Whether you’re a tourist, a local or a worker, when you’re out and about in Oxford Circus, one of the busiest areas in London, and hunger strikes, you want your food to be fast, fresh and cheap. These are our picks of the places that tick those boxes.
There’s nothing quite as simple yet satisfying as a grilled cheese sandwich and that’s exactly what you get at Melt Room. Founded by a New Yorker, there’s a real deli vibe to this place, with a pastrami, salt beef, eggs benedict, mac and cheese and even a sweet peanut butter and jelly melt all on the menu. With the sandwiches costing around a fiver, even for the meaty ones, it’s a cheap way to indulge.
Half flatbread, half pizza, Flatplanet is perfect when you want some filling but not heavy. The quality of the bread is important here and they make theirs with English organic flour, though you can also get a gluten-free base. The menu has a large Mediterranean influence with toppings like ‘nduja, sundried tomato, aioli, goats cheese, chorizo, ricotta and roasted mushrooms. You will pay will pay slightly more if you opt to eat-in rather than takeaway but will still easily get change from 10 quid.
Mother Mash has taken the humble potato, one of the cheapest ingredients there is, and made that the star of the show, turning locally sourced spuds to make fresh mash. Though you have different types to choose from, including cheese and mustard, colcannon and sweet potato, a plate of mash alone doesn’t make a meal, so you can add a pie or sausages before topping the lot with a gravy of your choice, with both options under £10.
The Potato Project | Courtesy of The Potato Project
A jacket potato is the ultimate budget meal but The Potato Project has turned it into something exciting at the same time. They’ve created pimped-up version of classic toppings like cheese and bean and tuna mayo as well as positively exotic combos like pulled BBQ duck with mozzarella and sesame and Malaysian veg curry. Whilst it tastes way better than what you may have eaten as a student, the food here is still just as friendly on the wallet.
A concept that originated in the Netherlands before expanding internationally, Wok To Walk is all about super fast, freshly made Asian food customised just the way you want it. It’s a three-step menu; you choose a base (such as noodles or rice), the main elements (everything from pork to squid to mushrooms to pineapple) and finally a sauce (peanut, oyster, teriyaki and so on), and your dish is cooked right in front of you and is in your hands in just five minutes. This branch of Wok To Walk also happens to be open late so it’s perfect for a midnight snack as well.
Authentic salt beef is at the heart of Tongue & Brisket, and as it’s a spin-off from B&K Salt Beef Bar established back in the 1950s, they do know what they’re doing when it comes to meat. They serve a short traditional deli menu with smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel, chopped liver and ox tongue, but the salt beef is the must-order. At just £5.60 for the sandwich, you can happily add some extra meat and a pickle on the side and still have a cheap eat on your hands.
Not only is everything at Ethos meat-free, there are plenty of gluten-free, dairy-free, refine sugar-free and vegan dishes too, which draw influence from all over the world. From butternut squash and feta to Japanese miso glazed aubergine to chickpea and coconut curry, there is a wonderful amount of choice on offer. As Ethos operates as a self-service buffet where you pay by weight, so it’s as cheap or as expensive as you want to make it but you can easily get value for money.
Typically used as a dip, hummus doesn’t seem like it would work as the base of an entire meal but Hummus Bros have turned it into just that. You can still get the usual accompaniments like carrot sticks, pitta bread and tortilla chips but you can pimp up the hummus itself with toppings like falafel, beef and aubergine stew, and tabbouleh, so it’ll definitely fill you up without making a dent in your wallet. And as every bowl comes with pitta on the side, you don’t even need cutlery.
Wraps are always a reliably cheap option but it can be quite hard to find variety in the flavour combinations. That’s where the Kati Roll Company stands out. Popular in India, kati consists of a griddled paratha topped with a thin omelette before being filled with everything from chicken tikka or spicy potato patties to paneer or masala shrimp, drizzled with chutney and rolled up. Coming in at around a fiver per roll, the fact that they can also be eaten on the go makes them the perfect lunch.
Not only does Pizza Pilgrims serve up some of the best pizza in London, it also does some of the most reasonably priced too. Cooked the traditional Neapolitan way – sourdough proved for 48 hours and then blasted in a very hot oven – the pizzas are topped with ingredients like nduja, smoked anchovies, black pepper salami and fior di latte, so you can get an authentic taste of Italy for around 10 quid.