Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Cheap Nom Noms

While London has apparently dropped 13 places down to 16th in the 'Worlds Most Expensive City Survey 2009', it is still quite an expensive place for people who actually live here and feel the other side of the €/£ exchange rates of late that the Eurozone take advantage of.

A friend recently asked me how was it that I can afford to go out so much and afford living by myself with all the bills etc., plus have a dependant (just a kitten, mind you, but a dependant all the same!)?

Indeed - I do get cabin fever, especially lately now I've been trying to budget so this topic is definitely on my mind. Thankfully in summer there are plenty of other things to do in London during the summer apart from eat and drink but that's what this blog is all about, so allow me to divulge all my budget wining and dining secrets!



When I first moved here, it wasn't long before I heard about toptable.com - this is a website with a huge database of restaurants in London with a good search function so you can choose what kind of cuisine you'd like and what kind of price you're hoping to pay, based on your specific location. Of course, this website doesn't just encompass London restaurants - it also covers other parts of Europe, USA and Africa.

What's good about it is that when you can read reviews other people have left for the prospective restaurants, and to encourage other people to leave reviews you receive points for reviews you leave on restaurants you book through them. These points can then be used for free meals and a few other food related paraphernalia.

They also often have special offers in conjunction with the restaurants - usually 50% off food and the like. My favourite London restaurant Gilgamesh happens to be on Toptable and they always have a 50% the set meal price so I usually book through them.

Taste London

While I haven't actually received my card yet, I can't mention food offers in London without mentioning Taste London.

Basically, Taste London is a discount card which has 50% off the total food bill OR 2 for 1 deals with over 1000 restaurants. Surprisingly, there are quite a few well known chains signed up to this - a few include Barcelona Tapas, Bombay Bicycle Club, Caffe Uno, Gourmet Burger, Henrys, La Tasca, Strada, Pizza Express, The Real Greek and Tiger Tiger.

Of course there are some restrictions and drawbacks - many restaurants you need to book ahead, or you can only have a limited number of guests, or the card cannot be used on a Friday/Saturday - or the main drawback for me which was the hefty £69.95 price tag! But now I really can't complain - currently they are doing an offer with TimeOut: a FREE one month trial (no card details needed) & after the one month trial, the card will be offered to you at a slightly less gasp-inducing price tag of £49.95 - which I personally think will be worth it once I've used it a couple of times.

So those are the two main places I would go to for discounts on a wide range of restaurants and bars. However, there are a few places I like to go to which are either a great price in the first place, or do money saving offers not in conjunction with anyone else.


  • Hi Sushi (Camden / Covent Garden): Apart from Saturdays, they do a great all-you-can-eat sushi deal for £15 per person. Fresh sushi, mind you; not the conveyor belt kind. You also get other non-sushi food but the quantities of these are limited. I must say I have never managed to finish off all the things I order! I recommend the Camden one.
Sushi for 3 @ Hi Sushi, Camden

  • Nandos (Everywhere!): Next time you go here, ask for one of their customer reward cards - each time you spend over £5.95 here you get a stamp - if you collect enough stamps, you can get a free quarter / half / full chicken. What I used to do as a student was collect the stamps and keep the full card worth a free chicken for when I was broke. Much appreciated!
  • Abeno (Holborn / Chinatown): After visiting Japan and trying Okonomiyaki (Japanese grilled savoury pancakes) in Osaka in a dark, smokey restaurant with a massive teppan grill, I was dreaming of finding a good okonomiyaki place in London. After asking a Japanese friend about it, I was brought to Abeno near the British museum. Apparently this is where homesick Japanese people go for authentic okonomiyaki. It is considered 'street food' in Japan, and while the prices in Abeno aren't quite street food price, they are still pretty good - roughly £15 per head for great great food. Warning though - the staff don't speak much english so brush up on your Japanese first!
Okonomiyaki @ Abeno, Museum Street

  • Crispy Duck (Chinatown): whenever my craving for roast Chinese food strikes, I always seem to gravitate to Crispy Duck on the main street of Chinatown. They do good traditional roast duck, char siu, crispy pork belly and the like for really great prices, with no pretensions.
  • Dim Sum (Chinatown): Ok, I haven't specified a particular restaurant here (I've been meaning to do a blog post about it which would go into more detail...) but going to yum cha is great when you're on a budget - if you avoid the obviously expensive places of course! In Chinatown I wouldn't expect to pay more than £15 for copious amounts of dim sum and tea.
  • Camden Lock Market (Camden): You can get a pretty diverse range of food from around the world here at great prices if you don't mind either forfeiting seating or sitting on stairs or by the canal to eat. Some favourites include an Argentinian steak sandwich, takoyaki (octopus balls), fresh orange juice, chicken fajitas and some chocolate dipped strawberries.
  • Hotel Chocolat (Online): Ok, this isn't exactly eating out. Or just about London. But as I used to work here at one point and totally got addicted to the chocolate (even ate the dark chocolate here - I used to hate dark chocolate!). It can be a little expensive, but there are ways around it - end of season offers and the introductory chocolate club offer = cheap chocolate nom noms!

  • Dirty Martini (Covent Garden): Happy hour offers are fantastic here - £4 amazing martini cocktails, half price bottles of wine / glasses of champage / bar food and £10 off bottles of bubbly. Happy hour is 5-10pm Monday - Thursday, 5-8pm Friday & Saturday, and all day Sunday.
Martini cocktails @ Dirty Martini

  • B@1 (Everywhere!): They've got a massive range of cocktails to choose from, and their happy hour (which I think is different depending on which one you go to) offers 2 for 1 cocktails. The staff are ultra friendly and seem to be trained to party harder than the customers!
  • Browns (Everywhere!): All their 'Signature Cocktails' are £3.50 from 4pm on Sunday to close of play on Wednesday. Warning - some of these pack quite a punch!
Cocktails @ Browns, West India Quay

These are just a few of my favourite budget places - suggestions of more places are very welcome! :)

Happy eating,



  1. Am I the first to make a comment?

    Thanx for linking to the Hi Sushi place, not a fan of sushi but only eat sushi in J Land as I think the UK standard isn't up to it. Might try this place as some people I know love their unlimited sushi.

    I found your blog whilst searching for the Tastecard for £29.95 promo, forgot to renew it recently and there are no promo codes at the mo. As Rageguy says: FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU


  2. Nope, not the first but not far off either! :)

    Doh - yeah the last TasteCard £29.95 offer ended on the 22nd. I think the 'dinner' code for £49.95 always works though if you're patient there will probably be another £29.95 offer soon.

    Enjoy the sushi - the furthest we've gotten is round 3!!!