London has a reputation of being one of the most expensive cities in the world. That certainly is true for a number of things. Everything is that much more expensive than elsewhere, but the difference between good and mediocre (read bad) food isn’t striking. In fact, a meal in one of the chain eateries like Masala Zone, Pizza Express or others of the type will not be cheaper than one at Arbutus for instance. Here are a few places that will provide you with a decent meal, without breaking the bank. I will update it and add new addresses whenever I find anything noteworthy.
In this restaurant, which sports a Michelin star, one can enjoy a very reasonable lunch/pre-theatre menu that costs no more than £16. Last time I went, I had some very good porchetta with Pecorino and apple puree. The rolled suckling pig was thinly sliced and placed on warm apple puree. It came topped with rocket and Pecorino slices, turning it into a very appealing starter. This dish was still on the menu a few weeks ago, and is there nearly all of the time. As main, I had a black mullet fillet with gnocchi and pumpkin puree. Nothing, one can’t cook at home or hasn’t eaten elsewhere, but certainly as good as £16 can get you anywhere. Dessert is often a piece of cheese or an ile flottante with vanilla custard. This classically French dessert is well executed and on the same level as the other dishes. All in all, the restaurant has good bread, effective service, competitive prices and pretty good food. A winning combination.
This is a favourite of mine, a quick cup of coffee, some Pizza al taglio, a dessert or very good bread will cost you hardly more than at any supermarket and are much more rewarding. The cannoli for instance, are fantastic. At 80p a piece, they aren’t over-priced and will delight anyone who grabs a few. Another grea thing there is a bread studded with olives and tomatoes, this has a lovely crust and doesn’t need any butter, cheese or other condiment to be eaten with. The fashionable, mostly Italian crowd, makes it yet more authentic (the original is in Milano). It is quite surprising, that one can have a filling meal in such stylish decor for less than £10.
Speaking of Italy, this is certainly one of the best price/quality ratios anywhere in the world. A meal here (provided you’re not as greedy as I am) will not cost you more than £5. I like this place so much, that I make the way to Brixton every other week. Just for your information, avoid Saturdays, as it gets horribly busy. Also, don’t bother coming later than 4pm, as they close at that time and finally, don’t expect much luxury around your plate. A few pics can be found here .
Frith street is an interesting one. Ronnie Scott’s is down there, Arbutus and Barrafina are too. All in all, you can spend a very entertaining evening on this street. A meal at Barrafina will certainly not be quite as cheap, as those I mentioned above, but it will most certainly be good fun and some decent food is likely to be involved too. I recently had some delectable ham croquettes (£3), which were perfectly crispy, filled with creamy potato puree and ham. Another winner was a pig’s trotter (£6.95), filled with shrimp, squid and oyster mushrooms. This was deep-fried, and served with a tomato/almond sauce. The coating wasn’t as perfect as the one on the croquettes, but it was a most tasty dish. Some chips ( pommes frites for anyone not from the UK) served with some garlic salt and tomato sauce (£3.50) were on the better side too: crispy, tasty and served with a lovely sauce on the side. Pair this kind of food with some Cava or Sherry and you’re in for a pleasant night. Only thing, that is hardly Spanish is the closing time of 23h (last orders).