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London: Eating lunch/tea/dinner at museum cafes to save money... do you have any recommendations?

re: London. To save money on our daily food budget, we were thinking of eating lunches, tea and some dinners at the cafeterias in museums/ tourist attractions such as the cafes in the Victoria & Albert Museum. Are there any places where we should definately go to/ avoid? Thanks!

Posted by
27720 posts

If saving money on the daily food budget is the goal, restaurants at museums may not be the least expensive way.

For lunches it is hard to beat the ubiquitous "Meal Deal" available at many places from Monday to Friday, and maybe the weekend. £3.99 should get you a pre-made sandwich, a bag of crisps or a pudding, and a 500ml bottle of fizzie drink at WH Smiths, Boots, Pret a Manger (a bit more expensive), Superdrug, BHS, Marks and Spencer (a touch more expensive and some have seats) and a number of others, all in a bag with a napkin which you take to a park, or bench, or munch leaning on a building or sitting on a step.

Eating at a museum or church cafe (sometimes a bit cheaper than a museum) will get you a chair and a table.

Inexpensive burritos can be found many places - £5 gets you a full tummy.

Posted by
4684 posts

Agreeing with Nigel, museum restaurants/cafes are definitely not cheap.

Posted by
8293 posts

Nigel, maybe you know the answer to this. St James Picadilly used to serve light lunches ... do they still do so? I can only find info about the lunchtime concerts.

Posted by
27720 posts

Don't know about St James Piccadilly.

If you are at One New Change my favourite burrito in London is at Burrito Mama upstairs next to Pho.

Posted by
5784 posts

Eat at museums to save time.

If you need to save money, picnic. A cafe or restaurant needs to recover the cost of its facilities plus a return on that cost. Sitting at the lion's foot at Trafalgar Square is free.

Posted by
2023 posts

Lunch at The British Library was inexpensive and very good--think we had soup and sandwich. V&A used to offer a dinner (and a free concert) on Wednesday evening--last time we tried it dinner was not worth the price. We will be in London in September and tea at the Wallace Collection is on our list--looks reasonable compared to Harrod's, hotels, etc.

Posted by
2938 posts

Museum cafes are not the cheapest option, but eat at museums to save time, as Edgar said. If you are in a museum looking at exhibits/paintings, and you take a break to eat lunch there, you can resume your museum tour immediately after eating. This can be helpful if you have a limited amount of time in London. It takes time to leave the museum, eat, and return.

Look for inexpensive chains around London, such as Pizza Express. Look for food trucks at lunchtime. You'll see them at places like Borough Market, or outside of office buildings at lunchtime in The City. Almost all of the food trucks serve a good cheap sandwich, gyro, or slices of pizza.

Get your lunch "Takeaway" from an Indian restaurant, and find a nearby park with benches in which to eat it. The Takeaway or "to go" meal is priced cheaper, because you are not occupying one of their tables inside the restaurant. Also you will not have to tip a waiter. Drink water with your meal instead of a soft drink. Saves a small amount each meal, but added up over a one or two week period, drinking water saves you a lot of money. Of course, you will want coffee or tea with breakfast.

Getting your meal Takeaway from any restaurant saves you money, because they charge you the cheaper Takeaway price instead of the restaurant sit-down price. If you are really watching your budget, you could get a Takeaway meal at the end of the day and take it back to your hotel to eat it. Many hotels have a dining area that is only used at breakfast. Hilton/Hampton Inn/Doubletree usually have a microwave in that breakfast buffet area.

Several places in London serve a good reasonably priced tea. Bea's of Bloomsbury comes to mind.

Posted by
10344 posts

Cafe in the Crypt at St. Martin-in the Fields worked well for us last year for earlier dinners.
Not bottom of the line price-wise, but reasonable pricing compared to other dinner options in London.
Cafeteria style ordering, central location.
And how many places do you get to eat on the departed?

Posted by
5697 posts

On my first trip (in the previous century) we ate working-class British food like steak and kidney pie at numerous Lyons Tea Shops. Is there anything like that now? Or is cheap eating limited to the non-British "foreign" snacks that I could get at home (like burritos) ?

Posted by
54 posts

I would echo others' comments that museum cafes are not the cheapest option, but that said, the cafe at the V&A is fantastic! It's a beautiful space and the baked goods are really lovely. Our experience in London was that if we hit Pret/Costa/Nero/the like in the morning for a cup of tea/coffee and a pastry to munch on our way to the first stop of the day, and then found a snack somewhere in the afternoon (like the V&A), we could make it through to dinner very easily, letting us splurge a little more on the evening meal. Have fun!

Posted by
40 posts

If near Westminster Abbey, the Wesley Cafe in the basement of Methodist Central Hall, sometimes called Westminster Central Hall, is a quick place to pop in for lunch and a pretty good value. We ate there last month.

Posted by
524 posts

I found good value and quality at 2 musuems, the cafe in the basement of the hall when I was inside Westminister Abbey,
the cafe at the Churchill War Cabinet Rooms.

Posted by
4 posts

Cafe in the Crypt definitely - healthy, quality food made on site; it is not a chain. Best meal deal in central London, and their creme brulee is a lovely treat. Whenever I go anywhere near Trafalgar Square, I always go to the Crypt. I've also had good food at the V&A, the British Museum and the British Library - it just depends on what your expectations are. For me, food made on site always trumps food made in a factory. And I am a budget traveller. Just a thought....

Posted by
1775 posts

If you're in the vicinity of Borough Market, it's a great place to get lunch. You might be able to fill up on samples alone. We bought sandwiches and then found a spot to perch by Southwark Cathedral.

Posted by
10344 posts

Mmmmmmmm--as mentioned above, the creme brulee at Cafe in the Crypt (St. Martin-in the Fields "basement").