As a cheapo, and one who spends many of his dinner times munching on pasta and sauce, it is a rare occasion that I find myself within the four walls of a restaurant, for usually it means I will be resigned to bidding farewell to at least 15 big ones.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
There are many establishments around London that can offer a belly-rubbing, nutritional and filling square meal for under ten pounds, hopefully in fact for around a fiver. And so you won’t have to sacrifice being social with all your (hopefully) lovely friends.
Let’s start with the East of London—‘cause I live there innit. Fortunately it is inhabited by a mesmerising hodgepodge of ethnicities, resulting in a vast array of cuisines to entice your tongue and tango with your tastebuds.
Unfortunately though, the rise of the hipster generation has also caused a rise in prices. But there are still some bargains to be found. Check it out:
Pizza Union – £3.95 for a 12-inch pizza (margherita)
25 Sandy’s Row, E1 7HW
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Pizzas today are diabolically overpriced. The mark-up imposed by traditional chains like Domino’s and Pizza Hut is eye-watering, and the ingredients they actually use are not exactly, shall we say, fresh.
So I have long been of the opinion that there is a gap in the market for cheap, good quality pizzas. Well, this hole has now been filled by a Pizza Union-shaped peg.
Operating out of two chic, neon-lit, bare-walled, big-windowed, canteen-style London locations (Spitalfields and King’s Cross), Pizza Union offers 12-inch thin crust Romana-style pizzas for cheaper than most places serve drinks. A margherita will set you back only £3.95, while more fancy pizzas do not stray above £6. They are deliciously fire-baked in the massive oven you can see below and, although the crust is extra thin, they are very filling.
As an added attraction, beers, wine and coffee is also offered at an affordable price (for London that is).
Beigel Bake – 90p for a filled bagel
159 Brick Lane, E1 6SB
Having opened in 1977, this place has definitely been witness to a huge amount of change in East London. But it stills stands on Brick Lane as solid as a rock, open 24/7 and serving around 7,000 bagels a day. It is legendary in the area.
You can get a filled bagel here for as little as 90p (if you’re a plain cheesy kind of a person). The most expensive is even more astonishing at only £3.70 (that would be the wonderfully sumptuous salt beef bagel). So I implore you to go and see for yourself what all the fuss is about.
You can probably see that there isn’t much seating room here. But with summer coming up, take your bagel, along with a nice cold drink, to a nearby park or the Spitalfields market area and watch the world go by while munching on your spoils. Or even have a wander around the awesome street art close by.
Indian Veg – £6.50 for all-you-can-eat Indian veggy food
92-93 Chapel Market, Angel Islington, N1 9EX
Those with a keen eye will notice that I’ve snuck an ‘N1’ postcode in here. But Indian Veg comes so highly recommended that I just can’t resist it. With a local cafe feel and an emphasis on well-sourced, ethical and fresh vegetarian ingredients, this place has gained a dedicated following and constantly tempts new customers in, before blowing them away with healthy food and vibrant flavours.
And the best bit? They literally only charge £6.50 for AS MUCH AS YOU CAN EAT. Along with a ‘bring you own’ drinks policy, that means a healthy, tasty and nutritious meal for well under a tenner.
If you’re an avid meat eater, be prepared for a detailed lesson on vegetarianism, as the walls are plastered with everything there is to know about the subject and how you (and the world) can benefit from it. But as a recent convert to responsible carnivory (is that even a word?), I’ve got to say that this is no bad thing.
Because I may have snuck in a cheeky North postcode above, and because I like you guys so damn much, here’s some bonus (non-specific) recommendations for you to try.
If you fancy another curry (this time with the option of meat) then head on down to Brick Lane and have fun bartering with the reps outside each restaurant. You should be able to get a starter, curry, naan and rice for around a tenner. And most places will let you bring your own booze. Just don’t go too low on the price, otherwise you might offend someone…
Finally, every week, a special Friday treat awaits you within the confines of the stunning St Katherine’s Docks, near Tower Bridge. Around lunchtime, a food market sprouts up around the docks, specialising in dishes from all around the globe. The dishes on offer will cost you from 4 to 10 pounds and you can choose from a range of options like Ethiopian, Argentinian, Mexican, Malaysian and everything in between—they are all delicious. Don’t forget though, this is only on Fridays.