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Trip List by mjr91

Eating in London -- low cost and real experience

5 Mar 2007  I love visiting London (I go every year) and I love to eat but I'm not rich
4.0 of 5 stars based on 30 votes

London food you can afford on a budget. No McDonald's and no chain restaurants -- just decent food with stories you can take home from the trip with you.

  • Category: Best of
  • 1. The Lighthouse -- FIsh and Chips

    301 North End Road (Earls Court tube stop)
    Right around the corner from the Ibis Earls Court on Lillie Road but unknown to most tourists, it's word-of-mouth the best fish and chips in London. Huge portions that could feed two, brilliant chips. Plain-jane local chippery, nothing fancy -- this is the real thing, not a tourist trap.

  • 2. New Fortune Cookie, Queensway

    Right around the corner from the Queensway tube exit and some prodigious shopping, this place can be a bargain at lunch. English Chinese food isn't quite like US food -- you'll find mutton on the menu, and more duck, as well as egg-fried rice, not vegetable-fried rice. Vegetarians can find plenty to eat, and so can anyone else. Lettuce wrap appetizers can be split by two or three or be a delicious entree. I love the salt and chili tofu, my father loves the mutton and shrimp dishes, and my mother the duck. Fairly reasonable prices, interesting multi-ethnic neighborhood and all manner of shops make this a "let me tell you about this place we went" ancedote to take home.

  • 3. Cafe at the British Museum

    NOT the fancy, overpriced tea upstairs, just the cheaper sandwiches-and-tea cafe on the main floor rear. Not as cheap as in the States but passably priced, you can see the Rosetta Stone and have a light lunch or spot of tea at the same time, and at the large communal cafeteria tables you will meet locals, US tourists, students, and virtually everyone else imaginable -- and almost everyone willing to have a chat. You'll remember having tea at the British Museum, and you'll remember really meeting people on your trip, not just looking at things.

  • 4. The Goose (Pub), 248 North End Road

    Earls Court or Broadway Fulham tube. A real pub dating back to 1771, with real draft beer and real food. It may not be world class cuisine but it's good sturdy food that accommodates all types (yes, you can get vegetarian bangers and mash here) of appetites and tastes. Drink draft cider or ale, eat pub grub, and know you're in a real English pub, not a phony tourist trap or high-end place with ridiculous prices for nostalgic experience. It looks, feels, and sounds exactly like what it is, a real neighborhood pub in the North End Market area. Nothing fancy or classy, it's remarkably inexpensive, has plenty of seats, and offers traditional English grub as well as trendier fare. My father decided the burgers here were better than any he's ever had at home in the States.

  • 5. Bedouin (Moroccan restaurant), 38 Queensway

    Queensway tube stop. My parents had their 50th anniversary dinner here. Can be a bit pricey if you order your way through the menu, but the appetizers themselves are filling. My mother adored the lamb sausages. I was pleased with the vegetable tagine. Plenty of couscous for all. Delicious spiced coffee. Shisha is available if you wish. Tabletops are huge brass platters, and the Moroccan brass lamps are lovely. You can usually get a table without reservations, and you will not be rushed, so enjoy yourself and relax. There are other Arab businesses and restaurants in this highly multi-ethnic area, so enjoy the diversity around you that reminds you that London really is the most cosmopolitan city on earth. The waitstaff is happy to take pictures to remind you of your visit, so bring the camera.

  • 6. Tea at the National Gallery

    Go to see the Vermeers, stay for a pot of tea. This is perhaps the most unreasonably priced place here, but you can order a light lunch or a tea here and get back to admiring Dutch masters in no time. Plus, if you want a tea, you won't find neighborhood tea shops any more (thank you, Starbucks on every corner) and the hotel teas are far more expensive. Simply choose judiciously and enjoy. Individual tables, unlike the British Museum, so more fun if you're not alone when you go as you won't be able to strike up conversations with everyone around you. The menu is eclectic and fairly tasty, and the paintings are right outside the restaurant's doors.

  • 7. Posh For A Meal -- Oxford Street and Knightsbridge Shopping

    Selfridge's. Marks and Spencer. Debenhams. Harvey Nichols. Harrods. English department stores are the real thing, and still have one or more restaurants in each of them. (Some, like Harrods, over in Knightsbridge, have several restaurants and bars within.)

    I usually shop the Harrods at Heathrow before my flight back because of the better VAT situation. The city department stores' prices, as well as British VAT tax, make the Oxford Street and Knightsbridge shopping an unreasonable expense for many people. But you can still pretend at poshness by dining in their restaurants. It'll cost you dearly, yes. You'd do cheaper at a neighborhood pub, by far. But it will still be less expensive than a new suit at Harrods or a new hat at Selfridges, and you've spent time in the store and done more than "window shop" the goodies. And by the way, the food really is quite good.