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Tips for Cheap Eating in London

Try some street food

Gone are the days when ‘street food’ meant a dodgy hambuger from an unlicensed trader. London is now 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 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 cost around £10 per person if you avoid alcohol.




Pre and post-theatre menus

Even if you’re not visiting the theatre, take advantage of the special pre-theatre menus 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, or after the show. If you plan to do this on a Friday or Saturday, we recommend booking in advance.

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 from all supermarkets — If you want the best, go to M&S or Waitrose.

Have an English breakfast

A traditional English cooked breakfast is filling. If it’s included in the price of your hotel room, you 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 £6–£8. 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. hot-dinners.com and softlaunchlondon.com are worth a look.

Eat your main meal at lunchtime

For a sit-down meal, set lunches are usually cheaper than eating in the evening, especially during the week.

Order a takeaway

If you’re staying in an apartment or AirBnB, a takeaway is a cheaper alternative to eating out. There are thousands in London. Just type the food you want and your postcode into Google and see what comes up. For something a bit more upmarket, try Deliveroo. They can deliver meals from a wide range of restaurants to your door.

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 £80 for a year, but there’s a special deal at the moment – get a 12-month card for £29.99. UK addresses only.

Check out the chains

Chain restaurants can be good value, especially with a discount voucher.

Check out a deals websites

For afternoon tea or a more upmarket restaurant, take a look at a deals websites like Travelzoo. They regularly offer discounts on Michelin-star restaurants.

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 can be a cheap option but some pubs are better than others, so choose carefully. Wetherspoon pubs are hard to beat on price — but don’t expect a gourmet meal. Their steaks on Tuesdays, chicken dishes on Wednesdays, curries on Thursdays and Fish & Chips on Fridays are a bargain and include a free 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.

Read the menu before going into a restaurant

By law, all restaurants must display their menu with prices 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’ so there’s no need to pay anything extra. We don’t have a North American style tipping culture. If there’s no service charge, UK residents normally tip around 10%.

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Last updated: 16 April 2018