Let’s face it: eating out in London is expensive. There is no getting away from the fact that some of the hottest and best restaurants in the capital - the ones that you see all over your Instagram feed or the establishments that have been recognised by the famous Michelin guide - can cost a pretty penny. In fact, we’ll go out on a limb and say that every Londoner has at least once been in the situation where you meet a friend for a quick drink and a couple of small plates, then balk at the £100 bill that lands on your table at the end of the evening.
Your monthly eating out fund can run particularly low if you are a restaurant obsessive who eats out a few nights a week (and we’re assuming you are, as you have clicked on this article). Luckily for you though, and your bank account, we are here to dispel the myth that high-quality food has to be matched by sky-high prices. The truth is, you can find delicious food in London for bargain bin prices, if you just know where to look.
While our capital city may be famed across the world for its raft of Michelin-starred restaurants, artisan street food markets, glamorous rooftop bars and fine-dining establishments, London is also home to a whole host of ‘cheap eat’ joints where the bill won’t leave you wondering whether you’ll need to sell a kidney on the black market.
Cheap doesn’t have to mean sacrificing quality and it also doesn’t mean your dining adventures will be relegated to uninspiring high-street chains (forgive us Pizza Express, we still love you). Next time you are on the hunt for a budget-friendly meal, consult our extensive list below and leave your credit card at home, as these restaurants will all leave you with change from a £20 note. Scroll on to discover the very best cheap eats London has to offer.
Cheap eats London
Ugly Dumpling, Soho
What: There is nothing ugly about these dumplings and the prices are rather attractive too. At Ugly Dumpling, choose between a meat, vegetarian or vegan platter of eight dumplings for £13 and get a selection of perfectly steamed and stuffed parcels. Here, classic takes are served alongside more fun interpretations such as cheeseburger dumplings and a Nutella variety stuffed with mixed nuts and marshmallows. Note that the dining room is as small-scale as the prices, so don’t come here to discuss anything confidential.
Where: 1 Newburgh Street, W1F 7RB
Banh Banh, Peckham
What: Family-run Banh Banh in Peckham (there’s also a site in Brixton) serves up Vietnamese delights for no more than £11 per dish, and the exposed brick dining room with pendant bulbs, marble counters and potted plants is suitably trendy. What more can you ask for? A family-style feast is encouraged, so go for a range of ‘smallish’, ‘biggish’ and ‘classic’ dishes such as the delicious papaya salad, finger-lickingly good sticky chicken wings, Vietnamese pho and Bành Khot pancakes.
Where: 46 Peckham Rye, SE15 4JR
Master Wei, Bloomsbury
What: Tucked away down a pedestrianised side street near Russell Square, Master Wei really is a hidden gem. The Chinese café looks cool with exposed brick, Chinese art on the walls and stripped-back tables and chairs. All but one dish is priced below the £10 mark, with a majority even under the £7 mark, making this a reasonable place to go for dinner. Presented on very pretty crockery, it’s clear that the focus is food that tastes as good as it looks.
Where: 13 Cosmo Place, WC1N 3AP
Roti Chai Street Kitchen, Marylebone
What: Roti Chai Street Kitchen, tucked away in a mews behind Selfridges, channels the frantic railway stations and busy roadside cafés of India on its ground floor, whereas classic Indian tandoor grills are the inspiration for the basement dining room. It’s the former you should head to for a good-value meal, where snacks and hubbub are on the agenda. The ‘Railway Lamb Curry’ (slow-cooked Welsh lamb and potato with cardamom, roasted cumin and cloves) will warm you up nicely and only set you back £9.
Where: Lower Ground Floor, 3 Portman Mews South, W1H 6AY
Berber & Q Shawarma Bar, Exmouth Market
What: Think a cheap kebab is only fit for a post-night out snack? Think again. Cool Haggerston space Berber & Q serves Tel Aviv-inspired food to a hip-hop soundtrack, at affordable prices. Enjoy hot and cold mezze alongside a wide selection of grill and rotisserie dishes served between delicious flatbreads, ranging from flank steak to king prawns.
Where: 46 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QE
What: On the hunt for something high in carbs, but low in price? All-day Italian deli Princi on Wardour Street serves up everything from chic breakfasts, savoury pastries and colourful salads, to ‘proper’ coffee, Italian wines and cocktails. It’s all delicious and will not cost you a lot – if you can control yourself, that is. Italian staff add to the authentic feel and the communal tables create a casual, but atmospheric setting. Excellent wood-fired pizzas are available at the adjoining restaurant, too.
Where: 135 Wardour Street, W1F 0UT
The Cheese Bar, Camden
What: Doing exactly what it says on the tin, The Cheese Bar is a temple which worships at the altar of all things cheesy. The obvious choice here would be to treat yourself to one of the indulgent grilled cheese sandwiches, but there are bigger plates on offer too, including a five cheese macaroni and a truffle burger. Most items on the menu are under a tenner, too.
Where: Unit 93/94 Camden Stables, NW1 8AH
Del 74, Dalston
What: This casual taco joint is a cheap eat any day of the week really, but if you want a real bargain, head here on a Tuesday. Del 74’s Taco Tuesday deal sees diners enjoy tacos for just £2 and beers for only £3.50. Elsewhere on the menu, you will find chicken wings, nachos and quesadillas, while a thumping soundtrack and easy drinking cocktails help to set the atmosphere.
Where: 129 Kingsland High Street, E8 2PB
Dumplings Legend, Soho
What: While it is true that the bill can mount up at dim sum restaurants if you let your appetite get the better of you, Chinatown’s Dumplings Legend is at the more affordable end of the spectrum. Order steamed buns filled with chicken, pork, fish or veg and soak up the bustling atmosphere. If you’re smart about your order, you should be able to leave with relatively full pockets.
Where: 15-16 Gerrard Street, W1D 6JE
Randy’s Wing Bar, Hackney Wick
What: Canal-side restaurant Randy’s Wing Bar channels the spirit of American-style chicken wings, with most of the items on the menu under a tenner – opt for the classic Buffalo style with truffle blue cheese or the Kansas variety with barbecue sauce. Don’t worry if you’re dining companion isn’t a chicken wing fan though, as there are a few cheap and cheerful burgers on the menu too.
Where: Here East, Canalside, E15 2GW
Poppie’s Fish & Chips, Soho
What: Fish and chips is a staple cheap eat in the UK and Poppie’s is among the most famous chippies in the capital. It is true that in London, a fish supper can cost a pretty penny and Poppie’s £13.95 combo isn’t exactly a bargain. You can however save some pennies by instead opting for one of their filled chip butties, clocking in at a far more respectable £3.95.
Where: 55-59 Old Compton Street, W1T 1DB
What: Tayyabs is not the place to come for a relaxing evening of hushed conversation (expect to queue for a table and a frantic atmosphere when you do get inside). However, this long-standing curry house is the place to find bargains, with menu highlights such as the tandoori chops and rich dahls all under a tenner. Another bonus is the BOYB policy, free of a corkage fee, which means for money to spend on a better bottle of vino from the supermarket.
Where: 83-89 Fieldgate Street, E1 1JU
Casa do Frango, London Bridge
What: Piri piri restaurant Casa do Frango is naturally compared to a certain cheeky high street favourite, but the quality of cooking here is far superior to Nando’s, even though prices are pleasingly similar. Enjoy juicy, succulent chicken brushed with a spicy piri piri sauce and served alongside golden skinny fries or rice topped with chorizo and crispy onions.
Where: 32 Southwark Street, SE1 1TU
Brasserie Zedel, Soho
What: Take one look at Brasserie Zedel and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s not a budget-friendly restaurant. The old adage of never judging a book by its cover applies, as this perennially popular French brasserie is a steal if you know how to order. Just take the three-course prix-fixe menu, which includes steak frites and gateau, all for just £10.50.
Where: 20 Sherwood Street, W1F 7ED
Sager + Wilde, Bethnal Green
What: Found in an old railway arch, this branch of Sager + Wilde comprises a restaurant and outdoor terrace and is another example of a budget-friendly restaurant in the capital. Dishes from the grill err on the expensive side, but stick to the comforting plates of fresh pasta (rigatoni, spaghetti, tagliatelle) and you’ll spend less than £20.
Where: 250 Paradise Row, E2 9LE
What: Machiya is an ode to Kyoto home-style cooking and a visit to this Japanese joint won’t break the bank. The filling donburis (choose between toppings of pork, salmon and chicken) hover around the £10 mark, while fragrant Japanese-style curries are all priced under £15. Don’t miss the matcha themed desserts either, including fondants and crepes.
Where: 5 Panton Street, SW1Y 4DL
Cheap bao London
Daddy Bao, Tooting
What: Tooting’s Daddy Bao has gone beyond “local favourite” status, as people from all over London now flock to the tiny restaurant for a bite of its pillowy Taiwanese buns. Priced at under a fiver each, they are as affordable as they are tasty; go for the shiitake mushroom variety for a real depth of flavour or the chicken one for crunchy, deep-fried deliciousness. There’s also a fun bottomless brunch at the weekend with Taiwanese spins on British brunch classics.
Where: 113 Mitcham Road, SW17 9PE
Mr Bao, Peckham
What: Bao down (see what we did there?) to this Peckham-based restaurant churning out everyone’s favourite Taiwanese buns. Mr Bao's fluffy little things start from just £4.20 and are guaranteed to please. Our favourites include the Bao Diddley (24-hour marinated chicken with wasabi mayonnaise and house kimchi), while the vegan shitake mushroom variety is also a winner.
Where: 293 Rye Lane, SE15 4UA
What: What could be the reason for all the hype around Soho’s Bao? Well, such is the power of delicious Taiwanese steamed buns, we guess. A £15 set lunch deal, available 12-3pm Monday to Friday, gets you a bao (either fried chicken or eryngii mushrooms), and a bowl of rice. Elsewhere, order sides of house pickles or sweet potato chips dipped in plum pickle ketchup.
Where: 53 Lexington Street, W1F 9AS
Cheap pizza London
Made of Dough, Peckham
What: You can’t go wrong with wood-fire sourdough pizza, can you? Especially not when it comes as reasonably priced as the ones at Made of Dough - £11.50 will get you the most expensive option on the menu (a indulgent ‘cheese burger’ pizza topped with beef patty and kimchi mayonnaise), but the truffle, margherita and vegan varieties are all under a tenner. Additional dips are worth the extra expense - think basil aioli and spicy paprika mayonnaise.
Where: 182 Bellenden Road, SE15 4BW
Pizza Pilgrims, Soho
What: Delicious pizzas make us happy, but delicious and cheap pizzas make us even happier. If you are of the same disposition, than Pizza Pilgrims is for you; here, £10.95 will afford you a delightful mushroom and truffle pizza, with plenty of other options under £15 too. If you ask us though, we’d recommend saving some extra pounds for the Nutella pizza ring dessert - a ring of pizza dough stuffed with salted ricotta and Nutella baked in the oven and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yum!
Where: 11 Dean Street, W1D 3RP
Voodoo Rays, Dalston
What: First thing's first: the pizzas here are enormous. We’re talking 22-inch, New York-style pies that you can top with almost whatever you fancy, although individual slices are also available should you be flying solo. On Mondays, you can get the whole thing for £20, so gather the troops for a cheap meal. The Dalston site of Voodo Rays also sits on top of The Karaoke Hole, a drag-themed karaoke bar where you can order pizzas direct to your table.
Where: 95 Kingsland High Street, E8 2PB
Homeslice, Covent Garden
What: Tucked inside the lovely and colourful Neil’s Yard in Covent Garden, Homeslice serves ginormous wood-fired Italian-styled pizzas alongside one-litre bottles of wine. Bring a foursome and split a £20 pizza and a £30 bottle of vino rosso between you and you’ll walk away having spent a mere £12.50 each. Bargain! Toppings range from the traditional (salami, rocket and parmesan) to the experimental - spiced lamb with savoy cabbage and sumac yoghurt.
Where: 13 Neal's Yard, WC2H 9DP
Pizza Union, King’s Cross
What: There aren’t many places in London where you can get a 12-inch pizza for a fiver, but Pizza Union is one of them. In fact, the cheapest option on its menu – a classic margherita – will leave you with no more than a £3.95 shaped hole in your wallet. Simply queue up, order and wait (im)patiently for your buzzer to vibrate, telling you your pizza is ready. Wines by the glass and frozen cocktails are also a bargain at under £4.
Where: 246-250 Pentonville Road, N1 9JY
Zia Lucia, Holloway
What: The charcoal-dough pizzas, straight from the authentic wood-fired oven, are the main draw at Italian pizzeria Zia Lucia in Holloway. All priced below £12 and generously sized, it’s also excellent value for money. Warm service and outdoor seating add to the appeal, while the Nutella-stuffed crust dessert pizza with custard, fresh fruit and honey is a must order.
Where: 157 Holloway Road, N7 8LX
Yard Sale, Hackney
What: Although London’s restaurant scene has even managed to gentrify pizza (yes, the £40 truffle pizza at Crazy Pizza, we are talking about you), this staple Italian dish is still the ultimate cheap eat. Head to Yard Sale and split one of its 18-inch pizzas between you and some friends to barely spend a penny, or plump for your own one and still have change from a £20 note.
Where: 184 Hackney Road, E2 7QL
Cheap burgers London
Patty & Bun, Marylebone
What: These days, gourmet burgers usually come with gourmet price tags, but Patty & Bun is the place to come for great puns and pocket-friendly prices. The burger bar’s moreish ‘Ari Gold’ cheeseburger will leave you with change from a tenner, while other offerings such as the rosemary salted chips and a fair few vegan options are rightfully celebrated. The up-beat atmosphere, friendly staff and cult beers are further draws.
Where: 54 James Street, W1U 1HE
Chick ‘n’ Sours, Haggerston
What: Fried chicken sandwiches and Pisco Sours are the order of the day at this aptly named restaurant. All of Chick ‘n’ Sours stacked sandwiches hover around the £10 and include the indulgent likes of the K Pop - fried chicken thigh slathered with gochujang mayonnaise, chilli vinegar, Asian coleslaw and sriracha sour cream. Sides are worth your time too, with the pickle and watermelon salad being among our favourites.
Where: 390 Kingsland Road, E8 4AA
What: For a rock-and-roll Tokyo experience, look no further than Ichibuns, which serves up a fusion of Japanese and American food with a friendly price tag. Colourful and vibrant interiors are supported by a fun menu of cheeseburger spring rolls, crispy panko-fried chicken wings and gut-busting Asian-style burgers.
Where: 22 Wardour Street, W1D 6QH
Bleecker Burger, City
What: The title of best burger in London is a hotly contested one, but Bleecker has rightfully earned a loyal fanbase through its cheap and cheerful approach. Keep things simple with the classic cheeseburger (yours for under a tenner) or spend a little more cash and treat yourself to a side of angry fries - coated in blue cheese, hot sauce and lashings of salt. Yes, they’re worth the extra expense.
Where: 16 Bloomberg Arcade, EC4N 8AR
What: Billing themselves as ‘fried chicken sandwich specialists’ (although we think the term chicken burger is more appropriate), Butchies serves up buttermilk fried chicken between buns, alongside sides such as chicken strips served with house ‘OG’ sauce. The meal deal combos here are a little more expensive than your average fast food joint, but will still leave you with change from a tenner.
Where: 22 Rivington Street, EC2A 3DY
Murger Han, Mayfair
What: Casual Murger Han feels a little incongruous in flashy Mayfair and is something of a well kept secret among locals, but it is perfect for a post-shopping reprieve after a day of browsing the shops on Piccadilly. The eponymous Murger is a pork patty sandwiched between flatbread (a steal at just £6), but a bowl of thick and messy noodles measuring 12-feet long is also plenty of fun.
Where: 62 Eversholt Street, NW1 1DA
Cheap pasta London
What: Hand-made pasta at pocket-friendly prices has made Pastaio popular with the Soho set. Colourful interiors and marble-topped counters provide an Instagram-worthy backdrop, while the likes of lemon-dashed Prosecco slushies are destined to be shared on stories and posts too. This isn’t a case of style over substance though, as the pasta is good. Our advice? Order the slow-cooked sausage ragu with fennel, chilli and breadcrumbs.
Where: 19 Ganton Street, W1F 9BN
Padella, London Bridge
What: It is little wonder there are constant around-the-corner queues at this no-bookings London Bridge pasta haven when £5 gets you a plate of divine gnocchi. Padella is considered a bucket-list restaurant by discerning Londoners for a reason, and while it’s true that the bill can mount up here if you’re not careful, a plate of pasta and glass of wine should leave you with change from £20,
Where: 6 Southwark Street, SE1 1TQ
Bancone, Covent Garden
What: You have probably seen the ‘silk handkerchiefs’ pasta dish from Bancone on your Instagram feed, set against the restaurant’s backdrop of marble surfaces and open kitchen with smartly turned out chefs working away. You don’t have to be an #influencer to afford your own though, as you could easily enjoy one of Bancone’s pasta mains and split a bottle of wine between two for around twenty quid.
Where: 39 William IV Street, WC2N 4DD
Pizza has dominated a fair amount of our cheap eats list, so why not go the extra mile and check out our full list of the best pizzas in London (including a few luxe options, too).