Boasting fifty-five Michelin stars, London has dozens of fine-dining establishments offering fabulous—and expensive—culinary adventures. But the city also has many hundreds of eateries that are perfectly suited to those on a budget. These run the gamut from authentic, family-run Chinese and Indian restaurants on Drummond Street and Brick Lane to large, inexpensive chains serving fresh sandwiches, soups, and salads (among the best are Pret a Manger and EAT). In between are smaller ethnic chains like Itsu for Japanese-inspired cuisine, Wagamama for noodles, Pizza Express Zizzi or Strada for Italian fare, and the two branches of Belgo (which serves mussels, chips and a drink for just £10 during Mussel Monday Madness). Another wallet-friendly eating option is to take advantage of the good value pre- and post-theatre menu deals that are offered by many West End restaurants—even chichi ones like The Ivy and L’Escargot, HIX and Asia de Cuba.
Fans of French cooking will love this quirky restaurant nestled in the heart of the City of London. Choose from mouthwatering, generously sized menu items like crab profiteroles and pork escalope, and enjoy a free opera performance on Thursday and Saturday evenings. It’s perfect for those with tickets for nearby Sadler’s Wells Theatre, too.
This excellent Italian restaurant chain has an especially pleasant branch hidden behind Oxford Street in pretty St. Christopher’s Place. Just a two-minute walk from Bond Street and Selfridges, this spot is an ideal shopper’s refuge. Rest your feet and refuel without breaking the bank here; a prix-fixe, two-course meal costs just £10.95.
The Persian dishes at this lovely café are made with fresh and locally sourced ingredients. A perpetual standout is the tachin—a saffron rice cake with a layer of eggplant hidden in the middle; another is the signature saffron-marinated salmon, which you can order with two different salads for less than £10.
This northern-European eatery recommends that you enjoy three dishes from their savory smorgasbord for a light lunch; if you’re famished, it’s better to heap your plate with five options. Either way, your meal will likely cost less than £10, and can include hotdogs, cured salmon on dark rye, Swedish meatballs, creamy carrot-and-walnut salad, and new potatoes in dill vinaigrette.
Books for Cooks
This staple of the Notting Hill scene is not only a bookshop specializing in—yes you’ve guessed it—cookbooks; it’s also a small café that road-tests recipes for lucky diners. Three-course meals, if you can snag a spot, cost just £7; since there are no advance bookings, though, plan to get there at 11:45 for a noon lunch seating.