Exploring the Gastro Underbelly of London

I’m here on a very strict budget – no high end, fancy restaurants this trip. Instead I’ve been looking for the discount options with portions large enough for my daughter and I to share. And bottom line – we’ve eaten very very well!

The least expensive options have been food stalls – and since we’re ‘market folks’ sometimes the meals are free! Finding time to enjoy the food of course is the big challenge – but as for taste – there are some amazing options out there. At Fenchurch stations – we had 3 different meal options – all only available for lunch unfortunately – but surprisingly good. My favorite of the 3 – hands down – was the ‘Asian Fusion’. Starting at around 9:30 – they would set-up and start cooking. They were making stir-fried meals of several different options – including my personal favorite – a fried chicken nugget wonder made with chilis and green peppers. The peppers were crisp – the nuggets yummy – and sauce delicious. I never did find out the price – they always gave me free tastes at the end of their day. It was yummy.

The other food options at Fenchurch included an Indian option that had Onion Baji, Samosas, Tikka Masalla and the like. Amazing that they could make such delicious food in basically a 9×9 tent with portable burners.There was also – for just 2 days – a soup kitchen. They brought the soup in pre-made in large plastic bags, and just reheated to serve. It was ok – but not something I’d walk out of my office to get.

The offerings at Allie-Palie were more varied since there were more booths in general. In addition to the Indian, Asian Fusion, Kettle Corn, German Sausages, and Meat Pies – there were these absolutely amazing fish cakes. I loved, loved, loved them – and the price was right – Free! I’m not sure they meant to give it to me free – they were intending to give them to the lady who sells bread at the stall next to ours – but when she only wanted one of the two they brought her – they handed one to me. Oh Yum. Probably my favorite of the Market Stall food I tried.

But it’s not just about food stall food – we also did a lot of Take-out food. Londener’s love take out – partly it’s away to avoid taxes – food eaten off premises is cheaper. But that’s not the only reason for it’s popularity – it’s easy to get food delivered. There’s an app called “Just Eat” that keeps your past orders on file – so you can go ‘same old’ – or opt for something new and fun. My kids and I have ordered in Indian that was delicious – done take-out of Thai that was also yummy – and once even opted for Fish and Chips. The price points are reasonable – under 10 pounds per person – and the portions sufficient to allow for an extra meal or 2!

For in restaurant eating – my favorite was easily Simplicity. This is a cozy local place that has Pork Belly as the speciality – and with a very talented chef in the kitchen. We ordered one dinner to share – which kept the price down – and without even saying anything – they double plated the dinner! It was delicous. Here’s their website (yes – it’s that good) – http://www.simplicityrestaurants.com (obviously – they are thinking of becoming a chain… wonder if that will happen.)

My second favorite was the Mayflower – again because it was just plain fun to sit and enjoy the view.

During our Christmas in Sutton Courtenay – we went to “The Nag’s Head” – so I did a pub meal. Unfortunately we were seated in the restaurant area – which featured an amazing view of the Thames – but none of the completely quaint Pub atmosphere. We did get to see how great it was – lots of big leather sofas and great seating areas. Next time I’m pubbing – I’m definitely sitting in the pub area. Food was delicious – I had a fish and chips dinner – and the fish was big enough for 2. And delightfully flaky. I’m clearly a fan.

Unfortunately – there was a down side – we tried two Japanese restaurants – neither of which I thought was excellent, and one of which I thought was actually horrid. Oh well – one loser amoung so many winners – it was bound to happen.

Things I didn’t get to try:
Peri-Peri Chicken – this has become the in thing in Montreal – and I saw several of them – but we never stopped in one for dinner. The one we did walk into – I walked back out. It just didn’t say – eat here – to me.

Pasteries – I visited a coffee shop every morning for my daily fix of Latte (at 2 pounds – it was pricy – but delicous) – and was such a steady customer that the gal started to make my latte as I walked thru the door – but I never ate breakfast there – so no toad in the hole – or even a muffin. Oh well.

Indian – in a restaurant. We ate Indian take out (well – actually delivery) that was outstanding – the Tandori Chicken was fresh, tender, and delicious, but we never actually went into an Indian restaurant. In fact – there are lots more ‘take-out’ places then actual restaurants – at least around Surry Quays.

Pizza – in a restaurant. Again – did delivery – but never in a restaurant. Again – delicous. We ordered the ‘meat lover’ which didn’t have that much meat on it to be honest – but it was yummy.

So – bottom line – lots of good food – and by British terms – not too much money!

Signing off to continue the search for the ultimate low-cost food option,
The Soup Lady