Travelling to London often comes at a great expense to which many budget-minded tourists respond by cutting down on their food and drink spending. Instead, their focus turns to sightseeing and trying to get to as many famous locales as possible. Photos of Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the Tower of London are great mementoes of this incredible city. However, visiting these places, despite being an amazing experience, doesn’t do the city of London honour.
Pubs, bars, restaurants, cafes, bakeries and even greasy spoons are as London as the Queen herself. It’s alright if you want to just take photos, walk around and drink lattes, but if you’re truly bent on discovering the spirit of London, you’ll have to sit down in one of the eating houses and savour the delicacies available to local people. It’s really true what they say, if you visit a place and don’t do anything that locals do, you haven’t even scratched the surface of living there. So don’t just stare at London through the lens of your camera, put it away, and grab a menu!
You will soon find out that it’s impossible to go to every restaurant and try everything you like. Moreover, you’ll realise that not every place is right for your bankroll. That’s alright because there are so many places to eat in London for every budget. It has got something for everyone, with dozens upon dozens of places to sit down at, rest your weary feet and treat your taste buds to local cuisine. That is why we had this list compiled, in order for you to find exactly what you’re looking for without too much hassle, based on your budget and eating preferences. Before finding the right place to eat though, you ought to know what you’re looking for.
London Specialties: British Food in London
Regardless of how much you’re looking to spend on eating out, you ought to have a go at some more traditional British food while you’re exploring the city. They come in so many different portions, tastes and prices that you might be very confused at first. Knowing where to start and what to try is very important, so let’s talk about British cuisine first.
British food is now a broad term that includes all delicious meals that came with different cultural groups from Britain’s colonial history. To narrow it down a bit, we’ll just discuss what was originally considered British, or English cuisine. You’ve probably heard a lot about it already in movies, TV shows or even read about it in books. First of all, there’s the famous English breakfast, a rich mishmash of best-tasting food such as bacon, eggs, sausages, grilled tomatoes, fried mushrooms, toast and black pudding. Add some tea of top on that, and you’ve got yourself a saliva-inducing meal, often referred to by the English as ‘fry up’. Besides such a festive breakfast assortment, they often eat fish and chips, steak and kidney pies and Sunday roast among many others.
Now that you at least have a vague idea of what you should be looking for in order to have yourself a British meal, let’s see how it’s usually put together and what you need to be asking for.
Full English Breakfast
A full English breakfast or a ‘fry up’ has all the delicacies listed above. It’s very nutritious and will saturate your hunger for a very long time. Many restaurants in London have it on their menus since it’s such a prevalent meal in their culture. Not only is it the most British thing you’ll put in your stomach, but it’s also the best bargain you’ll get by far. Greasy spoons are the best places to eat a full English breakfast and do so at only £5 a pop! That is quite a deal for a budget-mined traveller as it will keep you nourished for the longest period of time. Be careful though, as the price of a fry up can get as high as £50 in hotels.
Fish and Chips
A bit more expensive than a fry up, fish and chips is another staple of British culinary tradition. It wasn’t all that present until the 19th and the 20th century when its popularity exploded. Today, you can easily get it almost anywhere in Britain and other countries of the Commonwealth. It’s one of the most important dishes that you’ll need to try in London. It’s price ranges from £15 to £20 for two people.
Bangers and Mash
You wouldn’t believe how common it is for travellers visiting London for the first time to not know what bangers and mash is really all about. Bangers are actually sausages with a side of mashed potatoes. A simple yet unbelievably tasty dish, bangers and mash can often be ordered for as little as £9, climbing to £14 at most restaurants.
This meal’s name is as English as it gets. Basically, it is a fillet steak with pate, coated in puff pastry before baking. It’s another highly nourishing delicacy that you shouldn’t neglect during your visit to London. It’s also a bit more on the expensive side, costing anywhere from £16 to £40 per meal depending on where you ask, but worth it none the less.
What was originally a Sunday-only dish has now become a commonplace, everyday meal that is usually served in any form you like – pork, turkey, beef. Take your pick. No matter the kind of meat you prefer, Sunday roast can get so big that it’ll take not a small measure of willpower to get through it all. Besides meat, you’ll get potatoes and other vegetables. Perhaps most important is the Yorkshire pudding, a heavenly tasting treat that’s an excellent followup to the roast. Regardless of your budget, you’ll be able to enjoy this huge dish since it costs anywhere from £12 to £50 per meal. Roasts are a very important food in England, so your trip to London should include them in order to get the full experience.
These are just some of the important dishes to be had in London. Most of them are cheap, especially the fry up. However, it would be a grave injustice if we hadn’t mentioned pies, cockles, puddings and of course, on top of all the food – the tea! They all come in most unusual variations and tastes, so, assuming there’s any room left after the roast, give them a try.
Where to Eat in London
Depending on how much money you have and what sort of food you’d like to gorge on, London offers a wide variety of choices. You’ve seen some dishes that you ought to try during your stay here, some delicacies to savour. Now is the time for finding the right place to do so.
From greasiest spoons all the way to fanciest of restaurants, there’s a plethora of places people like to sit down, forget about their troubles and just enjoy amazing meals.
Greasy Spoons or Cafes
We’ve mentioned them a couple of times already, so an explanation of the term is due. Even though the word itself originated in the United States, it has been used in many English-speaking countries ever since to describe smaller, cheaper restaurants that usually serve fast food or home-cooked meals. In England, the word is used synonymously with the word ‘cafe’, especially since both describe the same kind of place. Don’t confuse that with European cafés, which mostly serve coffee and other drinks.
If you’re wondering where to eat in London and you’re on a hunt for a good, strong meal or breakfast, head into one of their cafes. Dishes served here are usually much larger in size than in some fancy restaurant. In some cases, you’ll get such an enormous portion of food that you will just stare at it, and rightfully so, asking yourself if you ordered two meals by accident. Not only will you get to consume a literal pile of food, but you’ll also pay for it much less than in most restaurants. This especially goes for hotel restaurants which charge exorbitant prices for food you could’ve obtained elsewhere (and more of it).
Of course, there’s a downside to cafes in London, and it’s the fact that they usually prepare fried, unhealthy meals. There is no better go-to if you’re hungry and on a strict budget, however, it goes against a healthy life.
English cuisine is best served in restaurants which are almost impossible to count in the city of London. They come in different price ranges, a great thing for someone looking to have a slightly healthier version of cheap cafe food. Another important thing to mention is that you’ll be able to find places to eat in London where they serve international cuisine. It’s a big, worldly metropolis after all.
If budget is an issue, don’t get worked up over it since cheap eats are everywhere. Looking to get classy? High-class restaurants (some of them obviously posh) provide you with a sense of luxury as you bite on slightly smaller than usual portions, but prepared and arranged meticulously. Pristine silverware and small plates of food are the true meaning of aesthetic beauty and fine dining.
Naturally, it’s quite possible for you to find some middle ground. London is a city of options, you should settle neither for the cheapest nor the most expensive restaurant in the city if you don’t want to. Take your pick, make a decision that suits your budget and enjoy the best restaurants that London has to offer.
Read more: 20 Best Places to Visit in Europe in March
Best Cafés and Breakfasts in London
Food in London comes in different sizes, but if you’re looking for the biggest possible size you can get, check out one of their many breakfasts. Some people, on the other hand, look for comfortable, relaxed cafés to have a sip of coffee. Both will find what they’re looking for in this section.
Finding the right cafés and breakfasts in such an enormous city like London can seem a bit daunting. That’s why you can take a look at our list and find the one that suits your budget just fine.
Located on the East End, this greasy spoon is well-known for great people that work there and an amazing atmosphere. They serve both British and Italian cuisine, so it’s a great place to get some strong and highly-nourishing food. Sandwiches are a big deal here, so don’t make the mistake of skipping them altogether. Food is also fairly cheap, mostly ranging from £6 to £10.
If you’re in the mood for a cup of excellent green coffee, then look no further than Caravan. Not only are you able to get great coffee for £2, but you can also have a proper meal. The full title of this neat cafe is Caravan Restaurant, Bar and Coffee Roastery, so you can imagine why they’ve everything you need. They have shops in plenty of locations around the city, including King’s Cross and Bankside.
Filter coffee is best served with fresh pastries. That’s exactly what this cafe stands for, which is why you’ll find plenty of both in this coffeehouse. You can find it in the Covent Garden and enjoy some of the finest caffeine-induce products in London for only about £2-3.
Read more: 8 Best Vegan and Vegetarian Cafés in London
The name says it all. Here, you’ll find the best selection of breakfast goodies ever imagined and put together by anyone. Their ‘The Full Monty’ costs £11.50 and it’s a complete London experience. They also specialise in eggs benedict, which usually cost £9.50. Find it at London Bridge and myriad other locations.
On Beak Street in London, there’s a place where you can get delicious puddings and even better coffee. This place is called Fernandez & Wells, and it’s for those with a bit more money to spend. Food ranges in price from £5 to £10, and their wine bar has some very interesting vintages to try, most of which are about £30 a bottle.
Best British Restaurants in London
Now it’s time to try some real, British food that we so endearingly described. Restaurants range from cheap eats all the way to luxurious palaces, so have a look at some of the places that are available to you.
We’ll start you off with some fried specialities before moving on to more regal spots in London.
If you haven’t made a final decision about where to try that infamous fish and chips delicacy we’ve been going on about, try Poppies. A single meal costs about £12 on average, but it’s more than worth it. You’ll get such an overwhelming serving of fish and chips that you’ll start speaking cockney by the end of the day! Besides that, they also offer free-range chicken (also served with chips) for about £10. You’ll find this heavenly place in Camden Town.
Remember bangers and mash? Of course you do, who could forget such a simple, tasty dish. One of the best places to get it in London is the famous Mother Mash on Carnaby Street. You can get a plateful of sausages and potatoes for just £10, and all the prices go as far as £25, making it an excellent mid-range restaurant that’s bound to sate your hunger.
There are many places to eat in London if you’re looking for a Sunday roast, but few look more promising than this one. Located at the Charing Cross, they offer excellent roast for about £15. The entire restaurant floor looks classy and luxurious, with expensive chandeliers hanging above you as you eat. If you’re not looking for a roast, you can also try their beef Wellington for £35 – you won’t regret it.
Another way to say turbot, Brat is a piece of excellence located on Redchurch Street. They bring in the best food from around the United Kingdom, including lamb from Wales and the star turbot from Cornwall. Side dishes consist of delicious fried vegetables including tomatoes and beans. It’s a perfect place for a tasty lunch in the mid-range pricing area of £30. The most expensive thing you’re going to find in here is about £50.
A high-end restaurant in London with many exquisite specialities, The Clove Club in Shoreditch offers a great atmosphere, tasting menus and a wide variety of British cuisine, with touches of Indian and Japanese food here and there. However, this exquisiteness comes at a price, expect to spend no less than £90 for two people. Their five-course menu offers the best of two worlds – a Yorkshire suckling pig coated in South Indian spices for £65. They also have excellent cocktails so make sure to get a drink (or two).
Best Restaurants in London for International Food
Like any other metropolitan area, London is packed with restaurants offering international dishes. Whether you’re into Indian, Japanese or any other worldly food really, you won’t leave this city disappointed.
Are you in the mood for some raw fish? If so, head on out to Sushi Tetsu and take your pick. If you aren’t that interested in fish, raw or otherwise, they have a fine selection of shellfish and squid. They have something for every seafood lover, with prices ranging from £5 all the way to £26. Find this amazing Japanese restaurant at Jerusalem Road in Greater London.
Spanish food is definitely less popular than Asian for example, but that doesn’t make it less savoury. They use a special stone oven for grilling delicacies, and their roasted pig and chicken are among the best dishes to be had in London. You can find some Columbian food such as Queso for only £10, with breaded pork or chicken usually costing £13. This is quite a reasonable price for such intense-tasting food, so come down to Tooting and check it out.
If, for some reason, you ever wondered what is it that Sri Lankan people eat, here is the answer – in Soho no less. It’s not that expensive, every dish costs less than £10. They also offer a great selection of hard drinks, with menus that come with a glossary explaining all the unknown words found there.
One of London’s best Indian restaurants has good prices, great food and friendly people – all you really need in life. They serve traditional food such as Tandoori and Paneer Tikka, and even Bengali specialities such as Shahi duck for £13.25. One of the best things to try here is Thali specialities such as meat thali, a combination of sheek kebab and chicken tikka for maximum flavour. This delicacy costs only £16.50, and it’s more than worth its price. Indian restaurants are an important part of London’s cuisine, and they often provide incredibly tasting, cheap Indian food with spices that you can only imagine. If you’re debating whether or not to visit such a place, the answer should definitely be yes.
Another fine Japanese establishment, Zuma London showboats amazing lobster and truffle dishes. Their menu is a rich tapestry of unusual and delicious food that you must try at least once. However, it’s not really for those on a strict budget, since a meal for two people costs more than £120. Despite that, this stylish restaurant sees a lot of traffic in its location in Knightsbridge. If you’re feeling charitable, take your significant other to this high-end eating house and never regret it, because it is totally worth your savings!