Although it may not seem like it, eating well for little money in an expensive city like London is possible. Being one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, the gastronomic offer is huge and there are restaurants accessible to all budgets. Here is a list of my 10 favourite restaurants for you to try a bit of everything.
1. Poppie's Fish & Chips fried fish
The most typical dish in London is fish & chips. You will have heard of it everywhere because the British consider it a national treasure like Big Ben, and even Charles Dickens himself refers to it in his famous novel "Oliver Twist"!
So, if you haven't already, your next holiday is a good time to try it. This fried fish and chips dish is the speciality of Poppie's Fish & Chips, a restaurant with outlets in SoHo (W1D 6HW), Spitalfields (E1 6QR) and Camden (NW1 8NP) that is considered the best fish & chips in London.
What should you try?
Without a doubt, you have to order the star dish which is the fish & chips (cod, haddock or haddock), which is accompanied by various sauces such as ketchup, mayonnaise or tartar. They serve it in normal or large size and the portions are plentiful, so if you are two people, the large size is enough.
However, the menu is extensive, so if you're really hungry you can always accompany your main course with a salad or a portion of calamari rings, which are very good.
Poppie's Fish & Chips offers children's menus as well as meat dishes such as chicken, beef and sausages and chips. For dessert, try the homemade apple pie with ice cream- yum!
- SoHo: 55-59 Old Compton St, London W1D 6HW
- Spitalfields: 6-8 Hanbury St, London E1 6QR
- Camden: 30 Hawley Cres, London NW1 8NP
- Sunday to Wednesday 11 AM to 10 PM.
- Thursday to Saturday 11 AM to 11 PM.
2. The Mediterranean delights of Magic Falafel
Located in the heart of Camden Town, if you are looking for healthy and vegan food Magic Falafel is the place for you. The food is delicious and the atmosphere is very pleasant. It's a great place to take a break and have a quiet meal after a day of wandering around Camden.
What's more, I'd say it's a place to make a pilgrimage to every trip to London because the service is very attentive and the prices are quite affordable.
What to get?
As the name suggests, the falafel at this restaurant is magical - it's not just marketing! I love it because it is made with fresh ingredients following an old family recipe of the owners and you can taste it at the first bite. It's like eating homemade falafel.
They serve it on a plate, in a salad box or in a pita. I love the spongy texture of Magic Falafel bread, so I recommend the falafel pita, which is filled with salad, homemade hummus, super crispy falafel and tahini.
This is a handy option for eating on the go in case you want something to take away - and it's only £6.5! To top it all off, you can order vegan ice cream or brownies.
They also sell "Meal Deals" or daily menus that include falafel pita with a side dish (sweet potato, hummus, aubergine, chips) and a drink for £11. A very complete menu if you're really hungry and need to recharge your batteries.
- Unit 312-313 Camden Market, NW1 8AH
- Monday to Sunday 10:30 AM to 8:30 PM.
3. Franco Manca's Pizzas
If you work up an appetite after seeing a musical in London's West End, I recommend Franco Manca Pizzeria in the Covent Garden area (36-39 Maiden Lane) where you'll find the best Neapolitan pizza in town. They also have gluten-free and vegan options in all their establishments, a positive point to take into account.
What I like about this restaurant is that their pizzas are homemade and simple. Their secret is in the dough: thin and perfectly cooked in a wood-fired oven, seasoned with top quality fresh ingredients (organic tomato, British mozzarella, Cantabrian anchovies, Iberian chorizo, cured ham, black olives...). One of the best pizzas you'll eat in London!
What to order
Franco Manca's star dish is their pizzas, which are delicious - there are seven on the menu to choose from, plus daily specials and the prices are very affordable! The most expensive pizza costs £8.95 and the cheapest £5.20.
I recommend ordering an anchovy pizza (which is delicious) and the delicious garlic bread with British mozzarella on the side. There are also salads if you want to add a healthy addition to the menu. And if you still have room for dessert when you finish, don't hesitate and order the classic tiramisu- it's like a taste of Italy!
Franco Manca 's service was very attentive at all times and I loved the calm atmosphere of the place to eat and relax a bit. I would also point out that we were greeted with a free bottle of water, which is always appreciated.
- 36-39 Maiden Lane, London WC2E 7LJ
- Monday to Thursday 12 PM to 10:30 PM.
- Fridays and Saturdays from 12 PM to 11 PM.
- Sundays from 12 PM to 10 PM.
4. The best sushi at Eat Tokyo
Are you passionate about Asian food? You're in luck because this restaurant is the perfect place to binge on Japanese food. The menu is extensive, with a little bit of everything from sushi, rice and nigiri to ramen, sashimi and teriyaki chicken.Eat Tokyo has several locations scattered around London, but the Covent Garden (27 Catherine St) and SoHo (16 Old Compton St) locations are the two most central. Although there are sometimes queues at the entrance to the restaurants, the service is efficient and they are quick to respond in just a few minutes.
What should you try?
The restaurant menu is varied and includes photos to give you an idea of what the dishes look like, which is useful if you're not an expert on Japanese food or don't have the English skills to order them.
To try a bit of everything, I recommend ordering the Eat Tokyo tasting plates, which include various pieces of sushi, sashimi, rice, vegetable tempura, prawns and salad. The bento boxes (boxes with small portions of Japanese dishes) are also a very interesting option if you like to eat a variety of dishes.
The portions are plentiful and the quality/price ratio is quite good considering that it is in the centre of London. The average price is around £12.95 and don't forget to order a bottle of sake to go with it!
- 16 Old Compton St, London W1D 4TL
- Monday to Saturday 12 PM to 11:30 PM.
- Sundays from 12 PM to 10:30 PM.
5. The Old Bank of England, a pub with a lot of history
Would you like to visit an authentic English pub where you can try the famous British mince pie? Then you have to go to The Old Bank of England, one of London's historic pubs that holds a lot of curious anecdotes within its walls - it's like a restaurant and tourist attraction at the same time!
For example, did you know that the Bank of England occupied the building for over eighty years until it was renovated in the 1990s to be used as an English pub? In fact, the site boasts of having housed gold bullion and even the magnificent Crown Jewels of the British Royal Family in its underground vaults.
But The Old Bank of England is also known because it is said that this location on Fleet Street was once the barbershop of Sweeney Todd, the famous Victorian London character who, according to legend, used to kill his customers for revenge and make pies out of them.
For everyone's peace of mind, no evidence has ever actually been found to confirm the story, but with these credentials, it might be a good place to have a few pints on Halloween, don't you think?
What to have?
As well as the famous homemade mince pie in different versions, this historic English pub has quite a varied menu where you can also try the traditional fish & chips, burgers and sandwiches to which you can add your choice of accompaniments and the BBQ ribs to die for.
Every good meal needs a dessert to top it all off. At The Old Bank of England I recommend you try the cheesecake or the apple crumble, which is delicious!
194 Fleet St, London EC4A 2LT
- Monday to Friday from 12pm to 11pm.
6. The Real Greek, a little piece of Greece in London
Whenever I travel to London and I'm in the area of St Paul's Cathedral and the City I always try to book a table at this pleasant Greek restaurant by the Thames. They have a terrace with beautiful views of the river, perfect for al fresco dining on one of those sunny days when you want to be outside enjoying the light and relaxed atmosphere.
But I recommend The Real Greek not only for its location (Units 1 & 2 Riverside House, 2A Southwark Bridge Road) but also for its tasty food made with fresh produce. It is the ideal place for a Mediterranean-style feast at very affordable prices. And the service is fast and competent - what more could you ask for?
What to order?
If you are not familiar with Greek food, I advise you to order a tasting menu to share in order to try some of the typical specialities of Greek cuisine. You can also opt for one of the lunch (£7.95) or dinner (£13.30) menus, which are very complete and also very good value.
I remember the last time I was there I chose the so-called "Greek Trio" menu, which consists of three dishes to choose from and included a kind of Greek-style pita bread, hummus and "lamb kefte", delicious lamb kebabs. You'll end up eating the whole plate!
Portions are generous, but if you're still hungry you can always order dessert. In addition to the traditional baklava, I also recommend the mango sorbet and the Turkish delicacies or loukomia (a typical sweet similar to jelly beans).
A highlight of The Real Greek is that they have a vegan and children's menu, so if you're travelling to London with the kids it's a good place to eat tasty, healthy and inexpensive food.
Units 1 & 2 Riverside House, 2A Southwark Bridge Road, London SE1 9HA
- Monday to Thursday 12 PM to 10 PM.
- Fridays and Saturdays from 12 PM to 10:30 PM.
- Sundays from 12 PM to 9:30 PM.
7. The most "British" breakfast at The Knights Templar
This is another highly recommended historic pub in London. It is located on the edge of the famous City of London, in a street built in the 12th century in the Temple Church area, the seat of the Knights Templar, after whom the pub is named.
The Knights Templar 's décor is stunning. On the one hand, the exterior façade of the historic building in which it is located is beautiful (it was the headquarters of the Union Bank) and looks very stately. On the other hand, the interior has that typical old British atmosphere that you've probably seen in many films.
The décor is magnificent and the atmosphere very welcoming. Take a look at the elegant decorative columns supporting the ceiling full of chandeliers and paintings of the Templars - fascinating!
What can you try?
If you're staying in a hotel near The Knights Templar, I recommend this pub for a typical English breakfast with fried eggs, sausages, bacon, baked beans and hash browns. It's so hearty that you'll be able to recharge your batteries for a full day of sightseeing around the city.
Other must-try dishes include fish & chips, beef and ale pie with gravy, potatoes and mashed peas, eggs Benedictine and burgers. To accompany a salad, chicken nuggets or nachos are the perfect choice.
The Knights Templar is popular with locals and tourists alike because the quality of the food is good and the value for money is unbeatable, as is the service, so there's every reason to stop by during your holiday!
- 95 Chancery Lane, Off Carey St, Fleet St, London WC2A 1DT
- Monday to Friday 8:30 AM to 11 PM.
- Saturday 11 AM to 11 PM.
- Sunday closed.
8. The spicy peri-peri of Nando's
For fast food lovers who want to get away from the typical sota, caballo y rey, I bring you a very surprising alternative that you may not have heard of yet: Nando's (66-68 Chandos Pl, Covent Garden).
This is a chain of South African restaurants specialising in roast chicken with Portuguese influences and a spicy South African chilli kick. It may look like a simple dish but the result couldn't be tastier.
The secret to its success is the 24-hour marinating of the chicken in the peri-peri sauce. It gives it a unique and powerful flavour that is very characteristic of Nando's. You have to try it!
What should you drink?
The menu is very varied but has chicken with peri-peri sauce as a common theme. There is everything from burgers, wraps and pitas to wings, breasts and whole chickens. As the meat is marinated, it is already spicy, but you can add another dressing or even extra spice - they have plenty of sauces to choose from!
If you're eating alone, I recommend the Chicken Butterfly breast, while in the hamburger section you can't miss the Sunset or the Grilled Chicken burger. They're delicious! And if you're going with other people, I recommend you order plates to share because they are quite generous and come with a bit of everything, for example the Family Platter (ideal for 4 or 6 people) or the Full Platter (perfect for 2 people).
In addition, you can choose the accompaniments you want for the dishes (fries, garlic bread, spicy rice, corn and so on). They also have dishes for vegans and children's menus.
- 66-68 Chandos Pl, Covent Garden, London WC2N 4HG
- Monday to Sunday 11:30 AM to 10 PM.
9. The best Indian curry at The Eastern Eye Balti House
If you are looking for a place to eat authentic Indian food during your trip to London, then you have to go to Brick Lane. Probably the place with the most Indian restaurants in the city.
Which one to choose? The competition is huge. Whether you're an expert or a beginner, you'll love the food at The Eastern Eye Balti House (63A Brick Lane). I've been there a couple of times and the food is very good and very reasonably priced.
Their dishes are a real dining experience where they mix the best of traditional and contemporary Indian cuisine with Bangladeshi dishes. The service is efficient and the atmosphere in the dining room is relaxed, so you'll leave happy and with a full belly!
What should you order?
The Eastern Eye Balti House 's curry is considered the best on Brick Lane so it's a must on the table. My recommendation? The chicken tikka biryani, prawn puree with curry sauce, garlic naan bread and samosas - superb!
Another plus point of this Indian restaurant is the attentive service of the waiters with the customers. At the end of our dinner we were treated to free shots. It is a place to repeat in London every time.
- 63A Brick Lane, London E1 6QL
- Monday to Sunday 12pm to 12am.
10. Vapiano, an ode to the Italian kitchen
Italian food is always a hit wherever you go - even in London! Vapiano has many establishments around the city where they lovingly prepare some of the specialities that have made Italian cuisine famous all over the world.
I was at the place near Tower Bridge (2 Potters Field), a very spacious, beautiful place where you can watch the chefs prepare the dishes. A friend recommended it to me and I must say that it was a great choice.
On the day I went there were not many people so I was able to get a table straight away. Also, the system for ordering food is quite fast and the waiters are very nice and explained to us how it works.
It turns out that when you enter, they give you a card to charge the orders you place in the kitchen in each section of the restaurant. Then they give you a pager to pick up your order when it is ready and enjoy it in the dining room. Finally, before leaving the restaurant, you pay at the cash desk. It's as simple as that!
What should you try?
Vapiano 's menu is heaven for fans of Italian food. It focuses especially on pizzas, salads and pasta, although they also have the typical antipasti section to whet your appetite while they prepare the rest of your order.
I ordered a caprese insalata and a pomodoro e mozzarella pasta dish which I loved. Everything was delicious, the portions were plentiful and the price was very affordable, which in a city as expensive as London is always appreciated. I would repeat without hesitation!
- 2 Potters Field, London, SE1 2SG
- Sunday to Thursday 12 PM to 10 PM.
- Friday and Saturday 12 PM to 10:30 PM.
Frequently asked questions
What is the most typical food in London?
Typical British food includes Fish and Chips, the famous British breakfast and a variety of cakes and mashed potatoes.
What's so special about London's food tours?
In its gourmet side, London's cuisine has gained an international reputation for its multiculturalism, which is why many food tours will take you to experience a different form of cuisine. Some of the best curry dishes in the world can be found in the UK, despite originating in India, and a good guide will show you how to tell the difference between an authentic curry and an imitation.
What is a pub crawl?
There are actually two ways to experience pubs en masse: Pub Tours and Pub Crawls. Pub Tours are a more serious experience where you'll learn about the historical significance of iconic pubs and their beer, while Pub Crawls are aimed at younger tourists who want to party and meet new people.