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Cheap eats: 20 top London chefs share their favourite bargain hangouts

From late-night noodle bars in Soho to excellent Surbiton pizza joints (Benjamin McMahon)
From late-night noodle bars in Soho to excellent Surbiton pizza joints (Benjamin McMahon)

At a time when the word “recession” seems to endlessly pop up in headlines, even middling local restaurants seem to be charging £70-a-head bills. Nabbing a bargain might prove a tricky undertaking. But they do exist.

This list is a handy reminder that costs needn’t climb perilously high. Here, 20 of the capital’s best chefs share where they go for an affordable meal, all across the capital and with all sorts of cooking included, from Chinatown classics to serious sandwiches. Some have long been celebrated; others are obscure. The list is ordered by location of the restaurant or café recommended, not where the chef works. Tuck in.

Central

Andrew Yeo of Hakkasan: Kiln, Soho

 (Benjamin McMahon)
(Benjamin McMahon)

Kiln(58 Brewer St, W1F, kilnsoho.com) in Soho is my go to spot for a quick meal. The Thai cooking with influences from Myanmar, Loas and Yunnan and with British produce is a winner. The menu changes regularly and most items come in under £17.

Sally Abe of The Pem: Lanzhou Lamian Noodle Bar, Leicester Square

I always go to Lanzhou Lamian (33 Cranbourn Street, WC2H) in Leicester Square. The dan dan noodles are delicious and cost about £13. I think they might have just put their prices up, but it’s still very reasonable, and very good.

Tom Booton of The Dorchester: Tukdin, Paddington

 (Via Tukdin)
(Via Tukdin)

Tukdin (41 Craven Rd, London W2, tukdin.com) in Paddington is the real winner for me here. The Malay food is next level. I love the beef rendang (£16.90) but my favourite are the curry puffs (about £9), made with help from chef Syed’s mum.

Jeremy Lee of Quo Vadis: Maison Bertaux, Soho

 (Alamy Stock Photo)
(Alamy Stock Photo)

A cheap, ace treat is a terrific ham and cheese croissant (£8) from Maison Bertaux (28 Greek Street, W1D, maisonbertaux.com). It might be breakfast, elevenses and lunch in bites, or a hearty meal if scoffed in a oner. Nibbled on while queuing at Bar Italia or Flat White for a coffee, Soho still provides deliciousness without too grim a price tag. Maison Bertaux never disappoints and it’s been a favourite since I first arrived in town.

North

Meriel Armitage of Club Mexicana: Saravana Bhavan, across London

Saravana Bhavan (across town, saravanabhavanlondon.co.uk) serves incredible and super-authentic vegetarian Indian food. There are seven in London but no one has heard of them outside the Indian community. The menu is huge and spans different areas and cuisines: north, south, the India-China borders — so eating there is a never-ending education in Indian food. The star of the show here are the dosa: all huge, all stuffed with punchy flavours and served with a keen supply of sambars and chutneys. I also love the south Indian thali — it’s £9.50 and a full meal and you don’t need anything else. I go with my wife almost every other Sunday.

Nuno Mendes of Lisboeta: Toconoco, Haggerston

Toconoco (28 Hertford Road, N1, toconoco.com) is a café I keep returning to. My kids love onigiri — the Japanese rice snack — and this “mom and pop” style place is not only child-friendly, but the dozen or so options for onigiri start at just £3 each. There’s also great bowls of soba noodles (£7) and a delicious chawanmushi, a savoury egg custard dish (£2.40).

Chantelle Nicholson of Apricity: Hawker’s Kitchen, King’s Cross

 (Matt Writtle)
(Matt Writtle)

For me, Hawker’s Kitchen (64 Caledonian Road, N1, hawkerskitchen.com) is my semi-local. There isn’t much to not like here, from buttery, flaky roti with rich channa masala, to fish curry, to a comforting Punjabi samosa with tamarind sauce. Or maybe just the masala dosa. And lest we forget the coconut chutney and sambal. Heaven. There’s another not far from Aldgate East, too.

Mitchell Damota of Dalla: Rasa, Stoke Newington

 (Via Rasa Facebook)
(Via Rasa Facebook)

Our go-to local restaurant, not just because of how cheap it is, but also because it's absolutely amazing is Rasa in Stoke Newington (55 Stoke Newington Church Street, N16, rasarestaurants.com). Favourites are the rava dosa with green chillies and onions, and the bagar baingan, which is an aubergine curry with a cashew and onion sauce with yoghurt. Dishes start at about £9.

East

Jake Dolin of Manteca: Xi’an Biang Biang Noodles, Spitalfields

Xi’an Biang Biang Noodles (62 Wentworth Street, E1, xianbiangbiangnoodles.com) in Spitalfields. I’ve been going here for years. I get the pork burger, the signature pork dumplings, the boneless cold chicken in special sauce. Or hand-pulled noodles with beef and dry fried green beans. All these dishes range from £6.90 to £13.50. I go most weeks after finishing a work shift with my girlfriend, and most importantly my son (Joey my cockapoo), as they allow dogs.

Angus Kitchin of FKABAM: Mangal 1, Dalston

Mangal 1 (10 Arcola Street, E8), without a doubt. It doesn’t hurt that I live less than two minutes away but my girlfriend and I are in there at every opportunity. You can’t replicate the flavour you get cooking over coals like that. For me, there are two essential dishes: tubule (£4), and patlican salata (£8), and then an order of chilli sauce to dab over the top.

Chris Shaw of Toklas: Dom’s Subs, Hackney

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

This is a tricky one, but for me it would be Dom’s Subs (262 Hackney Road, E2, doms-subs.slerp.com). I live very close to the Hackney one and most of the subs are only £9. They're pretty large and you don’t really need much else for lunch. The grapow one, made with Thai-style spiced chicken, is hot and very tasty.

Anna Sørgaard of Bistro Freddie: Umut 2000, Dalston

I love Umut 2000 (6 Crossway, N16), a Turkish restaurant in Dalston. It’s super affordable and generous and always delicious, and it’s close to where I live so I go quite regularly for late-night food. I always go for the grilled aubergine salad (£8.50) and the hot ezme salad (£7) — the bread is unreal too!

South

Anna Haugh of Myrtle: Sushi Café, Battersea

Sushi Café (555 Battersea Park Road, SW11, sushicafe.co.uk) would be my pick. They do a buffet on Sundays (£28) at which you can order as much as you like for an hour and a half. It’s freshly prepared so if you’re greedy and don’t finish your plates you might be charged extra for being wasteful. I quite like that. Sometimes my eyes are bigger than my belly so it’s a rule that keeps me on the straight and narrow. I sometimes pop in for a bento box too (from £11.50).

April Jackson of Wood and Water: Healthy Eaters, Brixton

 (Via Healthy Eaters Facebook)
(Via Healthy Eaters Facebook)

I would say my favourite cheap eat in London is Healthy Eaters (17 Electric Ave, SW9, healthyeaters.co.uk) in Brixton. I tend to pick up the chicken soup (£5) as it reminds me of being in Jamaica. The place is run by a couple, Stafford and Rose, and the vibe always gives you something to laugh about: it’s like you stepped out of London and landed in Kingston.

Mursal Saiq of Cue Point: Cento Uno, Surbiton

 (Via Facebook)
(Via Facebook)

One of my top budget friendly options is Cento Uno (101 Maple Road, KT6, centouno.co.uk) in Surbiton. The area is often overlooked but the owners, Sam and Alex, represent the best of a buzzing restaurant culture rapidly coming to these parts of town. I really like the pizza topped with fior de latte, fresh tomatoes, rocket and burrata (£17).

Ayo Adeyemi of Akoko: Efes, Tulse Hill

 (Press Handout)
(Press Handout)

Efes Restaurant in Tulse Hill (336 Norwood Road, SE27) is my go to. When I came back to the UK, I quickly found this great Turkish kebab shop near where I live — and I’m obsessed. The lamb kofte (£14.90) is pure flavour town.

Tom Sellers of Restaurant Story and others: Casse-Croûte, Bermondsey

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

Casse-Croûte (109 Bermondsey Street, SE1, cassecroute.co.uk) is always a firm favourite of mine, I don't think I could pick one dish. It's a small neighbourhood bistro with a daily menu of authentic, super tasty French food, and the team really understands hospitality; you always feel welcome when you walk through the door. A true Bermondsey Street staple, with dishes from £11.

West

Chet Sharma of Bibi: Kanenas, Ealing

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

Kanenas (65 The Grove, W5, kanenascoffee.com) is my top pick. I normally start with about three coffees on a Sunday morning as I’m usually a zombie post-Saturday service. The doughnuts are fantastic too — my wife loves them. I go there for brunch and get the Greek-style fry-up. Great value at under £14.

James Goodyear of Evelyn’s Table: Santa Maria Pizza, across London

 (Via restaurant)
(Via restaurant)

My favourite would have to be Santa Maria Pizza (across London, santamariapizzeria.com). I live in south west London and regularly visit the one in Fulham or Brentford. I love a Neapolitan pizza and, perhaps controversially, always opt for a white base. I usually pick the san mattia (£13.95), with buffalo mozzarella, mushrooms and truffle oil.

Miller Prada of Humo: Tosa, Stamford Brook

 (Press Handout)
(Press Handout)

When I get some free time, I head to Hammersmith to go to Tosa (332 King Street, W6, tosa.uk). It’s one of the best spots for Japanese food and it’s amazing value. The yakitori is my favourite in London and starts from just £2.40. The simplicity of the robata grill and the feeling of being at home makes for a lovely combination.