The UK’s top cheap n cheerful restaurants

search-cuisine-panasianThe result of last week’s vote and sharp fall in the value of the pound has left many UK citizens rethinking their summer holidays, while others have pulled out of property deals. But it’s not just big ticket purchases that Brexit has affected. On the whole Brits are less keen to spend money in the face of political and economical instability that could rumble on for months as David Cameron makes clear he’ll leave tabling Article 50 up to his successor and Boris states there’s no hurry to leave the EU in his Telegraph column. How this will affect the public’s appetite for dining out remains to be seen. But if you are counting your pennies but still fancy a night out, we have plenty of suggestions. Here are the UK’s best cheap n cheerful restaurants…

Dinner (three courses) including drinks and service at all of the restaurants below is less than £35 per head. And all have been rated ‘outstanding’ (5/5) for food in our annual survey of diners. We would also ask readers to note how few of these establishments are British – just one of the many ways that immigration has positively influenced our lives.


Cheap as chapattis…

ragamRagam W1

Three courses with drinks and service: £28

“Standing the test of time over many years” – this “bright-lit” gem “in the shadow of the Telecom Tower” is arguably “the best cheap curry in central London”, serving “terrific South Indian food at great prices”; looks-wise it’s always been totally “nondescript”, but they refurbished in summer 2015. Top Menu Tip – “dosas are a revelation”.


Mirch Masala SW17

Three courses with drinks and service: £25

“You get no pretentions, just great flavours” at this “high turnover”, “café-style Pakistani” in Tooting, serving “really tasty food at incredible prices”.


al frashAl Frash, Birmingham

Three courses with drinks and service: £25

Probably the Balti Triangle’s most famous feature, this brightly-lit, no-frills curry legend provides notably “splendid” baltis to a very “consistent” standard. It’s not licensed, but you can BYO.


Karachi, Bradford

Three courses with drinks and service: £22

This “no-frills Bradford curry house always hits the spot” with “so fresh”, “truly authentic” Indian dishes that are “incredible value for money” – just “don’t expect smiles or cutlery”!


Jaffna House SW17

Three courses with drinks and service: £16

“Despite its humble interior, well worth a visit” – a family-run Tooting Sri Lankan (the dining space is a converted living room) where the “tasty” grub is “ridiculously good value”.


Screenshot 2016-06-28 10.58.22This & That, Manchester

Three courses with drinks and service: £12

“Down a slightly dodgy Northern Quarter sidestreet”, it’s “well worth seeking out” the “best Indian greasy spoon around!”; when it comes to curry, its flavours could “sink a ship”, and the “cost is ridiculously cheap”. Top Menu Tip – go for the ‘Rice and Three’.


Bargain veggie venues…

Sky Apple Cafe, Newcastle

Three courses with drinks and service: £30

“Taking vegetarian food to a new level” – a “café by day and a bistro by night”, whose “tastes, textures, presentation and inventiveness make for a gourmet experience in a very unpretentious setting”; “the only problem is deciding what to choose!”

Hansa’s, Leeds

Three courses with drinks and service: £31

“Avoiding the ‘brown sludge’ of many veggies with aplomb” – Mrs Hansa Dabhi’s renowned Gujarati is a stalwart of the city centre and “serves lovely food with alacrity”. “It’s the only vegetarian restaurant my meat-loving husband actually WANTS to visit!”


Get a Noma experience for next to nothing…

Screenshot 2016-06-28 11.34.41Norse, Harrogate

Three courses with drinks and service: £32

A “well-loved local café” that, by night, is “taken over by a pop-up serving a tasting menu based on modern Nordic cuisine”. “Following the example of Noma”, the cooking offers “plenty of surprises using seasonal ingredients (and the likes of goat, snails, etc)” and results here can be “really exceptional”. “They also make a big selection of very tasty, flavoured schnapps, so don’t even think of driving…”


Oodles of noodles for less…

Fuji Hiro, Leeds

Three courses with drinks and service: £25

“Never fails to please” – a “no frills, Formica-tabled” ramen bar in the city centre, where the “food is great and portions are massive”; “you can forgive any shortcomings for the best noodles ever!”


kanada-yaKanada-Ya WC2

Three courses with drinks and service: £19

“The hoards queuing outside know they’re in for a treat” at these cheap, “truly genuine”, “cheek-by-jowl” ramen newcomers in the West End (outposts of a chain originating in Fukuoka, in southern Japan); “the broth is so rich, the meat so unctuous, you’ll finish the bowl, even if you feel you’re about to burst!”


City Càphê EC2

Three courses with drinks and service: £18

“Closest to the streets of Ho Chi Minh I’ve tasted in London!” – an “astonishingly good” Vietnamese café, near Bank, with “wonderful” salads, báhn mi and pho; “be prepared to brave a queue down the street”.


For the best bargain buns…

baoBao W1

Three courses with drinks and service: £28

“A Soho legend in the making!”; this Taiwanese phenomenon has (with backing from the Sethi family, of Gymkhana fame) “successfully made the transition from Hackney street stall to tiny restaurant”; the pay-off for the legendary queues? – “heavenly soft buns filled with tasty, slow-cooked meat”, and “the best, crunchy fried chicken in London”. A Fitzrovia outpost opens in July.


Yum Bun

Food and drink: £15

“Great buns!” – the steamed Chinese variety, “cooked with passion and served with a smile” – make Lisa Meyer’s pop-up (now at Dalston Yard and Shoreditch’s Dinerama) “a must-go experience”.


Bit of a dive, yes, but a total bargain…

Screenshot 2016-06-28 11.11.32Shanghai Shanghai, Nottingham

Three courses with drinks and service: £31

“The real deal” – a “so different” venture serving “truly first-rate Sichuanese cooking that makes no concession to the British palate” (and as such is “packed to the rafters with Chinese students”); as for the “workaday” décor, well, “nobody is there for the stylish surroundings”!


Silk Road SE5

Three courses with drinks and service: £24

“A whole new take on Chinese food” – the “bold” and “amazingly unusual” Xinjiang dishes shine at this Camberwell café; “it’s all a bit spit and sawdust” though, and “the line of hipsters outside the door can be tedious”.


Roti King NW1

Three courses with drinks and service: £22

“Nothing prepares you for the simply wonderful Malaysian rotis” freshly made “in front of your eyes” at the counter of this “tiny”, “brusque” and “in-no-way-pretty” basement “dive” in “a grotty bit of Euston”,


Middle Eastern feasts for less

Fez Mangal W11

Three courses with drinks and service: £26

“Hectic, as it’s often jammed with customers” – an “inexpensive Turkish BBQ” in Notting Hill, whose “freshly prepared” food is “first rate”; “BYO too!”


Screenshot 2016-06-28 11.30.59Mezzet, East Mosely

Three courses with drinks and service: £34

“Always busy and buzzy” neighbourhood restaurant that’s a real hit thanks to its “outstanding” and “very reasonably priced” Lebanese cuisine; service is “very much with a smile”.


For brilliant, bargain BBQs…

The Rib Man E1

Food and drink: £12

Mark Gevaux’s “meltingly tender ribs and rolls of porky greatness” can no longer be found at KERB – now you need to go to Brick Lane on Sundays instead; his “fiery” sauces are the stuff of urban legend – “Look out! They’ll blow your head off!” You can also find the Rib Man stall outside Euston station.


Screenshot 2016-06-28 11.37.00The Joint SW9

Three courses with drinks and service: £28

“The best pulled pork this side of anywhere”, and “ribs and wings like you get in the deep South” are plain “brilliant” at this “lip-smackin’” BBQ duo; “you have to queue around the block at the hustling and bustling Brixton Market original, but boy is it worth it!”


Top Thais at bottom prices…

Doi Intanon, Ambleside

Three courses with drinks and service: £32

“Top quality”, “fantastic!”, “highly recommended” – a sample of the glowing feedback on this stylish Thai ten-year-old; evidently the “Thai/English couple who run it know exactly what they are doing”!


Screenshot 2016-06-28 11.39.32Oli’s Thai, Oxford

Three courses with drinks and service: £30

“This is proper Thai food – the very best you could eat”; it may be “tiny”, but this “basic” café “has achieved cult status” locally owing to its “incredibly flavoursome” food; “you have to be very organised to get a table”, though… “the waiting time is 6-8 weeks”!


For cheese lovers on the cheap…

Screenshot 2016-06-28 11.41.21Homeslice (group)

Three courses with drinks and service: £24

“Awesome pizza” – “huge”, and with “obscure combinations that work” – are well “worth the wait” (you can’t book) at these “fun”, but “crammed” and “loud” pit stops, whose Fitzrovia outpost opened in August 2015, followed swiftly by a site in Shoreditch.


Kappacasein SE1

Food and drink: £6

“The best toasted cheese sandwich in the history of the world” (and also “very good raclettes”) inspire love (and long queues) for the Borough Market stall of this Bermondsey dairy (which itself opens on Saturdays).


fishchipsCheap as fish n chips…

No.1, Cromer

Three courses with drinks and service: £33

“Superb views” add to the lustre of this year-old venture of Galton Blackiston (of Morston Hall fame). Downstairs, the main restaurant, is “a superior chippy, that’s very good of its kind” – his newer ‘Upstairs at No. 1’ has “more finesse and patchier service”, serving “mainly fish, but also tapas-style dishes”.


Sole Bay Fish Company, Southwold

Three courses with drinks and service: £29

“The opening of their smokehouse, obtaining a wine license and providing toilets (!) has transformed this delightful harbour shack”, which provides “spoiling, fresh, cold, smoked seafood platters” and a “buzzy” vibe. “Gone are the days when you could BYO”, but it’s “still best to BYO salad”!


Screenshot 2016-06-28 11.44.20McDermotts Fish & Chips, Croydon

Three courses with drinks and service: £28

Tony McDermott’s chippy continues to win raves for “the best fish and chips in the South-East”. OK, so it’s in a “fairly horrible shopping arcade” in the ‘burbs, but “this doesn’t put you off an outstanding meal”.


Cods Scallops, Nottingham

Three courses with drinks and service: £26

It may be “set on a nondescript parade of local shops in the suburbs” (“about as far as you can get from the sea!”) but this “is no ordinary chippy” – a “heavenly beacon for fish and seafood lovers”, serving an “amazing” variety, prepared “battered or baked in lemon, herbs and garlic”, plus “an extensive range of classy soft drinks, plus local ales and ciders”. Brace yourself though, for a “huge queue”.


Anstruther Fish Bar, Anstruther

Three courses with drinks and service: £25

The “BEST fish and chips ever… EVER!” is the main draw at this “popular” venue, with a “good location on the harbour”; this being so, there’s “no pretence to excel in terms of ambience, which is a bit in the style of a 1950s American diner”.

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