Shoreditch is among the leading foodie areas of London with a diverse mix of street food, Michelin-starred restaurants and cuisine from the world over. Yet, there are still places where you can eat well on the cheap; you just have to know where to find them.
There are plenty of places to get bagels in the East End, but nowhere quite matches up to Biegel Bake in Brick Lane. Open all week and around the clock, the bagels here are not only incredibly cheap, but they’re also incredibly tasty. Smoked salmon and cream cheese is great (and less than two quid), but it’s the salt beef bagel with hot mustard and pickle that has people queuing down the street at all hours of the day and night.
This stalwart of the street-food scene in the capital now has a kiosk in Old Spitalfields Market, as well as two sit-in joints in Victoria and the City. Bleecker Burger has become one of the best-loved burgers in town. The patties are made using rare-breed dry-aged beef, and the toppings are kept fairly simple to let the quality of the meat show. At £6.50, the classic cheeseburger is a tad more expensive than the equivalent from a fast food chain, but it’s in a different league in terms of taste, and it’s still cheap enough for a bite on the move.
Just moments from Old Street station, the family-run Kafeteria might not be that hidden, but it’s a real gem. They serve a range of melts, including tuna, pastrami and meatballs (which come in at a fiver or less); jacket potatoes that customers can top with everything from beans to lamb curry; and mix-and-match salad boxes with free pitta and hummus or tzatziki. Whatever you go for, you’re definitely getting value for money.
Franzè & Evans has everything a neighbourhood café needs—fresh, vibrant food made with quality ingredients, great coffee and amazing cakes. The seasonal salads, quiches and sandwiches on the counter are perfect for lunch, but if you’d rather something hot, you can get a beef or halloumi burger for £6.50, or Italian classics, such as aubergine parmigiana and beef lasagne for £8. In fact, nothing on the food menu tops £10.
Pie and mash is another East-London staple, yet not many traditional pie shops are still standing. F Cooke is one of them, and not much has changed since the place opened, including the size of the menu—you basically have the option of pie or eels to go with your mash, and that’s it. Everything, from the meat butchery to the pastry preparation to the parsley grinding for the liquor is done in-house. With a full plate of pie, mash and liquor coming in at less than a fiver, you’ll struggle to find a heartier, cheaper or more classic meal.
DF/Mexico (DF is for the local name for Mexico City, Distrito Federal) is a cheery, modern diner that is a spin-off from the hugely popular Wahaca chain. It’s all about fast food here; you order at the counter and get your own drinks. Tacos, burritos and their version of tortas, which are basically Mexican-inspired burgers, dominate the menu, and everything hovers around the £7 mark. Although it’s served up quickly, the food is fresh and flavourful, and there has been a real effort to use sustainable ingredients.
Open Kitchen is the training restaurant for students at New City College Hackney, which is why it’s so cheap—you can have a proper three-course meal for £15. That doesn’t mean you aren’t getting quality; everything is freshly prepared and cooked by the students who use locally sourced ingredients. The result is restaurant-quality food, including dishes such as seared prawns with lemon, saffron and radicchio; spiced rump of lamb with poppy seed aloo-tikki and spinach puree; and strawberry bavarois with vanilla joconde.
Having been inspired by the street food in India, Aussie Mark Wright brought the flavours to his restaurant, Rola Wala, which quickly became a big name in the street-food scene. The sourdough naan wraps and grain bowls, which can be filled with Bengali-spiced beef, vegan red dal and Nagaland lamb, are super tasty, healthy and friendly on the wallet.
Pizzeria, Restaurant, Food Stall, Italian, American
Voodoo Ray's | Courtesy of Voodoo Ray's
Pizza by the slice is always a reliable cheap eat, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done in style. Voodoo Ray’s slings massive NYC-inspired slices from their unit in Boxpark (as well as at their sites in Dalston, Camden and Peckham) and have really thought about their flavour combos, from the fennel-and-chilli sausage, kale and onion on the King Tubby; to the wild mushroom, roasted squash and taleggio that top a slice of Shrooms!; to the tomato, mozzarella, bacon dust and Japanese mayo on the Full Moon, which is only available after midnight. Best of all, no slice costs more than £4.
There are many Vietnamese restaurants to choose from on Kingsland Road, but Sông Quê Café always seems packed. Though the menu features a range of meat, seafood, rice and noodle dishes, the pho is the real winner here. You can get a big bowl of the noodle soup topped with everything from rare steak and tripe to beef meatballs to spicy prawns, all for less than a tenner.