is, though, that the addition of VAT, service and huge alcohol taxes and mark-ups means that if you like cooking, the best value food and wine you will have in London is usually bought from the farmer's markets (my local is Queen's Park) and wonderful stores like the Ginger Pig or the middle eastern stores along the Edgware road, and cooked and enjoyed at home. There's always somewhere lovely to go out for dinner, but if you're not on a City income you'll feel the pain each time the bill comes.

Debbie Ann said...

Go to brick row lane in the middle of the night and have a fresh bagel with salt beef on it. 159 Brick Lane.Liverpool St Station.

Then after you save up money go to Fat Duck and then to Hibiscus.

photos here:

huh? said...

Worth trying out Cafe Mode in Covent Garden on Endell Street. Fairly easy on the pockets and nice cosy atmosphere

Olivia said...

No comments yet? Well, Nikki sent me over here to help you out. I used to live in London and moved to NYC about 3 months ago.

I have to admit, it is harder to find cheap food there. I think the simplest thing to do is find good local joints and make your own food...The grocery stores cater very well to single people, and I ate some very good prepared foods from Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Sainsburys, and sometimes Tesco (whereas here I eat loads of delivery food). It's just the different cultural approach, they don't eat out as much as they do here.

But if you must, here goes:
Pret a Manger and EAT for good sandwiches, soups, and salads to go. Wagamama for hearty noodles. Indian food is always cheap.

Go to Chinatown for the cheapest dim sum for two (5 or 6 dishes total). Costs less than £20 at the "London Chinatown" restaurant (that is the name) near the corner of Gerrard and Wardour streets. I recommend that one because of the quality, value, and the fact that my Asian friends approved of it on our numerous lunch outings there. However, don't be afraid to try out any others that look appealing, just make sure there are more Chinese than tourists inside.

S&M on Essex Road in Islington (number 38 bus). Lots of pies and sausage and mash, comfort food.

Also good are the little cafes on Brewer Street in Soho. In fact, the rest of Soho is full of authentic affordable French cafes and crepe shops.

Wetherspoons are the cheapest mainstream family pubs that are even easier to visit since the smoking ban which caused them to focus even more on good food deals.

Once you're ready for fine pan-Asian dining including cocktails, my faves are Yauatcha on Berwick Street and Cocoon on the corner of Regent Street and Air Street. Yauatcha serves designer dim sum, great drinks, has amazing zen decor, hundreds of types of tea, and gorgeous desserts. Sketch is also good on desserts and both are very popular spots. Princes Harry and William have been spotted at Cocoon. I had my 30th bday there and the food was perfect and also excitingly presented.

That should be enough for now :) Hope it helps.

Aine said...

August's Delicious magazine had a feature on Jill Dupleix's favourite places to eat in London. Most of them don't look like they'll meet your specifications for cheap (afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason?) she does reccomend some that may suit: Selfridges food hall (400 Oxford St W1), Nordic Bakery (14 Golden Sq. W1), and Flat White (17 Berwick St w1) for a decent coffee. I could scan in the article if you like, but it does seem to be more directed towards cashed-up holiday makers.

Hope this helped!


Tenina said...

Such a shame to be hungry in London...but have you tried Wagamama's? I felt that I had the best meal I ate in England there on the Thames...not far from the Eye. I know how you feel about finding good food at reasonable prices, but you have to stop changing the currency in your head or you'll never even buy a drink! Good luck!

iki said...

I can recommend Bella Italia at St. Martin's Lane WC2. They have good food and are not very expensive. Oh and don't miss their cappuccino, it's to die for :)

Beth said...

I just emailed my sister who lives in London and asked her to add a comment or email you...she should know somewhere...her boyfriend is a chef AND she knows how to eat on a this space.

jenjen said...

Wow, thanks everyone for all your responses, I've copied all your comments and listed everything you guys have suggested and there's a lot to choose from. It's great.

Keep 'em coming!

Anonymous said...

off Soho Square there is a very nice Hari Krishna restaurant which is about a fiver

Also cafe in Foyles is rather nice on Charing cross road.

Otherwise would try Brick Lane for curries

Oh v cheap thai on Brewer st in soho.

Anonymous said...

oh and wagamamas often have special deals if you join them as a 'member' at their website ie two for one deals which then make it fantastic value.

'Megan' said...

Wagamamas, Pauls, Ottolenghi, Harlem, Tom's Deli, 202, The Orangery at Kensington Palace, Strada, Prezzo, Bistro 1, Konditor and Cook, Primrose Bakery, Pattiserie Valerie, Portobello Road Market, the Kitchen and Pantry, Franco Manco in Brixton - for the best pizza outside Naples apparently and Dogstar in Brixton too, had really good tacos there, I thought! Hope this helps, some are cheap some not so!

13mimosa said...

I agree with the TARO recommendation, very easy, no fuss. On the other side of the road though is a Japanese restaurant whose name I can't remember. It's almost opposite and has a red lantern hanging out the front. They are small, but you don't need to book, a small area upstairs and another area downstairs. Their food was also really affordable and good - I have such lovely memories of that place. Carluccios isn't terribly expensive for easy run of the mill, although it isn't super exciting, there's one in St Christophers Place which is a nice setting. What else, just off Edgeware Road, about halfway between the tube station and Maida Vale (heading away from Marble Arch) there is a Spanish restaurant down a side street to your right. I will have to look up the name, good Tapas, really low key setting - I had my 30th there. Also opposite BED at the end of Portobello Road (which was a great bar when we were there), there's another Spanish tapas bar called Galicia. We used to go there a lot, had our farewell party there - also great.

Of course there's Brick Lane for Indian, although it's cheap it's not all necessarily very good. There are some more interesting and smaller Pakistani restaurants closer to Whitechapel which area really good. The vietnamese restaurants are around Hoxton Square (not immediately) but more that area - although they're no match to Melbourne choices and I am sure Sydney either.

We ate in lots of more expensive, fancier restaurants, but sounds like they're still coming.

Pizza, again in Maida Vale off Randolph Avenue there was The Red Pepper (which is part of a group which includes The Green Olive, The Black Truffle etc) - but there's was very authentic Italian pizza - great small setting, but you need to book.

Sorry I haven't looked all these up, they may be out of date, but hope they help. Let me know if you're after more info - purveyors etc. Victoria

Erika B said...

I lived there for a couple of months at the beginning of the year as a broke student.. i feel your pain! So here's a couple of vague suggestions (sorry, i can't really remember the names)..

1. I know you've been there, but I still can't get over Borough Markets!

2. Portobello Rd Markets are great for a cheap feed every once in a while.

3. Yo! Sushi - there's one in Mayfair/Soho area, really great food at a reasonable price (open late and close to pubs!)

4. There's a pub in Greenwich that does massive meals for really cheap prices (and gooood food too), I'm sorry that I can't remember it's name!

5. St Christopher's Inn, Greenwich, also does really good, reasonable food at night, and the crowd there is always really friendly (coming from a crying Aussie who arrived at 6am when it was -1*c).

6. Greenwich Markets has cheap food - really good, I bought some stuff and re-heated it.

7. Also, if you are at Greenwich Markets, there is a Cupcake shop in one of the alleys of the main street going into the markets - the carrot cake it incredible!

By the way.. if you don't already have one, buy a Lonely Planet London guide (I know, how touristy) - I found it so helpful!

Hope this was kinda helpful.. good luck!

Laurick said...

I spent a summer in London as a student - nothing like tuition plus living expenses to drain your budget!

One of my favorite places to eat was TukTuk off the Queensway stop on the Circle line. Great Thai food, and the PadThai was about 4 pounds if I remember right! Enough for a meal AND lunch the next day.

Anonymous said...

Here were some of my favourites when I used to live in London (now back in Sydney)

- Excellent & very reasonably priced Thai - Busaibai Ethai in Wadour St Soho or St Christopher Sq Bond St (you know it's reliable when David Thompson is behind the menu)

- Best Yum Cha is Royal China in Baker St (good value when going with a group) or for a pricier treat - Yauatcha in Cnr Broadwick/Bewrick St Soho, which also do mouth drooling cakes for afternoon tea.

- Taro for good value Japanese in Brewer St which already has a mention, my favourite on the menu was the Teriyaki Beef & Rice box (under £10!!).

- Song Que on Kingsland Rd in Hackney for best Pho noodles.

- Best burgers & milkshakes - GBK, numerous outlets including Wesbourne Grove, Bayswater.

- Al Dar III on Ken. High St for scrumptous authentic Lebanese.

- Alounak for Persian Grills and dips, also on Westbourne Groves. Gotta try the flat bread - baked fresh on ordering.

- Maison Bertaux on Greek St in Soho for mouth drooling cakes and pastries. Try the portfiteroles.

- best Chinese food to be found in Queensway in Bayswater(Chinatown to be avoided!), try the duck at Four Seasons. There's usually a queue outside the restaurants with good reasons. Magic Wok and Mandarin Kitchen are also good bets although the later is fairly pricey.

And when the wallets can stretch try out these places:

- Pied-a-Terre, Charlotte St Soho
- I-Thai at the Hempel in Bayswater
- Oxo Tower on the Southbank (good food with amazing views)
- Nobu in Bekerley Sq (try the miso black cod)

Hope these keeps you going for a while....enjoy!

Lindsay said...

If you like Vietnamese food then there are loads of places on Kingsland Road and Dalston which are really cheap and good (but avoid Viet Hoa, it used to be the best but has gone way down hill). My local is the fab canteen in the Huon Viet Vietnamese centre on Englefield Road. If you like turkish then check out the Mangal Ockabasi on Arcola St, massive portions and cheap! Great theatre on Arcola street too.

Until the money starts rolling in look out for lunch or pre-theatre deals in some of the swankier places, Wild Honey has a great deal on at the moment. Try the tapas at Barrafino until you can stretch to Finos, and eat at the bar in Moro.

Joy said...

Come to Whitecross Street Market (just near the Barbican) and get an AMAZING burrito for £4 which will keep you full until teatime. You can also check out the wholesale butchers in Spitalfields Market on the way (excellent quality meat at great prices). For a treat, try Boudin Blanc near Green Park - delicious French food. For good quality chain food try Wagamamas (there are often 2 for 1 vouchers floating around the net), Itsu or The Real Greek. Great to have you in London Jen.

Becky said...

I've just moved to London too and am similarly frustrated by the lack of cheap (but delicious eats!) Pass along the wisdom if you find some good spots!

Andrew said...

Becky, if you are near east London then you are welcome to tag along with me, my wife, daughter and two jack russell dogs around the best Hackney has to offer. I will leave a comment on your fledgling blog...

Anonymous said...

Two great places for lunch if you don't necessarily want to sit down;

+ pizza 'al taglio', the *best* in town by all accounts, at Malletti's on Noel Street in Soho. Pizza to absolutely die for, staff likewise (just don't be on your mobile phone). They usually have queues out the door, I think a big slice is about £3, and they sell out by 3pm.

+ take-away sushi at the Japan Centre in Piccadilly- not the sushi counter in the houseware shop, but the one next door under the restaurant and fixed together with the sake shop; AMAZING, unrefrigerated-because-it's-made-so-fresh sushi that they make in front of you and keep spilling out; superlative quality and super, super, cheap. Go for lunch or to take dinner home

+ there are a lot of good thai restaurants, but strangely enough one of the most consistent and 'authentic' (by taste) is busaba eathai; three branches, organised by the same guy who did wagamama's, yauatcha, hakkasan, cha cha eat moon and all the rest (alan lau). again, waiting for a table is almost always necessary but the food is SO good, very good value, bursting with flavour and interesting herbs that are often missing from the dumbed-down thai flavours of london. they're on wardour st, store st just off tottenham court road, and behind selfridges somewhere.

沈伊 said...

hhmm.... I hope I had not repeated the list, I like

Cha Cha Moon, all dishes price at £3.50. I quite like the idea of it, the variety of the menu and the portion of the dish. Value for money. However, because I'm very familiar with MSG, it has a lot of MSG in the food. I always get thirsty after consume the food. Anyway,

Portebello Market - there is this Germany's homemade burger which is fabulous. I eat it everytime I go to the market.

London Bridge - There is this fish restaurant, next to the church.
The name of the restaurant 'FISH!'
Address:Borough Market, London, SE1 9AL

If you are looking for Chinese Restuarant in China Town, depends what you eat though. Each of them have their own good specialities.

Where do you live in London, by the way ??

Katie said...

I think they secret is just just go down a street or alley where you don't thinkk there is a restuarant and there will be 12.