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London- Affordable eats

Visiting London next week. I know it’s a big city and I know it’s not cheap. I live in DC so I totally get it. I’ll be staying in an Airbnb with a kitchen. Suggestions for eating out that are affordable or suggestions to get items and mayb eat some meals in like breakfast. TIA.

Posted by
1026 posts

My affordable may be different from yours. Posting an actual budget amount in £ will allow us to post better choices. Also what types of cuisine are you interested in?

Posted by
16591 posts

I haven't found London much different from DC in terms of restaurant costs. The difference is that I know where to go in DC to find interesting (usually ethnic) food at a moderate cost, whereas I all too often seem to be settling for some sort of fast-casual chain in London. That is not my preference. Clearly I need to spend a bit of pre-trip time investigating food options. I don't know whether London has a higher percentage of chains or I am just not noticing the other options.

Tell us where you are staying so anyone familiar with the area can chime in. I know a nice, inexpensive Turkish spot near the Ladbroke Grove tube station, but it's highly unlikely you'll find yourself in that neighborhood.

For a quick, convenient meal you can keep your eyes open for Pret a Manger and Le Pain Quotidien, which are sort of Panera-like. LPQ does hot meals as well as salads and sandwiches.

Marks and Spencer locations with food halls sell small portions of cheese that make nice quick meals when coupled with crackers and fruit. I've never bought a sandwich at a supermarket, but folks have mentioned that they are widely available at very reasonable prices.

Posted by
5817 posts

Your other question says you are staying in Paddington, which is right by the Edgware Road. You will find a couple of supermarkets along there where you can stock up of supplies.
The Edgware Road is the centre of the Middle East community in London with a number of popular restaurants open late into the night. Maroush is very good.

If you can let us know what type of food you like and a bit about your budget we can give you some more useful recommendations.

Posted by
329 posts

Ok I see from your other thread that you will be staying in the Paddington area. Sorry I don’t have specific recommendations for that neighborhood.

Local experts please correct me if I’m wrong but I think the three grocery store chains are priced as follows; Tesco is cheapest, Waitrose is most expensive, and Sainsbury’s is in between.

For a quick takeaway lunch, the Tesco “meal deal” is a sandwich/salad, snack, and beverage for £3. Doesn’t have to be a junk food bomb if you choose carefully. For example, I got a hoisin duck wrap, pineapple chunks, and coconut water. I thought it was a bargain!

Pret a Manger, Itsu, Eat, etc have freshly prepared food at reasonable prices.

Koshari Street is a hole-in-the-wall Egyptian Street food place on St Martin’s Lane just up from Trafalgar Square. Delicious.

Posted by
16591 posts

Leon is another chain. It was recommended to me as a comparatively healthy option by a local, but I haven't had an opportunity to try it yet. Itsu seemed very noodle-heavy, and I wasn't impressed on my one visit.

Posted by
7606 posts

Oh My!! I can't believe someone else recommended Koshari Street! I love that place. It is not as good as the koshari I get from my local farmer's market vendor here in Idaho of all places (university town so the "vendor" has a day job using his PhD at the University, lol and cooks for fun). There's another one near the South Kensington tube stop. The one on St Martin's Lane is right near Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery if you are around there at lunch time.

I like Pret as well as popping in to the supermarkets, including M&S Simply Food for ready made food.

I also like a chain called Le Pain Quotidien altho sometimes they can seem pricey. The Cafe in the Crypt at St-Martin's-in-the-Fields is affordable as well.

Posted by
585 posts

I'm just commenting here so I can access this thread easily in the future. Thanks kel.mel and everyone!

[Edit] Jane, thank you!

Posted by
111 posts

Many of the Marks and Spencer's have a grocery store in their lower level near a tube stop. I bumped into them as I exited the tube. They have many meals to go or to reheat. Check if there is one in your neighborhood.
Saw many Londoners, exit the tube pick up dinner at M&S and walk home.

Posted by
1213 posts

The Wetherspoon's chain pubs often have reasonably priced combo meals. I will also admit to a bizarre love for Pizza Express.

The museums often have good fresh and semi-local options in their cafes and restaurant at non-insane prices (and eating in the main cafeteria area of the Victoria & Albert is an experience in itself)

For all that the British can do some really good bread and baked goods, I'm not a fan of the cellophane-wrapped squishy sandwiches so many there seem to love. When there's a choice, go for the panini version- only a few pence more and the bread is far better.

Posted by
3931 posts

Joel, if you click "Bookmark this topic" under the original post, it will show up on your travel forum page.

Kel.mel: We found affordable meals in pubs and ethnic restaurants. I don't know your budget, but we're on the, ummm, frugal side, and had no trouble finding food to fit our sensibilities. We did eat at one rather expensive place, but we limited ourselves to appetizers and had a nice, upscale experience for lower cost.

Someone mentioned the Café in the Crypt at St. Martin-in-the-Fields; we enjoyed that. Also, the British Museum had a café with huge portions, definitely splittable. The Victoria and Albert has a nice food area with a wide range of prices, as well. Very interesting food choices there.

Posted by
6536 posts

We often eat foods that we don't eat in the U.S--like McDonalds and Burger King. Expect prices to be 140% that of the U.S., however. We find some of the Chinese and Thai restaurants to be good and reasonably priced.
We try to eat big breakfasts and do some picnicking. Usually just buy one meal out per day. A kitchen would be a big plus.

Posted by
23257 posts

For anybody not aware of the Itsu concept, see the webpage https://www.itsu.com/ and be aware that everything comes in card containers with either a rice base, a noodle base, or a soup base. It is chopsticks, plastic forks or plastic sporks. I find it very tasty, reasonably close to my diet requirements, and filling. Oh, and tasty.

Posted by
4465 posts

The prices of such things as McDonald's is currently typically about 20% less in the UK than the USA in USD terms, if you must. This arises from the GBP being undervalued on The Economist Big Mac index

Posted by
5817 posts

Supermarkets in train stations charge more for their food than in "normal" branches. Similarly small branches eg Tesco Express, Tesco Metro charge more than their larger versions. It's not a huge difference but it can start to add up.

The microwavable meals "to go" in in supermarkets are "ready meals" in UK speak. They are really convenient but you do get what you pay for. It's definitely better to pay a little more for quality. Look out for when they are reduced at the end of the day . You can get real bargains. I got a cottage pie at the tiny M&S at Baker Street this week for £2. It was huge and should have been £7! Discounted good normally has a yellow sticker.

Alot of restaurants have very good pre and post theatre meal deals. Basically between 5-7pm and after 10 pm you can get to eat for a lot less than during peak hours. They normally offer set menus but it's a good way to experience somewhere nice for a lot less.

London has some superb restaurants and you don't have to pay a lot. Just Google London Cheap Eats for lists of loads of great places..

Posted by
1084 posts

I always try to have lunch at any of the national museums I visit while in London. They usually have fresh and reasonable selections.

Posted by
1094 posts

Another vote for the Cafe in the Crypt and the cafes in the national musuems. One of our inexpenxsive favorites is the National Headquarters of the Salvation Army cafe, a couple blocks south of St. Pauls, going toward the river, at 101 Queen victoria Street. Yet another great favorite is Gordon's Wine Bar. Check out the website. Fresh homemade lunch selections and a salad bar bring us back every trip. Go early (1100) since the locals pack in there for lunch.

Posted by
37 posts

Sooo I’m in London now and looking for a pub. There’s not a lot in the Paddington area so I’m thinking mayb we might walk over near Soho, Piccadilly? We want Pub food for sure. Nothing too crazy expensive. Thoughts? My girls are really wanting fish and chips. Thanks!

Posted by
5817 posts

3 tuns on Portman mews, just off Oxford Street, its nice. Its busy mow ( ive just gone past on the bus) but it will thin out. It has a coal fire good for nights like this. Also have a look at these, which are not far away.
Be aware pub fish and chips is not really the real thing. You need a fish and chip shop for that.

When you say"girls" do you mean underage because you might struggle to find a pub to let them in, even if you are planning to eat.

Edit this time with attachment
https://www.timeout.com/london/bars-and-pubs/marylebone-pubs

Posted by
6062 posts

I would not miss Indian/ Pakistani food. Like any other big city, NYC and DC included, you should be able to find meals at every price point.

Posted by
23257 posts

Where did you end up?

When you say "my girls", is that your female friends of a similar age, or female children? The rest of your threads don't mention you going other than alone.

And how was the concert? What did you see?

Posted by
1 posts

London is the best city that you get all types food. You get online food also available.

Posted by
837 posts

If you like Italian, de amicis (Notting Hill Gate/Bayswater Road area) and Taormina on Craven Terrace are both good and reasonably priced. Both are not too far from Paddington.

Posted by
7 posts

St. Paul’s Cathedral also does a Cafe in the Crypt that is a great lunch option.
Visit Borough Market and the choices are unlimited!
For Indian food - the Punjab near Covent Garden. You will thank me!

Posted by
49 posts

Brasserie Zebel was recommended to me, it’s pretty good and very cheap. It’s at Piccadilly which I know is not overly close to Westminster but it’s not too bad.