There’s no getting away from it, London’s an expensive city in which to eat out. But the savvy visitor (as well as smart locals), know that there’s never any reason to pay full price in a restaurant – in fact, it really is possible to get some crazy bargains if you know where to look. Bargains that make eating out in the Capital not only affordable, but in some cases, an absolute steal.
In the main, this is thanks to the wonders of the Internet. And this is because clever restaurant owners have discovered that by offering deals to customers keeps their tables full. And in general, diners top up on extras over and above what the deal includes, meaning the restaurant still makes a decent profit.
But this is where the money conscious diner can seriously benefit, by ensuring that they stick to the deal offered.
It’s not only online that these offers can be found, there are other ways to dine like a lord in London, and not have to pay a fortune to do so.
The simplest method of getting a great deal in a restaurant is to look at one of the discount online websites. Sites such as Money Saving Expert, Voucher Codes and Voucher Cloud all have various deals on offer at any one time. Here you’ll be likely to find such deals as £10 meal deals, 2 for 1, 25% off or perhaps a free dessert or cocktail included. These all tend to be at popular chain restaurants that can be found all over London (and indeed, all over the UK).
Expect to find deals for such restaurants as Pizza Express, Prezzo (Italian), Harvester (best of British) and Beefeater (steaks and other grills). With these vouchers you simply specify your choice of restaurant, print off the voucher (or download it onto a smart phone in some cases), and present it on your arrival.
Another, slightly different method of getting an online deal is by using the website, Groupon. Here you’ll find various deals on offer, such as a three course meal including drinks, afternoon tea with champagne, seven course taster menus or even Michelin starred dining deals, all for a set, discounted price. Groupon is slightly different in the fact that you pay for your deal upfront, then call the restaurant to book in your preferred dates, turn up with your guest/s and enjoy.
Last Minute Dot Com is another website that provides similar deals to Groupon. This is a great place to look if you fancy a fine dining experience at a fraction of the usual cost.
Set Menus and Pre-Theatre Deals
Another top tip to eating out for less in London is by dining at off-peak times. Restaurant owners don’t like empty tables, so they offer discounts to keep the customers flowing. Set menus (where you get a limited choice for each course and pay a heavily discounted price) are a great way to keep your costs down.
In a similar vein, many restaurants in the ‘Theatre District’ (i.e. The West End) of London offer ‘pre-theatre’ deals at fantastically affordable prices. Sure, you need to be in, eaten and out in about an hour (or an hour and a half at a push), and eat 6.30pm, but for this small sacrifice you can dine at some great Central London locations.
And rather than wandering around, searching for such a venue, once again you can do all your research and book a table online. Open Table provides a list of restaurants, all rated by previous customers, where you can check out the menu and reserve your table in a few easy clicks.
Budget Restaurants and Cafes
Okay, so all the above is how to get discounted meals. But what about the best budget restaurants in the London? Because if you know where to go, and aren’t looking for white tablecloths and bone china place settings, you can rock up at any time of the day (or night) to certain venues, sure of the fact that you’ll get some great food at truly affordable prices.
Soho, one of London’s hippest and most visited areas, is (perhaps surprisingly) a great choice for budget dining. Eateries such as Mooli’s provide the delights of Indian street food where you can enjoy a superb roti wrap for distinctly non-central London prices (expect to pay £2.95 to around £5.50 for a wrap that will satisfy even the largest of appetites). Other budget dining choices in Soho include Princi – a canteen style Pizzeria and bakery, Yalla Yalla – offering Beirut street food and Gelupo where you can enjoy superb Italian ice cream, sandwiches and amazing cakes and desserts.
If you just want some food to keep you going, and are not bothered about sitting down at a table, then you can do far worse than purchase a supermarket meal deal. Large supermarkets such as Tesco, Sainsbury and Asda all offer meal deals that include a sandwich, snack and a drink for around £3 – great if you’re on the run or just need a snack to keep you going until dinner time…
The London Café
Last, but definitely not least, don’t disregard the humble London café – or as it’s affectionately known by locals, the ‘greasy spoon’. These small, generally privately run cafes are the haunts of builders and other manual labourers who know this is where they can get a decent amount of food for a fair price. Expect to be able to purchase an all day breakfast (including eggs, bacon, sausage, beans, mushrooms, toast and a mug of tea or coffee) for between £4-6.
Most cafes also offer other items such as sandwiches, baguettes, rolls and perhaps soup. You’ll eat in simple surroundings, and likely be dining with locals rather than tourists. But you get a substantial meal for a great price, and that’s the reason these cafes are so popular with the locals. Not to mention the fact that in such a venue you’ll probably experience the best English breakfast you’ll ever find. And that’s an experience not to be missed…