Try some street food
London is a great place for street food. Most markets in London have food stalls and they’re probably the best choice for a reasonably priced, satisfying lunch. See our guide to street food in central London.
Eat food from around the world
London really is one of the best cities to try food from around the world. Vietnamese, Korean, Malaysian, Turkish, Indian, Chinese and Middle Eastern restaurants are affordable. A two-course meal can easily cost around £10 per person if you avoid alcohol.
Even if you’re not visiting the theatre, take advantage of the special deals offered by some restaurants for theatre-goers in the West End. You have to eat early in the evening, usually between 5.30pm–7.30pm, so have a light lunch.
Eat from a supermarket
Supermarkets have special meal deals where you can buy a sandwich, some fruit and a soft drink for as little as £3. They also stock a huge range of ready-to-eat food and anything you need to make a your own roll or sandwich. If you have cooking facilities or the use of a microwave, it’s easy to pick up cheap ready-meals — M&S is the king of the ready-made meal.
Have an English breakfast
A traditional English cooked breakfast is filling. If it’s included in the price of your hotel room, you’ll can last until evening with just a light lunch. If your hotel doesn’t offer it, you won’t be far from a cafe that does. Expect to pay £5–£7. Most cafes serve it all day.
Keep an eye out for soft launches
A soft launch is a chance for new restaurants to test their menu, kitchen and staff before opening the doors to the public. Luckily, they want real people to experiment on and often offer 50% off the price of a meal. hot-dinners.com is worth a look. Or try searching Twitter.
Buy a Taste Card
The Taste Card gives you 50% off or 2 for 1 deals at thousands of restaurants in the UK, including major chains. It’s around £100 for a year, but there’s a fantastic offer at the moment – get a 12-month card for £29.99 or try a 3 month Taste Card for £1. UK addresses only.
Check out the chains
Chain restaurants are good value with a discount voucher.
- Pizza and pasta chains: Prezzo, Zizzi, Pizza Express, Strada, Ask Italian
- Burgers: Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Byron
- European food: Leon
- Vietnamese food: Pho
- Asian food: Wagamama, Banana Tree, Busaba Eathai
- Family-friendly international food: Giraffe
- French food: Côte Restaurants, Café Rouge
- Portuguese-style chicken: Nandos
Check out the deals websites
If you want to go a bit upmarket, take a look at some deals websites like Travelzoo. They regularly offer discounts on Michelin-star restaurants.
Eat in a cafe
Most cafes, along with the many variations on the English breakfast, serve a daily special — usually a meat and two vegetable combination. A little healthier than a fried English breakfast.
Avoid overpriced drinks in a restaurant
Serious money-savers should only drink tap water in restaurants. Restaurants must, by law, provide tap water if they serve alcohol.
Eat in a pub
Pub food is a cheap option but some pubs are better than others, so choose carefully. Wetherspoon pubs are hard to beat on price — don’t expect a gourmet meal though. Their steaks on Tuesdays, chicken dishes on Wednesdays and curries on Thursdays are a bargain and include a free alcoholic drink.
Ask for a ‘doggy bag’
If you order too much food, ask the restaurant to pack up your remaining food to takeaway. Don’t be shy. You paid for it.
Eat your main meal at lunchtime
Set lunches are usually cheaper than eating in the evening.
Order a takeaway
Read the menu before going into a restaurant
By law, all restaurants must display their menu with prices near close to the entrance. Check for minimum charges and whether they add a ‘discretionary’ service charge to your bill. If they do, it will probably be around 10–12.5%. This is the ‘tip’ and there’s no need to pay anything extra. We don’t have the same tipping culture compared to North America. UK residents normally tip about 10% in a restaurant.
Last updated: 9 August 2016