Secret Eats For A Steal In London
Psst…Want to know a secret? The secret all those smug diners seem to have been let into long ago, allowing them to seek out the solitary neighbourhood gem in an unpromising locale no matter how many chain restaurants stand in their way? The secret is, there is no secret, just a single-minded approach of letting your instinct guide you.
Keeping your wits about you will do wonders, but adding a few tools to your supper-seeking arsenal never hurts. An ear to the ground, a finger on the pulse and a Smartphone in your pocket, and you need never despair over your dining options again. The best part about London’s secret eats is that you can enjoy them for a steal. First time visitors will be shocked at the high cost of food in the capital, but with a little bit of research, there’s no reason why things should be overly hard on your budget. A few pounds in your pocket is all you really need to get the best of London’s most under-rated eats.
Get yourself on Twitter, follow the food collectives and you’ll soon know of so many secret eats you’ll be itching to tell someone. That may defeat the point slightly, because some of these eateries are rather diminutive and spilling on your secret may reduce your chances of nabbing a table. In London, it’s all too easy to get sidetracked by branded restaurants’ offers – but tell them firmly to BOGOF and keep your eye out for interesting pop-ups street stalls hiding only blocks away from London’s iconic sites.
Chinatown and Shaftesbury Ave
If you’re after something more permanent, seek out Sun Luen bakery in Chinatown for tea and snacks and Malay Kopi Tiam on Shaftesbury Avenue for interesting Malaysian street-style snacks. Don’t miss the local street food stalls, either – try the Malaysian Pancake Co., amazing meat-filled steamed buns, or candy-floss-like, hand-pulled Dragon Beard candy. Asian cuisine, when sourced from the side streets and laneways, will never drain your wallet like a visit to a main street restaurant.
Charing Cross Road and Covent Garden
Buffets always give the budget conscious foodie bang for buck. Did you know that taking an escalator up to the little shopping plaza on Charing Cross Rd delivers you to a Brazilian ‘weigh and pay’ buffet and an Indonesian shop that houses a tiny cafe? Upstairs at Covent Garden’s Jubilee Market you’ll find a hidden treasure trove of Caribbean fare. Just off Soho Square lies Govinda’s restaurant at the Hari Krishna centre, which does a nice line of all-you-can-eat thalis.
Around Euston Station
For bright, bountiful Indian food way beyond ‘brown curry and rice’, try Ravi Shankar or Diwana on Drummond St, mere moments from Euston station. The lunchtime buffet is a rainbow of riches from snacks and salads to stews and sweeties – healthy, tasty and pure vegetarian. The Indian YMCA canteen nearby also offers a daily-changing, failsafe fill for only a few quid.
Tottenham Court Road and Soho
Crossrail has played havoc with navigating round Tottenham Court Rd, but if it means a diversion round St Giles then so much the better. There’s a decent Japanese and Korean supermarket at the foot of Centrepoint, and over the road lies an enclave of Korean diners, popular amongst homesick students turning up for the shockingly cheap but stunning specialities they’re turning out. Ex-pats and tourists alike, for the sake for a couple of minor detours can fill up for only a few pounds.
Vegetarians might find it tough at a British boozer. Pork scratchings, Scotch eggs and sausage rolls are all firmly off the menu, so it’s a packet of peanuts at best. Not at The Coach and Horses , on the fringes on Soho, which has embraced this sidelined demographic by styling itself as ‘London’s first vegetarian pub’. Even more cheering, the menu is filled with the type of food that goes down perfectly with a pint.
More veggie options abound in Covent Garden, with Neal’s Yard, the hub for the meat-shy. Enter at either end via diminutive alleyways and discover a brightly-painted courtyard featuring a global cafe, a salad and smoothie bar, and even a raw food haven. Also on Covent Garden, the Africa Centre lies just off the piazza, with a home-style cafe open until early evening.
Islington’s Upper St is well known for Turkish, but have you tried Kurdish? Gem is a real gem at the Highbury Corner end. Turn onto Holloway Road and you’re a skip away from Georgian cuisine at Tbilisi. It’s worth knowing neighbourhoods, then seeking your own specifics; Edgware Rd for Middle Eastern; Dalston for Turkish and Vietnamese; Camden for Greek; Golders Green for Jewish food.
The biggest secret of London is that this whole town’s one big edible secret. Unique and unsung eats are to be had upstairs, downstairs and, quite possibly, in the lady’s chamber. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the best London dining is all about high end and high cost. The best-kept secret eats in London are there for everyone and affordable to all. Just bring your appetite and turn down side streets, explore avenues, and veer from any hint of a beaten track and you’ll find yourself in the midst of a foodie’s paradise. Never stop looking, never stop eating, and, crucially, never, ever stop discovering.
About the author:
Gavin Whittaker is a writer from London with years of experience over a range of finance topics. Gavin recommends financial products by Tuxedo, a leader in the field of currency cards and prepaid technologies. The Tuxedo travel card is ideal if you’re intending to make use of the food tips mentioned in this article. Gavin loves writing about everything from financial markets to lifestyle trends sharing insight on these issues with readers of a wide variety of blogs, online- and print-magazines.
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