The Best Budget-Friendly Restaurants In London

Eating out in London doesn’t have to cost the earth – the city has plenty of restaurants that can satisfy your appetite without leaving a gaping hole in your wallet. From Padella’s purse-friendly pasta to Bao’s steamed buns, here are the capital’s best cheap eats…
By Heather Steele /
Morty & Bob’s

Morty & Bob’s

Various Locations

East London’s grilled cheese sandwich pros now serve their wares at Coal Drops Yard as well as Kensal Rise and Westfield White City. Well placed for lazy weekend brunches, the team at the Coal Drops Yard site does great coffee, drinks at the bar and a grilled cheese experience that’s “like a warm hug”. These are not your average toasties – served on crunchy artisan sourdough with a blend of cheeses and a top-secret signature sauce, they’re just the thing to cure a hangover.

Price: Grilled cheese starts at £9.

Locations in Kensal Rise, King’s Cross & Westfield White City

Visit MortyAndBobs.com

Happy Face Pizza

Various Locations

Happy Face is styled as a retro-chic Neapolitan pizzeria. One of the most pocket-friendly eateries in King’s Cross – pizzas start at £6 – it’s a great spot to bring kids or drop by for a quick dinner before a gig at one of the area’s many venues or a film at the Everyman cinema next door. Known for its light dough – made using a 72-hour ferment to create a lighter, fluffier crust – Happy Face keeps its menu concise. Options include tomato, mushrooms, mozzarella, taleggio and artichoke; mozzarella, rocket, prosciutto crudo and parmesan; and vegan pepperoni.

Price: Pizza from £6.

14 Handyside Street, King’s Cross, N1C 4DN & 23 Eccleston Place, Victoria, SW1W 9NF

Visit HappyFace.Pizza

Bao

Various Locations

With locations in Soho, Fitzrovia, Borough Market, Shoreditch and King’s Cross, Taiwanese steamed bun experts Bao make the best in the capital. There’s often a queue outside, so be prepared to wait, but once you’re in, expect signature buns stuffed with the likes of tender pork belly with peanut powder and pickled lettuce; soy milk marinated fried chicken with kimchi and Sichuan mayo; and lamb shoulder with coriander sauce, garlic mayo and soy pickled chili. Save room for something sweet – there’s a fried Horlicks ice cream bao on the menu that’s definitely worth trying.

Price: Dishes from £4.75.

Locations in Borough, Fitzrovia, King’s Cross, Shoreditch & Soho

Visit BaoLondon.com

Flat Iron

Various Locations

If you’re after somewhere cheap and cheerful for steak night, Flat Iron is your best bet. While the menu is small and prices pleasing, you’ll be guaranteed good-quality cuts of meat, cooked to perfection. The sides are great too: think dripping-cooked chips, creamed spinach and blue cheese salad.

Price: Steak with salad costs £13.

Locations in Borough, Covent Garden, London Bridge, King’s Cross, Marylebone, Shoreditch, Spitalfields, Soho & Tottenham Court Road

Visit FlatIronSteak.co.uk

Flat Iron

Xi’an Impression

Bloomsbury

Xi'an Impression champions authentic food from China and is much loved for its spicy dishes – and BYOB offering. Noodles are the star here: regulars love the hand-pulled biang biang noodles served in a signature special chilli sauce, but the kitchen also turns out excellent dumplings, soups and street food such as the Xi’an pork hamburger.

Price: Burgers start at £6.40.

117 Benwell Road, Highbury, N7 7BW

Visit XianImpression.co.uk

Chick ‘n’ Sours

Covent Garden & Spitalfields

With its loud, party atmosphere, you could quite easily forget you’re in a grungy fried chicken shop. That is, until a towering buttermilk fried chicken burger is placed in front of you, stacked with crunchy slaw, sweet pickles and tangy gochujang mayo. Chick ‘n’ Sours dishes come with a spicy Korean twist, as well as a large selection of cocktails. Dangerously good, and it won’t cost you much more than a tenner for one of the most delicious chicken burgers you’ve ever tasted.

Price: Mains from £8.

1A Earlham Street, Covent Garden, WC2H 9LL & 390 Kingsland Road, Dalston, E8 4AA

Visit ChickNSours.co.uk

Berber & Q Shawarma Bar

Clerkenwell

Berber & Q Shawarma Bar opened in Exmouth Market in 2016, specialising in rotisserie Middle Eastern meats slow-cooked over charcoal and wood. Taking inspiration from the café culture of Tel Aviv, this restaurant from the team behind Haggerston’s Berber & Q features the same bold flavours and must-try meat dishes. We like to order cauliflower shawarma with zhug, pomegranate and tehina in pita followed by the Turkish coffee ice cream, chocolate sauce, tahini crumb.

Price: Mains from £10. 

46 Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell, EC1R 4QE 

Visit  ShawarmaBar.co.uk

Padella

Poppies Fish & Chips

Soho, Camden & Spitalfields

Poppies is renowned for its authentic fish and chips – and it’s little wonder, with born and bred East End proprietor Pat ‘Pop’ Newland at the helm. Pop’s career in the fish and chip business started in 1952 when, aged 11, he got a job on Roman Road cutting up copies of the Daily Mirror to wrap fish and chips in. Today, Poppies is also defined by its in-house fishmonger, Salih, who prepares all the fish on site and continues to command the fleet in the engine room below its Soho shop. Kids can get in on the action via the £6.50 children’s menu, which includes cod bites, sausage or fishcake, all served with chips, while adults should opt for the traditional haddock and chips with mushy peas and tartare sauce.

Price: Mains from £10.90.

30 Hawley Crescent, Camden, NW1 8NP; 55-59 Old Compton Street, Soho, W1D 6HW & 6-8 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields, E1 6QR

Visit PoppiesFishAndChips.co.uk

Poké House

Various Locations

Formerly known as Ahi Poké, this collection of laid-back poké hangouts specialise in build-your-own poké bowls. You choose a base of quinoa, sushi rice or kale, with a mix of proteins or veg including salmon, ahi tuna or shrimp, topped with your choice of sauce and salad toppings. There are signature bowls on the menu too, if you fancy a healthy, decision-free dinner.

Price: Signature bowls from £8.95.

Locations in Bank, Canary Wharf, Fitzrovia, Fulham, Spitalfields & Victoria

Visit Poke-House.com

Bun House

Chinatown

Inspired by 1960s Hong Kong, Bun House recalls the era’s tea house street stalls. Steamed bao buns are the stars of the menu, with pig, lamb, chicken, fish and veggie options, as well as an interesting collection of pickles – think daikon, jicama, blue garlic and seasonal choy – and small dishes including chilli tripe, lotus root crisp and wood ear salad. For something a little fancier, look to the team’s other site, Wun’s Tea Room & Bar.

Price: Bao buns start at £3.80.

26-27 Lisle Street, Chinatown, WC2H 7BA

Visit Bun.House

The Cheese Bar

Camden

Having made 150,000 grilled cheese sandwiches and melted over 20 tonnes of British cheese with The Cheese Truck, Mathew Carver opened his first permanent restaurant in Grade I-listed Camden Stables Market in 2017. The Cheese Bar’s menu is full of dishes that champion urban cheesemakers in Greater London. From La Latteria in Acton to Peckham’s Gringa Dairy, cheese lovers can choose from over 30 types of British fromage – we love ‘Fondue Thursdays’, where for £23pp you can get stuck into four different fondues. For a real outing, look to the team’s Cheese Barge in Paddington.

Price: Cheeseboards start at £4.50.

94 Camden Stables, Camden, NW1 8AP 

Visit TheCheeseBar.com

The Good Egg
The Cheese Bar, Camden

The Good Egg

Stoke Newington & Soho

Spanning Tel Aviv street food to fare from the grand old cafés of New York and Montreal, The Good Egg emphasises high-quality ingredients and sustainable produce. An ideal spot for weekend brunch, we love the sound of the babka French toast with caramelised halva, labneh and poached pear; and Montreal smoked meat hash with pastrami, smoked short rib, fried potatoes, zhoug, pickles and two fried eggs.

Price: Brunch dishes start from £8.50.

93 Church Street, Stoke Newington, N16 0AS & Unit G9 Kingly Court, Kingly Street, Soho, W1B 5PW

Visit TheGoodEgg.Co

Roti King

Battersea & Euston

Roti King specialises in serving up authentic Malaysian dishes. Hidden away in a basement around the corner from Euston station, the original restaurant is small and simple, and features an open kitchen where guests can watch roti (Malaysian flatbread) being made on the spot. Given its name and reputation, the roti is a must order – we like the chicken murtabak with minced chicken and egg filling, which comes with dahl. A second site has sprung up recently in the new Battersea Power Station development.

Price: Roti from £4. 

16 Arches Lane, Battersea Power Station, Battersea, SW11 8AB & 40 Doric Way, Euston, NW1 1LH 

Visit RotiKing.info

Okan

Brixton & Waterloo

Once a relatively unknown, tiny restaurant in the middle of Brixton Village, Japanese eatery Osaka now has two sites in Brixton and one on the South Bank. These days, the Japanese canteens get very busy, but you can usually beat the queues if you swing by around lunchtime or mid-afternoon. The team specialises in Osaka street food such as yaki soba, yaki udon and okonomiyaki pancakes. Be sure to try the okonomiyaki, served with prawns, squid kimchi and sweetcorn – it’s authentic and delicious.

Price: All dishes £3-£12.95.

Brixton Village, Brixton, SW9 8PR; 338 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, SW9 8QH & Belvedere Road, South Bank, SE1 7PB

Visit OkanLondon.com

BaoziInn

Various Locations

Baozilnn’s five restaurants serve authentic, well-priced northern Chinese street food. Baozilnn, which means ‘people’s canteen’, has grown a loyal following for its all-day Cantonese dim sum with Hunan and Sichuan influences. Star dishes include prawn and pork wontons; Chengdu jiaozi dumplings (steamed ground pork dumplings) drenched in XO sauce; and classic xiao long bao with minced pork and scallop. Away from the dumplings, make sure to leave room for the group’s handmade dan dan noodles in homemade soy sauce, sesame sauce, peanut sauce and minced pork. It’s one of the capital’s very best dishes.

Price: Dumplings from £5.90.

Locations in Chinatown, London Bridge, Oxford Street, Soho & Victoria

Visit BaoziInn.com

Brasserie Zédel, Soho

Brasserie Zédel

Soho

Established French favourite Brasserie Zédel offers traditional Gallic dishes in beautiful art-deco surroundings (it’s been described by Pierre Koffman as “the only real brasserie in London”). We like the surprisingly affordable set menu, which allows diners to tuck into a carrot salad, followed by steak haché with French fries and pepper sauce for just £12.25. Away from cassoulet and escargot, there are cracking cocktails to be had in Bar Américain, and live music in cabaret bar Crazy Coqs. 

Price: Prix fixe menu from £15.95 for two courses. 

20 Sherwood Street, Soho, W1F 7ED 

Visit BrasserieZedel.com

Padella

Borough & Shoreditch

There’s no better place to indulge your pasta fix than at Padella, one of London’s most popular Italian eateries. Feast on flavoursome classics like tagliatelle with ’nduja, mascarpone and parsley; pappardelle with eight-hour Dexter beef shin ragu; and ravioli of Neal’s Yard goats curd with marjoram butter. There are no reservations, so you will have to wait (these days, the team will give you a QR code outside the restaurant so you can queue virtually), but it’s well worth it. Thankfully, the group opened a second, larger site in Shoreditch last year, meaning fewer queues at the original.

Price: Pasta from £8.50.

6 Southwark Street, Borough, SE1 1TQ & 1 Phipp Street, Shoreditch, EC2A 4PS

Visit Padella.co

Zia Lucia

Various Locations

Leading the charge in London’s pizza renaissance, Zia Lucia has become renowned for its 48-hour slow-fermented doughs: choose between traditional, wholemeal, gluten free and black vegetable charcoal. Its third location at Boxpark Wembley features the ‘Burrata Bar’, a space that showcases creamy burrata sourced from Puglia. Diners are able to top their burrata with ingredients such as smoked salmon and avocado, spicy spianata salami, or roasted peppers. Keep an eye out for a forthcoming Stoke Newington location.

Price: Pizza from £7.95. 

Locations in Aldgate East, Balham, Hammersmith, Islington, Wandsworth & Wembley

Visit ZiaLucia.com

Marugame Udon

Various Locations

A fresh restaurant concept from Japan, Marugame Udon is on a mission to redefine dining out as an affordable everyday activity, with udon bowls starting at just £3.45 and chicken katsu curry from £6.95. The menu features over 20 dishes with a number of options under £5, including udon bowls, tempura, omusubi rice balls and desserts like dorayaki pancakes and unlimited soft-serve ice-cream. All Marugame’s udon noodles are made fresh in-house throughout the day. We like to order them ‘Kamaage’ style – straight from the pot with sweet and smoky BK fish dashi for dipping.

Price: Udon from £3.45

Locations in Bond Street, Bromley, Canary Wharf, Liverpool Street, The O2, Oxford Circus & Waterloo

Visit Marugame.co.uk

Marugame Udon
Padella

Kanada-Ya

Various Locations

Specialising in authentic Tonkotsu ramen, Kanada-Ya was founded by Kanada Kazuhiro in Yukuhashi, Japan, back in 2009. The restaurant’s signature ramen consists of noodles, tonkotsu broth, secret sauce (imported from the original restaurant, and handmade by Kanada himself), wood ear fungus mushroom, finely sliced spring onion, chashu pork belly and a sheet of nori. Even better, all noodles are made on site and customers can request how firm they like them. The best ramen in London? We think so.

Price: Ramen from £12.50. 

Locations in Piccadilly, Covent Garden, Islington & Soho

Visit Kanada-Ya.com

Bánh Bánh

Brixton & Peckham

Bánh Bánh serves a range of Vietnamese favourites, from BBQ beef in betel leaves to sticky chicken wings and bánh khot pancakes (mini turmeric and coconut pancakes with tiger prawns and shrimp), all inspired by the owners’ grandmother’s recipe book from when she worked as a chef in Saigon in the 1940s. Its menu has a strong Viet/French influence and a wide selection of vegan dishes. Standout plates include the eggs bò né, a classic Vietnamese version of steak and eggs with beef steak, pâté, grilled tomato and a fried egg, served with a warm baguette. We love the sound of the seven-dish £24pp tasting menu at Bánh Bánh Café in Peckham.

Price: Small dishes from £7.50.

326 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, SW9 8QH & 46 Peckham Rye, Peckham, SE15 4JR

Visit BanhBanh.com

Pizza Pilgrims

Various Locations

If you’re looking for something quick and satisfying, you’ll be hard pushed to find anywhere better than Pizza Pilgrims. Serving up a heavy hit of Napoli-inspired street food and cocktails, here the pizzas are soft and chewy, with thick bases and on-trend toppings – think ’nduja, salsiccia and smoked chilli jam mascarpone. The calzone with Napoli salami, ricotta and mushroom, topped with tomato, fior di latte and parmesan, is a must-order. With 17 sites in London – including Selfridges – there’s bound to be a restaurant wherever you’re planning to eat.

Price: Pizzas from £9.75.

17 locations across London

Visit PizzaPilgrims.co.uk

Maison Bab, Covent Garden
JUSTIN DE SOUZA

Maison Bab

Covent Garden

Maison Bab is a new style of kebab house, complete with a picture-perfect setting, a bar that pours out CBD cocktails and a hidden ten-seater fine-dining restaurant called Kebab Queen. Three kebab flatbreads (all priced under £12) sit alongside a selection of starters, such as meat butter naan (a must-order) and superlative baba ganoush. There’s also a focus on vegan dishes – think house-smoked aubergine with yoghurt, chilli peanuts, shallots, chilli and cress. Further Le Bab sites can be found in Dalston, Old Street and Soho.

Price: Mains from £11.50. 

4 Mercer Street, Covent Garden, WC2H 9FA 

Visit EatLeBab.com

Dumplings’ Legend

Chinatown

Every good night ends with a trip to the local takeaway. But in Chinatown, forget kebabs: it’s all about midnight dumplings. True to its name, Dumplings’ Legend is the only place for a late-night fix. Open until 2:30am on a weekend, the team offers an extensive menu of steamed delights, including its signature xiao long bao (steamed pork dumplings). 

Price: Six-dish set menu from £17.50pp.

15-16 Gerrard Street, Chinatown, W1D 6JE

Visit DumplingsLegend.com

Lina Stores

King’s Cross & Soho

Much-loved Soho pasta joint Lina Stores now has a second site in King’s Cross and a third in Marylebone. Within a Victorian transit shed behind Granary Square, the King’s Cross location is bedecked in the deli’s signature green and white stripes, and stocked with the very best Italian pantry essentials to eat in or take away. Diners can enjoy the theatre of the open kitchen while they wait for dishes such as black truffle tagliolini and pappardelle with beef shin ragu and horseradish gremolata. A pared-back selection of secondi includes ‘overnight’ beef cheeks. 

Price: Pasta from £7.50.

21 Stable Street, King’s Cross, N1C 4DR; 13-15 Marylebone Lane, Marylebone, W1U 2NE & 51 Greek Street, Soho, W1D 4EH

Visit LinaStores.co.uk

Homeslice

Various Locations

This small chain of pizza restaurants started as a pop-up in Neal’s Yard and now has permanent venues around town. It’s noisy, informal and wouldn’t look out of place on any street corner in Brooklyn. If you’re going for a full pizza, go 50/50: one half with fresh, garlicky courgette and artichoke; on the other, the rich, flavourful Neal’s Yard Dairy four cheese, jalapeno salsa and rye crumb.

Price: Pizza slices from £4.50.

Locations in the City, Covent Garden, Fitzrovia, Marylebone, Shoreditch & White City

Visit HomeslicePizza.co.uk

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