Eating well in London without breaking the bank

It’s no secret that London can be expensive to live in but thankfully, having a good meal doesn’t have to burn a hole in your pocket. Here’s a quick guide to getting tasty treats at wallet-friendly prices.

1. Supermarket meal deals

Every supermarket and also Boots chemists do meal deals that bundle a sandwich, a snack (e.g. chocolate bars, crisps, side dishes), and a drink for anywhere between £3 – 5. Tesco’s is the cheapest but I generally prefer the stuff at Boots and Co-Op.

2. Ready-to-eat/cook meals

London favours the supermarket savvy. Most places have loads of delicious ready-to-eat/cook meals at bargain prices. I love Tesco’s curries at 2 packs for £4 with a tasty naan alongside. Waitrose has an amazing selection too and you can also get a meal bag with enough food for 3 or 4 people for £10.

3. Markdown hour

Around 6:45pm to 7:30pm, most supermarkets start clearing out their fresh sections. That means you get fresh sandwiches and ready-to-eat meals for a fraction of the original price. I once got a whole pizza for £2 with a £0.39 pot of chocolate ganache. Timings differ every day though so you’ll need to get in sync with your local. If you’re at St Mary’s campus, going down to Mark’s & Spencer at Paddington Station around 6:30pm will get you dirt cheap pastries.

4. Lunchtime deals

Many restaurants do great lunchtime bundles for £5-7. If you’re at the St Mary’s campus, Lena’s Cafe on Paddington does an amazing lunchbox with rice/pasta, three dishes and a roti for £5. There’s also Bonne Bouche with great sandwiches from £3, and the chicken rice set from Warisan Cafe for just £3.50.

Fancy places do great lunch sets too. The two Michelin-starred Dinner by Heston Blumenthal does an amazing three-course set lunch menu for £45. If you’re looking for something cheaper, there’s also Bar Boulud’s (by two starred chef Daniel Boulud) at just £25. Being Asian, I also love the set lunch menu at XU that lets you dig into their excellent mushroom dumplings, xian bing and shou pa chicken for £18 per person.

5. Street food markets

Street food can be quite hit and miss in London. There’s the whole romance of getting stuff from an itinerant vendor but honestly, most street food in London doesn’t measure up. That said, there are some places that still give a legit hankering. The first place I’d go to is Acklam Market along Portobello Road. It’s hidden away from the touristy bits and has 20-30 vendors, with a drinks/stand-eat area made out of recycled packing crates. I highly recommend the Jamaican jerk chicken and the Cubano pork sandwiches. The latter are £7 and big enough for two. I also like Borough Market for the chorizo sandwiches from Brindisa’s; the pulled pork sandwiches (more crackling with that, luv?); and the Ethiopian food.

6. Old school eateries

Some places clearly haven’t changed their menu, decor and their prices for a long time. My favourites are all from around my hood. The first is Cockney’s Pie & Mash, a historic place on the corner of Golborne and Portobello Road that has been serving up traditional meat pies with gravy and parsley liquor (£4-5) for almost 20 years. After you’re done with lunch, head down Golborne Road to Lisboa Patisserie for the best egg custard tarts (£1.50) I have ever had in my life. I also love taking in a pint at the Prince Alfred pub in Maida Vale. This has been around for 160 years and still has “snob screens”. which used to separate the middle-class from the lower, although you have to do mini squats while holding your drink to go through them today.

7. Too Good To Go

People in London don’t like seeing food go to waste. Thankfully, if you download the Too Good To Go app, you can grab a delicious meal for £3-5 while helping to lessen the amount of food thrown away. The app tracks your location and tells you what’s available around you, along with prices and collection times. I’ve not done it yet but some of my classmates have and they tell me it’s extra awesome when a hotel starts offloading its breakfast buffet on you.

Happy feasting!

2 comments for “Eating well in London without breaking the bank

  1. Nick says:

    Would be sacrilege not to make a very honourable mention of Bosphorous, South Ken’s famous kebab house to which generations of Imperial students owe eternal gratitude for being there when all else is closed

    1. Isaac Tan says:

      Thanks for that tidbit Nick! I’m based at the St Mary’s campus so I didn’t know about that. If you have more South Ken nuggets, please keep em coming 🙂

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