London food bargains that’ll keep you in restaurants until payday

You’re eating own-brand soup for lunch, you’ve used loyalty card points to buy toothpaste and you’ve switched from Uber to Oyster: times are hard. But when it comes to eating out, even the cash-strapped should be able to find a way. Make one of these affordable gems your end-of-the-month treat.

You won’t find another restaurant like Vauxhall’s Bonnington Café, with its distinctly hippy feel, all-vegetarian menu and leafy-residential-street setting. Booking is essential so that the co-op of cooks can plan ahead, main courses are always £9 and you can bring your own booze.

It’s pretty difficult to spend a lot of money at Camberwell’s Silk Road, though it’s definitely best to go in a big group so that you can try more dishes. But the thing you absolutely must order is the cumin-marinated, charcoal grilled lamb skewers, which will cost you just one pound each. Fill up on their fat hand-pulled noodles.

Dumplings and tingz @silkroad camberwell | try the pork and leak dumplings they are pretty decent. Some of the food was not as steaming hot as I would have expected “freshly” cooked plates to be, which leads me to believe that they may have been left out for a while. With that said though, great flavours and if you are living life on the arse end of your wages like me RN 😩 then its nice a cheap too. 30 dumplings, 4 skewers and some spiced kelp for £11 each 👌🏼 🦐🦐🦐 3/5 prawns . . . . . . . . #foodporn #food_prawn_ #foodie #gayfoodie #ilovefood #foodpics #heresmyfood #instafood #foodaddict #londonfoodie #eatingout #london #LDN #tastethisnext #foodgasm #foodceleb #topnosh #tasty #dailyfoodpics #toplondoneats #londonrestaurants #camberwell #silkroad #dumplings #chinesefood #londoncheapeats

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Get a massive bowl of house-made pasta and a few scoops of fantastic gelato and leave with change from £20 at Anima e Cuore, a teeny Italian restaurant in Kentish Town. They’re BYO, cash only and you must book ahead, but they make classic dishes with the panache of a five-star hotel and serve them with a smile.

The Israeli food at Zest, the kosher restaurant in Finchley Road’s Jewish arts centre JW3, is always recommended, but it’s at the bottomless brunch buffet on Sundays that it becomes a bargain. £20.95 will get you two hours of unlimited veg salads, bagels, smoked salmon, shakshuka, pancakes and plenty more, plus your choice of bottomless harissa Bloody Marys or pomegranate Mimosas. Make it £26 and you’re upgraded to unlimited Champagne.

Given that it’s essentially a shack in a run-down market, it won’t come as a surprise that an XL classic falafel wrap from Mr Falafel in Shepherd’s Bush will set you back just £5.75. The surprise comes when you realise that a) it’s the best falafel you’ve ever encountered and b) that it’s so massive you can’t finish it.

Being in central London is a minefield when you’re feeling poor, but Old Compton Street has options. Pick up a chicken-stuffed steamed milk bun (£2.50) from Bun House, a massive sandwich made to order from I Camisa (around £4) or currywurst with fries from Herman ze German (£7.95). Round it all off with a double espresso from Algerian Coffee Stores (£1).

Be an early bird at Skye Gyngell’s Spring at Somerset House and you’ll be rewarded with their Scratch menu, which is made from the leftover ingredients used for their normal menu. At just £20 for three courses it must be London’s most affordable fine dining.

Kingsland Road is famous for its strip of Vietnamese restaurants, many of which are BYO and most of which are dirt cheap. Our pick is Loong Kee up near Hoxton station, where a steaming bowl of hot and sour prawn soup will set you back just £6, take your own bottle of wine and enjoy. 

Over in one of east London’s more well-heeled enclaves, The Empress in Victoria Park Village is ensuring even those on meager salaries can enjoy their excellent gastropub fare. On Tuesdays, there’s no corkage fee for wine bought across the road at Bottle Apostle, and on one Tuesday per month they hold a Frugal Feast, which means a luxurious three-course set menu for just £22.

Anybody who’s been a student knows that pizza’s a safe bet when your funds are running dry, and you’re not short of options in London, either. Naples import L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele in Stoke Newington is generally agreed to be the best in town. Their Marinara is massive and £6.90. Deliciously dependable Pizza Pilgrims have a Marinara for £6; at busy-but-quick Franco Manca it’s just £5. Less trendy but still absolutely worth a visit, Pizza Union has a Margherita for £3.95.

There’s no word more welcome the week before payday than ‘buffet’, and the all-you-can-eat offering at Indian Veg in Angel is more than delicious enough to make it worth the £7.95 they charge you for it. All the food is vegetarian and they promise a new dish every time you visit; the perfect excuse to become a regular (also BYO). The claim to have been ‘spreading happiness and vegetarianism for almost 30 years! Come and visit us’. Find them at 92-93 Chapel Market, London N1 9EX.

The burger is a satisfying and generally reliable way to spend your pennies; at Patty & Bun you can be sure of a truly flavour-packed meal, and on weekdays (and some early evenings depending on the branch) they offer a selected burger for just a fiver. And from 5pm-7pm on Old Compton St and Richmond, they do two cocktails for £10. In Richmond the two deals actually overlap, making it two burgers and two cocktails for £20 (Mon-Thu 5pm-7pm). They do spoil us.

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