London is expensive. It’s expensive to live in. It’s expensive to travel around. It’s expensive when you absolutely need that takeaway on a Sunday night. But it doesn’t always have to be. You just have to be a bit savvy. And the same goes for eating dinner out. From a plate of handmade pasta with a glass of wine, to a bowl of bun cha noodles alongside summer rolls and crispy squid, the places we’ve suggested here aren’t just for a plate of food and a glass of tap water. No, these are dinners with either multiple dishes or drinks as well.
If you agree with us that £20 is the perfect psychological amount to spend on a casual sit down dinner, this is the guide for you.
Every so often we go to a restaurant that, seemingly, suits almost anything. On a date, or on your own. With your mum, or with your son. With £200, or £20. Supawan in King’s Cross is one of those. It serves a load of Thai food that’s both very good, and very good value. Share some fried chicken wings, a curry, and something else, and you’ll still have change from a twenty pound note. That means you should definitely order something else.
If you’re around Soho, a good value kebab dinner shouldn’t be a last resort, it should one of your first thoughts. Head to Berenjak for the torki kebab - a load of shawarma meat on a load of chips with sauce - and finish off with a baklava ice cream sandwich. Or, if meat isn’t your thing, the aubergine is pretty tasty as well, especially at £8.
This old school Sichuan restaurant in Spitalfields is ideal for a casual post-work spread. A healthy portion of pork and chive dumplings is just over £5, french beans with minced pork around £8, and the gong pao chicken is the same. This is a no-nonsense place that’s tasty and cost effective in all situations. Alone or in a group. Drunk or sober. Hungry or really hungry.
There are dinners for a score, and then there are fish suppers for £18.95 at Fish Central in Clerkenwell. If, like us, you’re partial to an old school place (and a set menu) then you’ll love it here. £20 is going to get you a prawn cocktail starter, cod or haddock and chips, and then a choice (yes that’s right, a choice) of any dessert. It’s homely, it’s filling, and it’s good value. Plus if you’re in luck, you’ll come on music night. It involves one man, one keyboard, and a lot of 80s.
If you’re looking for somewhere cost-effective in central London, head to Chick ‘n’ Sours for somewhere a bit lively that isn’t going to shock you when the bill comes. Starters like wings and nachos are all around the £6 mark, and their enormous - seriously, they’re big - sandwiches aren’t more than £12. Split everything (as you probably won’t be able to finish anyway) and you can throw in a cocktail as well.
Welcome friends to the £20 dinner heartland. Ever since Spitalfields Markets underwent its food-focused transformation we’ve been very, very happy. Although the restaurant kiosks change here every six months or so, the options are truly excellent. You’ve got the choice of Portuguese sandwiches, dumplings, noodles, shawarmas, and more, all in one place. It’s fast. It’s casual. It’s good value. And it’s damn tasty.
If you think eating affordably in Marylebone means a sausage roll and a cosy looking bit of pavement, then you’re wrong. Head to Fischer’s for an old-fashioned Austrian-style meal of schnitzel, or a bratwurst with potato salad and sauerkraut. Come with someone else and you can even split a hefty strudel, and all for around £20.
Out of all of the Kingsland Road’s many Vietnamese options, Song Que is the one we constantly come back to. This is the kind of place where even a little bit of cash is gonna buy you a lot of flavour. Order a pho or bun cha, split a couple of starters with some friends, and you’ll even get to squeeze a beer in for under £20. This is London’s best kind of affordable eating.
The Eagle’s steak sandwich is an absolute steal at thirteen odd quid. Even London’s pint prices aren’t going to push that over the £20 mark. The best thing about this gastropub, though, is that its excellent food offerings don’t stop there. The menu changes daily and the mains are always around the £10-14 mark. That means you can come in here after work, have a banging pork chop with bean salad, or a whole skate wing, plus a drink, all for under twenty pounds.
A bowl of pasta plus a glass of wine or a negroni for a tenner is a storming deal. Sager + Wilde do it from 5-7pm every day (or post 9:30pm Monday to Wednesday). If that, plus a dessert or cheese board to share afterwards, isn’t one of the greatest dinner time options in London, then we don’t know what is.
While Padella is the go-to for most people looking for a reasonably priced delicious pasta dinner, we think Flour and Grape may be an even better option. This place hasn’t got the hordes, but the pasta dishes are still delicious and can feed you for well under £20. This is an ultimate mid-week date or catch-up spot. Most pastas come in at under a tenner, which means you can share a small plate or three, and simultaneously feel both classy and sensible.
One of best pizza restaurants in London, Santa Maria’s restaurant in Chelsea is a go-to in an area not known for being kind to your bank balance. Pizzas are all around £10-12, plus, you don’t have to say no to a bit of smoked mozzarella in tomato sauce, or one of their £6.50 cocktails. Either way, this is a place for everyone, and everyone’s going to be happy.
Farang is probably Highbury’s best Thai restaurant, and it’s also the perfect place to get the most for your money. This is the kind of place you want to go and spend a fair bit in. Instead though, come with a friend or two, share a couple of small plates and a large one, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much you’re getting for your money. Basically, you’re going to be getting some very good noodles, salad, and a curry, for very good money.
Sometimes it feels a little like we’re Xi’an Impression groupies. And that’s because we are. This place simply serves the best northern Chinese food in London. You have to get their cold cucumber noodles. Plus, their potsticker dumplings. And their hand pulled beef noodles. And you can do all these things without having to spend more than £20.