What strategies can help you find cheap eats in central London?

11 June 2024

Navigating the vast culinary landscape of London, one of the world's most vibrant food capitals, can often feel like an overwhelming task, especially when you're on a budget. Whether you're a student looking to save money, a budget-conscious traveler, or a resident craving a delicious yet economical meal, this article serves as a comprehensive guide to finding good, cheap eats in the heart of the city. We've compiled a list of proven strategies that will assist you in discovering budget-friendly food options in London without compromising on quality and taste.

Explore Food Markets

There's no better place to start your culinary adventure than London's bustling food markets. The city's markets are rich tapestries of flavours, where you'll find an array of inexpensive food options.

Borough Market, one of London’s oldest and most famous food markets, is a haven of affordable, quality food. The market offers a wide variety of fresh produce, baked goods, and ready-to-eat meals at prices that won't break the bank. On any given day, you may find yourself sampling artisan cheeses, savouring freshly-cooked seafood, or enjoying a slice of homemade pie, all within a student-friendly budget.

Another market worth visiting is Leather Lane Market, a street food paradise located in the city centre. It's a great spot to grab a quick, cheap lunch, with stalls selling everything from gourmet burgers to spicy Thai curries at reasonable prices.

Don't Dismiss Chain Restaurants

Chain restaurants often get a bad rap, but they can be a treasure trove of cheap, yet good food. London is home to numerous british and international chains that offer great meals at bargain prices.

Pret A Manger is a popular choice among Londoners and visitors alike. With hundreds of locations scattered throughout the city, Pret offers a wide range of sandwiches, salads, and hot meals that are both tasty and affordable. In addition, Pret's hearty soups and hot drinks are perfect for those chilly London days.

For pizza lovers, Franco Manca is a must-visit. This chain offers delicious sourdough pizzas that are not only cheap but also made from high-quality ingredients. With numerous locations in the city, including Brixton and Soho, a good pizza is never far away.

Take Advantage of Meal Deals and Discounts

London's culinary scene continuously evolves, attracting food lovers from around the globe. However, dining in London doesn't have to be an expensive affair. Many restaurants and cafes offer meal deals and discounts, particularly during off-peak hours.

Apps like Too Good To Go allow users to purchase unsold food from restaurants and cafes at the end of the day at discounted prices, helping both your wallet and the environment. Similarly, MealPal provides access to lunch deals from hundreds of restaurants in the city for a monthly subscription fee.

Also, don't forget to ask about student discounts. Many eateries in London offer special prices for students, so always carry your student ID with you.

Embrace Street Food

Street food is a vital part of London's culinary identity. It offers a unique opportunity to taste a variety of international cuisines without straining your budget.

The Street Food Union on Rupert Street, Soho, is one of the city's most exciting street food destinations. Here, you can indulge in a plethora of international dishes ranging from Mexican tacos to Italian arancini balls, all at budget-friendly prices.

Another popular street food spot is Southbank Centre Food Market. Located by the River Thames, this vibrant market offers a wide array of cheap, mouth-watering food options from global cuisines. Whether you're craving a juicy burger or spicy Thai curry, this place has got you covered.

Opt for BYOB Restaurants

Lastly, some restaurants in London allow you to 'Bring Your Own Bottle' (BYOB), an easy way to save money on dining out. This option is particularly beneficial if you enjoy a drink with your meal, as alcohol often forms a significant portion of the restaurant bill.

London is brimming with BYOB restaurants, many of which serve delectable food at reasonable prices. Places like The Indian Veg in Islington and Lahore Kebab House in Whitechapel offer delicious meals without the hefty price tag and allow you to bring your own alcohol, making them perfect for a budget-friendly night out.

Remember, the best way to explore London's food scene on a budget is by keeping an open mind and a willingness to explore. With a bit of planning and a keen eye for deals, you can enjoy some of the city's best culinary offerings without breaking the bank.

Utilize Technology Helps for Food Hunting

In this digital age, technology can be your best friend in finding cheap eats in London. Mobile apps and online platforms provide a wealth of information to help you discover budget-friendly food options.

Google Maps is a versatile tool not just for navigation but also for finding great places to eat. By searching “cheap eats near me”, you’ll be shown a list of places to eat within your vicinity along with their ratings, reviews, and average costs. This tool is particularly useful for visitors in London who are unfamiliar with the local food scene. Just ensure you have a stable internet connection or have downloaded offline maps to avoid any hiccups.

For those carrying a London Pass, you can enjoy discounts at certain restaurants and cafes. It’s worth researching which food establishments offer such benefits so you can make the most of your card.

Finally, consider joining online communities of food lovers. There are numerous forums and social media groups where locals and visitors alike share their food finds and reviews. This can be a great way to discover hidden gems that may not be widely advertised but offer great food at reasonable prices.

Venture Out of Tourist Traps

Central London is filled with iconic attractions such as Hyde Park, Covent Garden, and St. Paul's Cathedral. However, the restaurants and cafes in these busy areas often come with a tourist premium. Venturing out of these areas can lead to discovering more budget-friendly options.

Take a stroll to destinations a little further out of the city centre where you can find local eateries offering traditional British food like fish and chips at a fraction of the tourist area prices. Areas like Brixton, Camden, and East London are renowned for their food offerings and are less crowded.

Using an Oyster card can save you money on public transport as you explore these areas. Don’t be afraid to hop on a bus or the tube to find these off-the-beaten-path food spots.

Moreover, don't forget that one of the best things about London is its diversity, which is reflected in its food scene. By heading to ethnic neighbourhoods, you can enjoy authentic, tasty, and cheap eats from around the world.


Finding cheap eats in central London may seem like a daunting task given the city's reputation for being expensive. However, with a savvy approach and willingness to venture beyond the typical tourist trails, you can discover a world of good, affordable food. Visiting food markets, utilizing meal deals and discounts, embracing street food, opting for BYOB restaurants and chain eateries, and making the most of technology can significantly help in this quest.

Remember, the goal is to enjoy London's rich culinary scene without overstretching your budget. By implementing these strategies, you'll be able to experience an array of delicious main dishes, local favourites and international cuisine without breaking the bank. London in all its culinary glory is waiting for you to explore and relish. Happy eating!

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