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I'm moving from NYC to London for univ...

Oooook... I'm an 18 year old lifelong Brooklynite who has traveled to a pretty good spread of countries. I'll be attending UCL in September. I have my own NYC restaurant guide with over 100 restaurants (made for my friends.) Am I going to starve to death? I'll be cooking for myself at least 5 nights a week, but I'm worried.

Basically I need some affordable core restaurants to build my survival around, preferably VERY local South Asian places. I can order food in Bangla (I already do it here :) ) so I really really really want a Bengali place with a good layout of fish. I also need to know of some cheap markets where I can get fresh meat and fish. I'm going to be on a viciously tight budget and I'm willing to walk/bike long distances for low prices. I'm used to getting a great lunch for 6 to 8 dollars in Chinatown, Jamaica, Prospect Heights, Washington Heights, Jackson Heights (more like 4 dollars), etc. I'm going to starve...

My only previous stays in London included no good meals. I was only in London for about 72 hours total, though. I've been to Newcastle and Oxford for extended stays and the food in Newcastle is unspeakably horrible.

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  1. Well my young friend (sorry, it makes me feel Obi-wan-ish), let's be clear on the problem you face. It's not a lack of good dining options. I moved from NY to London in early May and would say there as much good food in London, and indeed in some segments even more (authentic Italian and Indian food to name two). Your problem is the budget. Eating at restaurants gets expensive in this town. You've correctly deduced Indian is a good option. So I've got two very basic places to suggest to you near(ish) UCL: (1) India Club at the Strand Continental Hotel (Second Floor, 143 Strand, London, WC2R 1JA). You walk up into a generic hotel and find a drab room where they serve ok Indian food. Imagine your aunt was Indian, could cook reasonably, but not outstandingly and you've got the picture. It's cheap. If you need a drink, you bring your own or bring it down from the bar upstairs. (2) Indian YMCA (41 Fitzroy Sq, even closer to UCL) has a canteen that has been serving impecunious students for at leat 50 years (my mother used to go there about 45 years ago). I suspect some other folks will write in about bargains in Brick Lane. You should search the site for that since several folks have recently asked about good places to eat and shop for stuff in Brick Lane (the Bangladeshi strip of London, in case you didn't know this). Finally, something to keep in mind is that British grocery stores (Waitrose, Sainsbury, Tesco, M & S) all have much better prepared food sections than their US counterparts. They also sell useful Indian materials like naans and some curry sauces you can use in cooking (not quite like my mother makes, but sometimes you have to be practical).



    4 Replies
    1. re: bombaybeauty

      Much thanks, I'll look into both. I've been reading up on Brick Lane and I definitely want to scout it out. I also read another article on it which says it has been facing rent hikes and price hikes in recent years? Is this true and should I be worried? I'm going to be cooking South Asian, Italian and Eastern European food and it seems that I've gotten good supermarket recommendations for each. What would you say is the best reasonably priced Indian or Bengali spot in London no matter how far away it is? I already travel an hour and a half by subway when I want South Asian food here, so it won't be a big difference.

      1. re: JFores

        Notr enought time to read all the replies but JFores don't miss Indian Veg on Chapel Market N1 - it's an indian all-you -can-eat buffet for a ridiculously cheap price of £4 or something. Bit of a legend in the area. brick lane has got very touristy and will be more expensive (but still cheap). also try the Drummond St area near euston as they have a lot of cheap bhel poori houses round there. Dont worry re food in london - at least the veg here tastes of something, unlike the ones i experienced in nyc. And use local markets to get cheap fruit and veg bargains as they're overpriced in supermarkets.

        1. re: DietStartsTomorrow

          Yeah I shop all over the place for groceries. I'll definitely look into Drummond as I go to school right by Euston. Is it quite close to King's Cross and so forth? I don't actually know how far Drummond runs. I'll also look into Indian Veg. The veg things goes back and forth in NY. While I think the veg stuff I get is very good, it's always a side dish and I would never think of making a meal out of okrah and saag, Here, I guess it'll be a different story. I stick 99% to Bangladeshi food in NY so I have to branch out while I'm here. I've heard very good thing about all veg Gujarati places with an East African influence which I need to get to. I also want to get prepared food in South Hall. Brick Lane is worthless at this point (though the beauty that is Bangla World almost brought tears to my eyes. I've found better markets since then, but that place was literally the first thing to make me happy after arriving in London.) I've been cooking a lot of desi food myself so I've been reluctant to actually go eat it out, but when I get some cash (NOT THIS WEEK) and time together I need to travel more. Most of my trips have been very market specific (ei. Brixton every Sat., Sheps Bush, etc.) I still need to get up north. I've done a decent amount of the South, Tooting was iffy, I go to Battersea every Sat for rugby, etc. What other Indian reccs have you got? I was told of a Keralan place near Euston on this thread but there was no st name if I remember right. I need to reread it all.

          1. re: JFores

            The Keralan place would be Rasa Express, 327 Euston Road by Warren Street station. Can't miss it, it's bright pink. I haven't tried it yet but they do have masala dosa for £2 and change. I'm not sure how Keralan it is, as it seems to be all the South Indian standards. The lack of appam on the menu kind of defeats the purpose of a Keralan restaurant in my mind.

    2. "unspeakably horrible".

      Yes, it can be awful when coming to a new place. I've had some world-class vile food in your country (including your home city).

      I think it is indeed possible that you may actually starve to death in the UK. The food is so unspeakably bad here that most of us Brits are on the point of starvation.

      I take it that when you mention "Newcastle", you mean Newcastle-on-Tyne and not Newcastle-under-Lyme (which I would agree doesnt have much going for it in food terms). When you visted did you try Barn, Blackfriars Cafe Bar, Cafe 21, Fisherman's Lodge or Treacle Moon - all reputed to serve food that is slightly better than unspeakably horrible? Possibly not.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Brit on a Trip

        I was staying in Wallsend where I was force fed grease with a side of fish and chips for literally 3 meals a day, my friend's mother doesn't cook at all and I traveled more in the suburbs than in the center. The people I was staying with don't have a great deal of money, they live in council housing and the most expensive thing I saw them shell out on was a bottle of vodka. The name of the local liquor store was Boozebuster and had a Blockbuster themed logo. Tynemouth Fish and Chips was the only pleasant thing which entered my body during my stay. Aside from all of that, I love Northumbria and I did have a really really really good meal at a town near Alnwick.

        On the bright side, prices were more than halved the second I left Oxford for Newcastle. On the not so bright side, I didn't eat anything that wasn't fried or pre-packaged for the next week of my life excluding the aforementioned meal outside of Alnwick.

        1. re: JFores

          Yes - unfortunately you identify one of the big cultural differences in Brit society.

          There is a compatively small number of us with incomes that allow us to take an interest in restaurants and good food and to shop in supermarkets like Waitrose and Marks & Spencer. Then there's the many millions, presumably like your friend's parents, who are either unemployed or working for low wages and do not have that opportunity. Poverty is a terrible thing.

      2. Jfores --
        BB rightly points out that London and New York both offer great food – it’s the difference in cost that’s poses a problem.

        As an alternate to the big supermarkets I also suggest Lidl and Aldi -- European chains that offer products from the continent especially Germany and eastern Europe that are a cut above (in my opinion) especially the tortellini, sausages / wurst and some cheeses (plus cheap booze).

        There are several good Italian markets/delis in central London Gazzano’s in Clerkenwell on Farringdon Road and Camisa’s and Lina Stores in Soho. I especially like Gazzano’s – it reminds me of some my favorite places in Brooklyn and Queens

        For fish, I use Steve Hatt Fishmongers on Essex Road in Islington (Off Upper Street, not far from Angel).

        You probably already know about Borough Market and you can just about find anything you need there. There are several other street markets such as Broadway Market that caters to hipsters, offering a mixtures of food and merchanise and Ridley Road market in Dalston which has many Asian, Greek, Turkish and West Indian stalls. You'll find bargains here and on Kingsland Road in Dalston in general -- though you may have to look harder for quality.

        On the weekends -- there are smaller farmer's markets at Alexandra Palace in North London and another in Islington.

        Italian cafs are the equivalent to Greek diners. They may not all offer the highest quality food but they're good for basics -- breakfasts/fry-ups and sandwiches. Find one that you like and it should see you through your stay here

        And, if I may, no one here will be impressed that you’re from Brooklyn or that you can order in Bangla (given the number of South Asian people living in London it’s not that uncommon). Your superior ‘tude won’t win you any friends and unless you adjust it you may just find yourself cooking for one…and at 5-nights a week it could get pretty lonely.

        2 Replies
        1. re: qnseats

          I absolutely need Italian and Eastern European markets! Thank you! I've been seriously considering smuggling an entire prosciutto back from Italy when I visit my family there. Is this a realistic plan when I'm biking the entire way from Normandy? I have been to never Ridley Road Market but it sounds very interesting. Is the food there sold prepared in stalls a la ei. Jackson Heights in Queens or Red Hook?

          1. re: qnseats

            There are about 15 certified farmers' markets in London (see lfm.org.uk). Growing Communities organic in Stoke Newington is one, but Alexandra Palace is not. Prices are more reasonable for basic ingredients than commonly believed.

          2. sadly, you've got to think from now on that you'll be paying the same in pounds as you would in dollars - which effectively means you've halved your dollar stash. so you won't find any great lunches for 3 or 4 quid, but you will for 6 or 8 quid.

            you also can't expect to find anything resembling the amazing plethora of restaurants available to you in nyc - that is one of the seven wonders of the modern world. but eating in is a good option - fruit, vegetables, cream, meat etc even at your average grocer is so much better than anything in the stores at manhattan.

            bombay beautys tip for canteen food at india club and ymca is right on (but the ymca is about a 1000 times better). also - check out the grocers in drummond street (next to euston station), especially pathaks, cheapest grocer in town for fresh vegetables. they also have pre-packed microwaveable indian meals (made in india no less) which are dirt cheap and surprisingly good. the frozen parathas, chappatis etc are also very acceptable. and indian teas!

            another superb choice for you is green valley, a lebanese food hall on upper berkeley street (next to marble arch). the freshly made lebanese pizza is excellent, and the rotisserie chicken (3 quid) is an acceptable appetite quencher. the sweets, the ice cream, the olives etc are all outstanding.

            best of luck - and post here when you get desperate, we'll do our best to help out. where are you going to be staying?

            1 Reply
            1. re: howler

              I THINK I'll be housed somewhere on Euston Rd though I'm not 100% sure. Does the Lebanese food hall have the usual shawarma and so forth fair as well? Is the rotisserie chicken a whole chicken? I'll look into Green Valley.

            2. As someone just pointed out one dollar equals one pound, I just came back from London and a pub lunch for two (fish and chips, steak and ale pie and two drinks each) was regularly about 30 pounds ($60). You're best bet is going to Marks and Spencer's or Waitrose and getting food to go, their prepackaged stuff is fantastic.

              6 Replies
              1. re: bronwen

                YIKES. £15 a head?

                Presumably either a central London location or touristy pubs?

                In my part (and most parts) of the UK, it'd be £10. Tops.

                I'm always horrified when I hear stories like this - visitors to the UK must think the whole country is the same.

                1. re: Brit on a Trip

                  Sorry, no, £30 for two is pretty normal for all London. It's the drinks that do it. Four drinks can easily be about half of that, esp if you're talking about spirits with mixer, while a good-sized glass of drinkable wine costs about a fiver in London now...

                  1. re: drinkslover

                    Ah, yes, I was forgetting the outrageous drinks prices "dahn sarf". We'd be a nation of tee-totallers (or bankrupts) if applied across the country.

                    My £10 was a local pub price for, say, the fish & chips and a pint.


                    1. re: Brit on a Trip

                      Well, I had a very nice meal of fish and chips and a pint of London Pride at the Duke in Chiswick earlier this year, and I wrote down the prices so I know it cost me exactly £10.45 — £7.75 for the food and £2.70 for the beer. The food quality was very good, too. I do notice pub food prices, and while I'd say £2.70 is on the low side for a pint (though only by about 15–20p), I would bet that there are plenty of London pubs where you can get fish and chips for around £7.

                      Ah, and here is photographic proof, taken just over a month ago, of a sub-£7 fish and chips menu item in a pub in Soho: http://flickr.com/photos/kake_pugh/85...

                      And that's a Sam Smith's pub too, so the beer will be cheap as well.

                      Yes, if you choose to drink things that are more expensive than beer, then the cost will go up. I'm just saying that a £10 fish and chips and beer meal is quite possible in London, even in the centre.

                2. re: bronwen

                  When i checked about a week ago 1 pound = $2.05 US

                  1. re: bronwen

                    Can you provide details/specifics of these pubs? Which neighbourhoods for example? Sure London is expensive (and absurdly expensive in some cases e.g black cabs) but I for one haven't experienced $1=£1 spending equivalence on the eating front and I've been comparing closely these last 2.5 years when I've spent plenty of time in both London and NYC. What London definitely lacks, I'll readily agree, is the range of cheap eats that NYC has in abundance, what I wouldn't give for one of Chinatown's banh mi places over here for example.

                    If me and my girlfriend went to, let's say Walkers in TriBeCa, a bar serving food in my hood, I wouldn't expect to pay much less than $60 between us for 2 mains and 4 drinks total. You have to remember that the 28% extra (tax and tip) compared to London's 12.5 service charge provides one obvious correction.

                  2. You won't starve. We are here for you. We ex-pats will help you out. Learn to drink something cheaper than Coke, Starbucks or beer. The cost of drinks here is even worse than the food prices. I have people back 'there' send me iced tea mix in plastic bags. Whatever you do, don't tell British people that everything American is better. In fact.... it's not! You are probably among the chosen few to get to UCL at this point in your life - enjoy every minute.

                    Old Bubbe

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: zuriga1

                      I drink mostly tea, juice and water so I think I should be OK in that regard. Do you know what the prices of loose leaf teas are like in London. They're not bad at all in NYC Chinatown and that's most of what I drink; so I'm not worried about that. Haha, everything in America isn't better; I'm leaving for a reason. However I can say with total confidence that I am not going to find better pizza than di Fara, better Italian fare in general than at home, better Polish food (FOR THE PRICE ei. 8 dollars for entree, soup and drink with enough of my entree left to have it for lunch the next day) than Lomzynianka, etc. I've heard that the Chinese is better in the UK, though. I'm excited about that. I -know- that the South Asian food is better. Oh and I'm going to miss the chicken from El Malecon and the street food from Jackson Heights :(.

                      What does a really roast chicken from a Caribbean or Hispanic place cost around in London? El Malecon has rice and beans with a whole chicken for 10 bucks. Add in the fact that this is easily a meal for at least two and you've got a 5 dollar meal with possible left overs. Can I get a deal like that there if I look hard?

                      1. re: JFores

                        The British are the worst tea drinkers. Lipton, PG Tips... Good luck. You might find some lose tea in Chinatown, but I would suggest a trip the continent, which in any case you will find pleasant and instructive. "However I can say with total confidence that I am not going to find ... better Italian fare in general than at home." Sorry, don't agree here. I find so few Italian places in NY that can cook a pasta al dente. Lupa, barely. Instead here most good neighborhood places cook it right, because if they don't there are usually a dozen Italians who will throw it in their face. The difference is that that well cooked plate of carbs will set you back 15-20 pounds over here, whereas your overcooked NY pasta will set you back 15-22 dollars.

                        Getting to your final question. live by this rule of thumb: what costs 1 dollar in NY costs 1 pound in London, and you will be neither surprise or disappointed, though perhaps a bit impoverished and depressed.



                        1. re: JFores

                          Hmm, I've been here less than a year so I'm sure I have more exploring to do before I sound authoritative, but it's my impression that you do well here with Italian, just from what people say on this board, and in my experience. Kinda makes sense, since Italy is not so far away. I've received recommendations for La Porchetta for pizza, and I like the pizza near where I work at Da Marios in South Kensington. I've had less luck with Chinese food and east Asian food in general, but I'm also vegetarian, and it's hard to find creative Chinese vegetarian food. However, Korean here is quite good in my humble opinion (you can see that others disagree on another thread).

                          I recognize what you are saying though. I've found it difficult to satisfy food cravings that were once easily sated in LA (and for cheap), because I developed those cravings to what LA does very well. I'm slowly accepting that I will have to shift my food habits to what London has to offer, but I'm still exploring and have hope! (And thanks to everyone on Chowhound for your recommendations)

                      2. hey there, i'm a pastry chef, also a reluctant NYC transplant to London (albeit only for 6 months, doing a stage with a chocolatier), but the saving grace of our weak weak dollars is the quality of the produce and meat here, *especially* the locally raised free-range chicken. fish not so much, in my experience. overall, though, i've cooked much better meals for myself here than i have in the states. beautiful markets here.

                        anyway, my first piece of advice would be to accept that what you're used to is not what you'll be getting. i haven't seen a $4 lunch option in central london, and if one exists, i'm not sure i want to. if eating well is important to you, you'll need to cook for yourself basically all the time if your budget is really that tight. you can easily blow a week's food budget on a mediocre meal.

                        i very infrequently go out to dinner...i can't afford any of the really good places in central london, and the decent places are not exactly cheap for me, so it ends simply not being worth it to me. i can eat way better for way cheaper (not too mention way healthier...i do *not* get the english obsession with mayonnaise) at home.

                        i'm sure once you get to UCL, you'll find that plenty of your classmates are lifetime Londoners in the same financial boat who will be happy to point you to the cheap quality eats in the area.

                        don't know anything about the area around UCL, but there's a unique place called Momo's Kitchen in Brixton that's *delicious*, super-cool, and pretty darn cheap. if Bangla is not the only trick up your sleeve, whip out your French skills and you're guaranteed a great meal and a great time.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: carignane

                          Where in Brixton is Momo's Kitchen? I agree on the mayonnaise thing. The Italians do the same thing! It freaks me out so badly! An Italian exchange student who stayed with me tried to put mayonnaise on a hot dog!

                          A friend of mine from my Muay Thai gym is a lifelong Londoner and he literally said to me "When I'm in NYC (half the yr) I eat out for dinner three meals a day and it's very reasonable, but when I get back to London I start crack out my rice cooker and start living as if I was in college." That worried me a bit.

                          1. re: carignane

                            Where is Momo's Kitchen? It isn't in any search I do and no one I know here (including a Brixton native) knows it.

                            1. re: carignane

                              Where in Brixton is Momo's Kitchen?

                            2. How exciting for you! :) Moving is always scary, but you'll meet lots of new mates to explore the city with.

                              I'm actually located next door to you. I'm at SOAS doing my PhD (though originally from California...long story!), so I can give you a few hints/tips about the area. I imagine you'll be living in one of the ugrad halls owned by UCL since it's your 1st year. If you are and you're living in Bloomsbury, there's lots of shops and restaurants near Russell Square tube. The restaurants are fairly good priced for food (6 or 7 pounds for a main course). There's also a big Waitrose supermarket in "The Brunswick" shopping area near Russell Square tube. It's a more upscale supermarket. It's a good place to get groceries, but if you're really tight on money it's better to trek a bit farther. The cheaper grocery stores (Sainsbury's, Tesco) are off Tottenham Court Road (10 minutes walk from UCL campus). There's also quite a few good value restaurants off Tottenham Court Road.

                              TimeOut London is a fairly good guide to use for restaurants. I don't own a copy; I just look up restaurant reviews and ratings online and figure out where to eat accordingly. Unfortunately, meals for 8 bucks don't really exist in Central London unless you're dining at the student canteens and cafeterias. Expect to spend at least 15 bucks a meal at a restaurant of any kind in Central London (7.50 GBP). Just the price you have to pay to live in London :(

                              Oh and if you get really hungry and find yourself really skint...the Hare Krishans offer free hot vegetarian lunches on the SOAS campus during term-time.

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: misswills

                                ".. find yourself really skint..."

                                hey! you've gone native!

                                fyi, hare krishna offers (or offered, i havent been in donkeys years) very good veg stuff in vile parle (mumbai) at the iskon center, but you had to pay - albeit nominal sums - for the pleasure. whats the soas campus?

                                along the student hall lines, the malaysian canteen off bayswater is decent.

                                1. re: howler

                                  I remember eating at that ISKON center too! There used to be a place somewhere in Soho, not quite ISKON but something similar serving cheap thalis of Indian food. Not sure whether that still exists (and if so whether I would want to try it!) Cheers, BB

                                  1. re: bombaybeauty

                                    ok, which school? villa theresa, jb petit, walsingham, scottish orphanage, queen marys, sacred heart .... but please not cathedral


                                  2. re: howler

                                    Howler -- SOAS (School of Oriental & African Studies) is part of London Uni. It's located next door to UCL. The Hare Krishnas and lots of other interesting groups hang out there from time to time.

                                    I'll have to check out the ISKON centre...haven't been there yet! :)

                                  3. re: misswills

                                    The Hare and Tortoise in the Brunswick Centre serves huge portions at prices starting from £4.10 for a vegetarian main course (the most expensive main is £5.50). I find that a main course (which includes rice or noodles) actually makes two meals for me. They do charge 20p if you want your leftovers packed up to go. http://www.hareandtortoise-restaurant...

                                    There's also an Indian veg place on Chapel Market that does an all you can eat buffet for £3.50. I've not been there yet, but several of my friends keep recommending it. http://london.randomness.org.uk/wiki....

                                    (Sorry, can't do the add a link thing for the Hare and Tortoise as it keeps coming up with somewhere in the US!


                                    Indian Veg
                                    92 Chapel Market, Islington, Greater London N1 9, GB

                                    1. re: misswills

                                      How can I go about cashing in on the Hare Krishna meals? I was actually considering SOAS!

                                      1. re: JFores

                                        The Hare Krishnas are usually out at lunchtime...I want to say around noon or 1 pm is when they show up. Look for the long line -- can't miss it. :)

                                        What will you be studying at UCL? I'm doing a PhD at SOAS in food anthropology.

                                    2. To me this is a case of "foodie dereliction of duty". If you were going to London or anywhere else for just a weekend or a week or a month even I'd better understand this request. But you have the luxury of time "on the ground" my friend to explore and discover. Therefore you have the opportunity to explore and become the expert. Hopefully YOU will return to the States with a backpack full of information on London's best cuisine (on a college budget that is) that will be of great use to others.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Chinon00

                                        I just need a base to grow around. My base in NY was the places my mother knew.

                                        1. re: JFores

                                          I understand. But lets hope that you make maybe one or two foodie friends while there that can help you? I mean, you are going to LIVE there right? Good luck.

                                      2. get to Borough Market on Saturdays, you can have a good nosh wandering around trying things free or cheap hot food around the market, great produce too.

                                        1. As you're going to be cooking for yourself a lot, may I suggest you arm yourself with a copy of Jane Grigson's "English Food". Some great recipes and it'll tell you a lot about us as a nation through our food.

                                          As you're a student you won't have much money or time, so add in two of Nigel Slater's books "Real Fast Food" and "The 30 Minute Cook". I can't imagine being without either for finding something new to cook with those bits of things that you find lurking at the back of the fridge.


                                          19 Replies
                                          1. re: Brit on a Trip

                                            I'll look into "Real Fast Food." Most of my books are sort of time consuming. I have a Ligurian cookbook, a Sicilian cookbook, an Indian cookbook which has served me veeeery well and some random recipes. I'll look into "English Food." Thank you.

                                            1. re: JFores

                                              You're evidently a true NY kid -- with experiences (cooking, and other I'm sure) that most other people would be lucky to have by 25. You don't need any help my young friend,. you'll do fine. Cheers, BB

                                              1. re: bombaybeauty

                                                BombayBeauty was right about the prepared food sections of Tesco and Sainsbury. I was able to buy onion bhaji and other Indian delights at those supermarkets and they were delicious. I can't ever find anything like that at our markets back here in the States. I also noticed the great selection of fresh soups available; stuff like carrot and coriander, etc. They are packed in hermetically sealed pouches, not cans, which can only be an improvement on flavor.

                                                Oh, one more suggestion: I recently purchased a copy of "The Curry Secret", from Amazon. It's a small, British cookbook (for under 10 bucks!) that got mostly rave reviews from those who posted comments on Amazon's site. I haven't made any of the recipes yet, but one day soon....

                                                1. re: MysticYoYo

                                                  I'll check "The Curry Secret" out. I currently have a smaller Madhur Jaffrey cookbook which was my first intro to cooking South Asian. I did almost all of the recipes in that and then I started cooking recipes that my GF got from her mother (she's Bengali.)

                                                  Is Brick Road the best place to shop for fresh unground spices? Do they have the stereotypical Queens Bengali stores where you've got a big fish section in the back including frozen and fresh stuff?

                                                  Oh! I like soup! How big are the packets? Big enough for a full lunch on their own? I'd think that lunch will be my most frequent "eat out" meal.

                                                  1. re: JFores

                                                    Back to teas... there's a very nice tea shop near Leicester Square/Covent Garden. I once got a bunch of loose teas there but can't at all remember the price. They also sell all the equipment that goes along with brewing tea.

                                                    The Tea House
                                                    15A Neal Street, Covent Garden, WC2H 9PU, Tel: 020 7240 7539, Tube: Covent Garden, Show Map
                                                    Gift selections and touristy knick-knacks aside, this popular Covent Garden emporium stocks one of the best tea ranges in London. Of course, along with teas such as Earl Grey and Darjeeling, you'll find varieties from Turkey and Russia as well as black and green teas from China and Japan. And, to help you make the perfect cuppa, the shop sells all manner of tea paraphernalia including pots, cups and tea infusers. A worthy find

                                                    There are some good spice shops online for the UK - easy to find what you want. I've grown to love Moroccan food while here. The supermarkets like Tesco make very decent harissa paste and tagine sauces that can spark up chicken, lamb etc.

                                                    You are very food savvy and will do just fine. Travel to Italy for really good food - I haven't found much Italian here that I really like as what's in NY.

                                                    1. re: zuriga1

                                                      Thaaaaank you! I love Moroccan food too. I was a waiter in a Moroccan restaurant for a while and I learned to make 2 Moroccan dishes pretty well (a nice lamb one and a Ramadan soup.) Does London have a sizable Moroccan neighborhood? Thanks so much for the tea reccs.

                                                    2. re: JFores


                                                      Soup in the pouches (or plastic cartons) would be a 2 serving starter (about 500ml). So perhaps ideal for a full lunch for one.

                                                      All the major supermarkets sell them normally as "own brand" but look out for the Covent Garden Soup brand - probably the Mother of All Supermarket Soups. Great range:

                                                    3. re: MysticYoYo


                                                      Is this the one by Kris Dhillon?

                                                      If so, then it's very good for recreating dishes from your run-of-the-mill neighbourhood "Indian" restaurant but I would doubt a wider authenticity.

                                                      As you'll have seen, it relies on a basic curry sauce (as do restaurants and takeaways) which is then added to in order to recreate, say, a "Dopiaza". I make a double quantity of the recipe (about 16 servings) and then freeze it in approx 200ml batches (2 servings).

                                                      Sometimes you don't want anything sophisticated and you can then have this on the table within minutes. Takeaway without taking away, so to speak.

                                                      1. re: Brit on a Trip

                                                        JFores: Yes, as noted by Brit On A Trip, the pouches hold about two servings. I remember being dazzled by the variety. My markets here just carry canned stuff. People snark about British cuisine, but sometimes they seem light years ahead of us here in the States.

                                                        Brit On A Trip: Yep, The Curry Secret is by Kris Dhillon. Dhillon doesn't claim that the recipes are authentic, along the lines of meals made in Indian homes (those can turn out disastrous for cooks like myself) but these recipes are based on Indian restaurant fare in the UK, which serves my purposes. If I can recreate some yummy restaurant meals without having to use 97 ingredients, then it works for me! And for the price it might make a good fit for JFores.

                                                        1. re: MysticYoYo

                                                          Thanks for the confirmation. Time for you to get the big pan out and cook up a batch of the basic sauce - it really is good, just like my local restaurant food.

                                                          1. re: Brit on a Trip

                                                            Brit On A Trip: I'm the sort of person who needs exact recipe instructions or I can get frightened and confused. <g> I notice that the recipes in Curry Secret note, "cooking onions". Do they mean white? Yellow? Spanish? Red? Sweet? I once tried to make some onion chutney (I think the recipe came from a Moosewood cookbook) and it came out VILE. It was nothing at all like the stuff I slather on my naan at the local Indian restaurant.

                                                            Same goes when potatoes are to be included in a recipe. Waxy or starchy potatoes? Throw us a clue here, chefs!

                                                            1. re: MysticYoYo


                                                              You can take it that when they say "cooking onions", they mean basic white onions, whatever your shop or market has in. You'll really see only four types on offer - "red", "spring" (do you call them scallions - long thin things like a pencil) "baby" (only really used, IMO, for pickling whole) and "onions". You want "onions".

                                                              When it says potato in anything that's going to stew for a good while, I'd say you want waxy.

                                                              This is my standard onion pickle. It lasts forever and goes as well with a curry as a beef sandwich. I always have a couple of jars in the cupboard (this makes two pounds)-

                                                              Finely slice 3 pounds of onions and saute in some oil until transparent. Then add 4oz sugar, half pint white wine vinegar, 2 bay leaves, teaspoon ground black pepper, teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoon tomato puree, good pinch of cayenne. Cook gently until it thickens and look "right". Put in jars, stick it in the cupboard and forget about it for 3 months.

                                                              Sorry that this is a bit imprecise, but I've been making it for years and it's sort of second nature now.

                                                          2. re: MysticYoYo

                                                            I think the only people who snark about British food are the ones who haven't been here in awhile or seen the inside of a supermarket. My latest find is risotto one can pop into the microwave for a fast nuking. It tastes fairly good. There's a huge variety of rices, too. One of my favorite soups is Tesco's Chicken Thai. It's actually very tasty as are the Covent Garden Brand mentioned above.

                                                            1. re: zuriga1

                                                              You may be right about folk who havnt visited in a while - but it's still possible to find some pretty vile and over-priced (even for the UK) food.

                                                              It's the perennial problem for tourists wherever they visit - more so if they havnt used discussion boards or review sites like Chowhound, Trip Advisor, Onion Ring, etc. For instance, I'd reckon four of my all-time top ten horrible meals have been in the US - on trips before my access to the internet. All have been along the lines of "I am hungry....here is somewhere to eat". As a tourist, you never know of the great little place just round the corner which means I've been in two places that manage to serve vile pizza AND have lousy service. Another was a place near Times Square in NYC - horrible. And probably the worst meal ever in my life was when I got lost in North Carolina and ate in the place next door to the motel I found for the night. A simply awful experience.

                                                              Generally speaking though, I understand why Americans are surprised at restaurant prices over here. Europe does not have a tradition of cheap and reasonably good restaurant food in the way the US does. It tends to be either cheap OR good. I think it's another cultural difference in that, for probably most Europeans, going to a restaurant is usually something of an event (celebration, date, etc), rather than as an alternative to cooking that evening. I hope I explain myself OK in this - not intended as an adverse comment on either culture.

                                                              That said, I'm always happy to push regional produce and cuisine. Last weekend I was in the Lake District and, in most places, even the pubs, menus would usually be mentioning the provenance of many of the items as being from Cumbria or North Lancashire. You see that sort of thing in many parts of the country now and I think it links into the development of farmers markets (a great import form your side of the pond).

                                                              1. re: Brit on a Trip

                                                                There is probably bad, mediocre and great food everywhere in the world. That's why people shouldn't generalize! I agree that the www has changed the way a lot of us travel and eat. There's so much information if one is willing to sit and search. I can't imagine now going to a new city and not researching the main attractions, including food. I think with most things of life, one gets what they pay for - and this includes food. There are exceptions, and those are fun to find.

                                                                Btw.. I looked up your Lake District hotel. It's on my list!

                                                                We have a few good farmers markets in Surrey, but the cherries come from America! The price is outrageous. None of the local markets can compare to what I've seen in France. Maybe I've gone to the wrong ones.

                                                                1. re: zuriga1

                                                                  Drifting off-topic, but check out Linthwaite Hall also in Windermere. Not quite as luxourious, nor is it anywhere near as expensive. Nice food. Holbeck is unquestionably pricey - but worth it on this occasion - it was our 35th aniversary!


                                                                  1. re: Brit on a Trip

                                                                    Congratulations! That's truly a number to celebrate, John. Thanks for the tip. My husband (who is British) says he once worked at a Lake District hotel back in the Stone Age. I've only driven past the area going northwards and am due a longer look at the area.

                                                                    1. re: zuriga1

                                                                      Thanks. It's a lovely part of the world and, as I've indicated, very easy to get good food from the pub up to Michelin starred restaurants. And for me, it's only a 90 minute drive (my metropolitian centre is Manchester).

                                                2. London is pretty awful for cheap food. I've been around UCL: for 8 years now as a student so, a few recommendations: Indian YMCA is cheap and decent, the fish curry is the one stand out item. Rasa express on Euston Rd is a lunch only place that does great Keralan food, the dosas are exceptional. Decent Pakistani places: Raavi's on Drummond St, and a couple of places in Whitechapel (Lahore and Tayyab). Restaurant Bengali food is largely mediocre unfortunately -- there doesn't seem to be much incentive for restaurants to make any special effort, even the Brick Lane ones, though for a bog standard local, Humaira on Judd St does what it sets out to do cheaply. Make your own from the grocery stores on Drummond St. Chapel Market near Angel is one of the few places to get cheap produce in Central London (including some of the cheapest fish in London). For meat, the only central London butcher's I like is on Theobalds Road. Eastern european supermarket produce is proliferating, mainly Polish. Lots of Italian delis and groceries around. One of the sad things is the sort of Latino/Hispanic food so good and common in NY is non-existent here. The closest is Jamaican, and that's uncommon centrally and largely forgettable (a place on Holloway Road I used to like was worse for wear on a recent visit). A couple more studenty tips: there's food to be had below a Korean store on Store St. Malletti's on Noel St has amazing takeout Italian food, the best pizzas by the slice I've had (I still remember a conversation in the queue about Michelin starred restaurants in London worth going to, so I'm not alone...). The take away sushi at Japan Centre (but the quality's been dipping recently again). Any other specific queries...? Oh loose leaf teas. Again, hard in London (I ordered from French and Belgian suppliers when I was drinking loads). A couple of Whittard branches have decent leaves though staff are useless. Drury tea and coffee is another emporium with a decent selection. A few market-based specialist merchants -- teasmith in spitalfields, postcardteas near bond st, easttea in borough mkt. Prices are outrageous for the fancier stuff though.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: cavorting

                                                    good post!

                                                    try mohsen in warwick road for outstanding iranian food at a price you won't believe. the sunday special abgoosht is a marvel.

                                                    1. re: cavorting

                                                      I love you fellow UCL student. What major?

                                                      I've actually been eyeing Belgium for a lot of things. I want to bring back loads of stuff whenever I go to the continent. Do you know of any Jamaican food elsewhere? I travel far and into a very bad area for my Jamaican food as it is (though I love the place and the owner lady is really nice to me.) I'll try the pizza, but I'm sort of a di Fara worshipper and I don't even eat other Brooklyn pizza than di Fara. The lack of Hispanic food SUCKS. I thought you guys had a decent Ecuadorian population? A street food meal in Jackson Heights or chicken in Washington Heights are two of my favorite things in NYC.

                                                      Thanks for the Iranian rec howler, I'll definitely check that out.

                                                    2. Its heartening to learn of a young student who wants to eat well. When, years ago, I found myself in a similar situation, my calorific intake was mainly via beer. Perhaps that's nothing to boast about.

                                                      Last week I enjoyed a curry from the back door of the Rasa Samundra. I also noticed a few Thai 'all you can eat' places at £3.50. In Kingsland Road, you can enjoy an enormous bowl of Pho for £5 and further up towards Stoke Newington there are good Turkish meals to be had <£10.

                                                      The lunchtime offerings in various London street markets are exceptionally good value. I love the range of hot food on offer at Exmouth, Leather Lane, Chapel and Whitcross Street markets, mostly sub £5.00

                                                      I have it on good authority that Mexicali (Notting Hill Gate) are opening shortly on Berwick Street, so you will be able to enjoy a huge Mexican wrap thing for C£5.00 and buy your desert from the market traders.

                                                      Not wishing to get into a pizza discussion, but if you drink tap water, your bill at Pizza Express need not exheed £7.00.

                                                      You definitely will not starve!

                                                      8 Replies
                                                      1. re: loobcom

                                                        what is a 'curry'? i'm indian, and i have absolutely no idea what you mean.

                                                        1. re: howler

                                                          Agreed, its a generic term, but I am assuming that the folks down at Rasa Samundra are from the sub-continent too and it was on their menu so why not ask them what is meant by it?

                                                          If you are so angered by the use of this term, why not campaign for its abolition?

                                                          1. re: loobcom

                                                            the word 'curry' means gravy. so the question is: what does it mean when someone says they 'enjoyed a gravy'? thats what i dont understand.

                                                            1. re: howler

                                                              Not to butt-in but are you serious?

                                                              1. re: howler

                                                                We could have this discussion until the cows come home. Its simply an Anglicised term for , I believe, karai, Wikipaedia goes into a lot more detail. Its part of the vernacular in the UK and that's where we happen to be talking about.

                                                                Almost like like a resident of Hamburg saying.......................blah, blah

                                                          2. re: loobcom

                                                            Woah woah woah. Where exactly is the pho? Stoke Newington is where in London? North? East? I'll be living two blocks from Hyde Park apparently. That's going to be vicious price wise.

                                                            1. re: loobcom

                                                              Gang--Good to see the boards are alive and kicking! I was getting a little worried.

                                                              JFores, You will do well by picking up on all of loobcom's suggestions. I too say you can eat well and for less than £5 by hanging around the markets. I like Broadway Market in Hackney on Saturdays. Also--and I think someone mentions this further down--Camden Market any day of the week, particularly the bit by the little footbridge over the canal. I love the Venezuelan Arepas place (http://kristainlondon.typepad.com/din...


                                                              Whitecross Street is great for lunch during the week. No one has mentioned Tayyabs in Whitechapel yet--which is super tasty and very inexpensive (Pakistani).

                                                              Remember the answer to "Still or sparkling?" is "Tap, please" and you'll do well.

                                                              And check out toptable.co.uk for good deals--not in the £5 range, but you can definitely get away with some £10 and £15 per person options if you plan ahead.

                                                              Oh yes, and Kingsland Road! All those delicious Vietnamese restaurants. Not too pricey.

                                                              1. re: loobcom

                                                                Oh is mexicali replacing that CalMex place? I rather liked it, just because there wasn't anywhere else that did that, and their slow roasted pork was pretty good (smothered with guacamole....) Oh well...

                                                              2. Your best bet may be a greasy spoon cafe for a full English breakfast (avoid the sausage though). The quality varies but you might be lucky. It'll fill you up for the day and you get a big mug of tea with it. Time Out do a useful small book called Cheap Eats. But of course the rate of exchange is against you.

                                                                1. If you've got the time, mobility and imagination that you say/imply you have, you might be able to do all of the users of this board a favour by buying an A-Z and exploring, and reporting back on, London's equivalents of the kind of hoods you specifically mention in your post, which get precious little coverage and write-up here. Pretty much anywhere beyond Tube Zone 2 falls into this category.

                                                                  I'll give you some examples. London has many, many Subcontinental communities dotted around the place and in each of these you can find an interesting (and somewhat distinctive, depending upon the community's exact ethnic breakdown) food scene. There will certainly be good grocery stores in each of these places where you can buy good quality fruit, veg, spices, meats for low prices and you will also be able to buy in bulk which is cost-effective. There will also be lots of little restaurants, snackhouses and other eateries in each area and, although they might be hit and miss, it will be worth your while testing out as many places as possible using the age old smell test (literally and metaphorically). I do have some info but mine is somewhat unchronicled and/or out-of-date as I have been flitting in and out of London these last 2.5 years. These areas include Southall, Hounslow, Wembley/Ealing Road, East Ham/Green Street, Tooting, Kingsbury, Kenton, Ilford, the list goes on.

                                                                  There are also large Caribbean communities in neighbourhoods like Brixton and Dalston, you can explore these hoods in the same way. Middle Eastern/Iranian stores are everywhere with a proliferation in areas like Bayswater and Shepherd's Bush/Uxbridge Road, you can find good breads, nuts, deli items in many of these places. Look out for halal butchers where you get tasty and well priced chicken and lamb amongst other things, my local one is on Golders Green Road, NW11. Obviously you will want to frequent street markets like Portobello Road, Chapel Market (Angel), Church Street market (NW8), Berwick Street (Soho), Camden/Camden Lock/Stables Market (in fact check out this link for an exhaustive list of London's markets - http://www.touruk.co.uk/london_market...) and the later in the day you hit these markets, the better the bargains. London's Chinatown isn't the biggest or best you will ever come across but I've always found it fine and OK priced for grocery shopping. There is also a Chinese food superstore on the North Circular Road (here's a link, I didn't realise they had more than one store - http://www.hoohing.com/stores/park.htm) and in fact this reminds me that you'll also be able to find some Indian cash and carry places open to the public if you google/research. There are some Japanese grocery stores in Soho and Ealing (plus this online company - http://www.mountfuji.co.uk/); a few Thai grocery stores dotted around. You'll struggle for Central and Latin American options but there are small enclaves on Holloway Rd, around Elephant and Castle, in Walworth/along Old Kent Road, the communities do exist especially Colombian and Brazilian, availability of certain items seems to be slowly improving.

                                                                  Then there are mixed ethnicity neighbourhoods like Walthamstow, Stoke Newington and Kensal Green/Harrow Road which once again get no coverage here and which I know from experience over the years have some promising and more cost effective eating and grocery options.

                                                                  Here's a link to a thread which talks about 2 ethnic grocery stores which you might like to explore:


                                                                  And one final thing - I used to work centrally between St Paul's and Farringdon and had compiled a list of 40-50 lunchtime places in and around those areas that I used to frequent and many of these came in at £4-5 for lunch so I will try and dig up that list and post it.

                                                                  Have fun exploring, you'll probably find quite a few duds but please let us know about any gems that you unearth.

                                                                  17 Replies
                                                                  1. re: oonth

                                                                    Oh glorious God this is the best post yet. I plan on composing something like what I have in New York. My main areas here are pretty obscure (Jamaica, Prospect Heights, Washington Heights, Jackson Heights, etc) and I frequent them at least once a week. I make day trips out of runs to a restaurant or to a row of street food so I'll do the same to keep me busy in London. I pasted your post to a text file so I can start mapping out these areas. I'm especially interested in the Hispanic ones. Have you seen good Colombian pandebono in London? I love South Asian food and there must be plenty of it there so that will probably dominate my searches. Do you know of any Romanian stores or areas? Where are the Poles centered now? Is East London safe to roam? I roam Bed Stuy here safely; I've never even had a scary incident. Bad areas are so overhyped.

                                                                    This is exaaactly the kind of reply I wanted btw.

                                                                    1. re: JFores

                                                                      Aside from areas with a high concentration of South Asians, London just doesn’t have the variety of neighbourhoods where one ethnicity dominates like in New York. There are ethno-centred shops scattered all over the city so you’ll have your work cut out trying to find them all – but it will be fun and a great experience.

                                                                      I can make one suggestion and that is discover the joys of GREEN LANES.

                                                                      It starts in Islington at Newington Green and meanders northward to the suburbs at the edge of the city. Not well served by the Tube but you can make the journey by a combination of busses. And most of the neighbourhoods have an overland train stop that originates at King’s Cross. Or you could be adventurous and bike it.

                                                                      Along it you will find an array of cafes, bakeries and restaurants such as:

                                                                      Turkish – in Harringay – between Finsbury Park and Turnpike Lane.

                                                                      Polish – in Wood Green though I don’t recall a specific concentration in one area.

                                                                      Greek – in North Wood Green, before the north circular road and further north in Palmers Green

                                                                      Italian – in Palmers Green and Winchmore Hill, where I found what I think is the only decent Italian bakery in London.

                                                                      Detours off of Green Lanes:

                                                                      Finsbury Park: Specifically at the top of Blackstock Road where you’ll find many Arabic/North African cafes and shops

                                                                      Stoke Newington: A stretch of shops, cafes, restaurants off Green Lanes and Clissold Park on Stoke Newington Church Street. Not very ‘ethnic’ but the street has a very lovely ‘village-y’ feel. At the end of Church Street, where it meets the Stoke Newington High Street you’ll also find an array of ethnic food shops. To the north is Stamford Hill, home of London’s Orthodox Jewish community. To the south is another major concentration of Turkish stores, cafes and restaurants (and south of that is Dalston, see below)

                                                                      Other areas, some that have been previously mentioned:

                                                                      South Asian: Whitechapel, Brick Lane in the east and Southhall near Ealing in the west.

                                                                      Polish: Ealing, Hammersmith but represented almost everywhere in London now. You can pretty much find a Polish store on most high streets.

                                                                      Italian: A few very good Italian delis in Clerkenwell and Soho that I mentioned in a previous post -- and some to the north as mentioned above.

                                                                      Golders Green: Jewish

                                                                      Latin/South American: – There are a couple of shops on Holloway Road between Holloway Rd and Highbury& Islington tubes. There’s also a Latin American restaurant on Stroud Green Road in Finsbury Park but don’t know much about it. London doesn’t have a huge population of South Americans like New York does, but it’s growing and I’ve noticed more shops here and there.

                                                                      Dalston: The Stoke Newington High Street becomes the Dalston-Kingsland High Street as you travel south. Turkish shops continue mixing with Carribbean shops especially at the Ridley Road street market.

                                                                      Shoreditch: Continuing south from Dalston, there’s a concentration of Vietnamese restaurants south of the Geffrye Museum and then just beyond you’ll enter the centre of all things considered hip in London: the Old Street/Brick Lane/Shoreditch vortex.

                                                                      Hope that helps

                                                                      And as far as safety is concerned -- in general I would say most people consider East London and some areas south less safe than West London and north. It's all relative but aside from late night drunks London is on average is much safer than New York in many respects. I don't think you'll have a problem..

                                                                      1. re: qnseats

                                                                        on holloway road, there are a few bolivian and colombian restaurants (3 or 4, maybe). they're much nearer to the holloway road station than to highbury and islington.

                                                                        in addition to the shops at the top of blackstock road, you'll find plenty of afro-carib grocers and halal butchers as you go up stroud green road from finsbury park station. if you carry on up past stapleton hall road, there's a polish grocery store. keep following the road as it goes uphill then down into crouch end, and you'll hit traditional english bakery nirvana: dunn's.

                                                                        1. re: wleatherette

                                                                          Ah Couch End! Another cute neighbourhood with a great high street and village-y feel. I live down the hill and shop there often.

                                                                          In addition to Dunn’s, going north, as the high street spilts at the clocktower, there’s a good butcher, Freeman’s, that sells free-range and organic meat butcher, located on Park Road to the left and on the Tottenham Lane, the road to the right, there’s a new Polish deli replacing an Italian deli whose name I forget. Lots of other shops, pubs and restaurants too and makes a nice day out.

                                                                          1. re: qnseats

                                                                            the fishmonger, also on park road, is very good as well though not cheap.

                                                                            1. re: qnseats

                                                                              Yes definitely check out cutesy nabes like Crouch End, Highgate, Muswell Hill etc not to find cheap food options but to better understand how as London grew and spread outwards it swallowed up these "villages". Some villagey vestiges remain in each nabe.

                                                                          2. re: qnseats

                                                                            RE Green Lanes, be careful in Harringay as what you think is Turkish could be displaced Greek Cypriot. They don't like it if you assume they are Turkish. This bit of Green Lanes always used to be Greek Cypriot and has gradually changed over the last 20 years, but it has not changed completely.

                                                                          3. re: JFores

                                                                            Thanks for the kind words and some more thoughts by way of a response:
                                                                            *I like what I read in your posts - if you look to discover a city by discovering its food scene (and vice versa) then that's a great way to go. I did a lot of that when living in NYC 2005-2007 (although didn't get to all the Queens and Brooklyn nabes that I would have liked to) and it was hugely rewarding, walking/criss-crossing from the top to the bottom of Manhattan was one of the best days I ever had anywhere and I've done plenty of globetrotting. Made some quality food discoveries that day as well.
                                                                            *Agree that bad areas are over-hyped here as much as in NYC. I am the Forrest Gump of walking and have never had any problems walking around London. Just take all usual precautions that you would take when visiting unfamiliar nabes for the first time.
                                                                            *I don't know so much about the Latin American food scene in London but would like to discover more and so will be intrigued to hear about your finds. The Colombian community is apparently London's largest from S.America (see link below - is pandebono also known as yucca bread?) so there must be places out there. From what I hear, I would check out Elephant & Castle, Stockwell, Walworth more so than Holloway Road. When I next have a stretch in London, I plan to explore more myself.
                                                                            *The Polish community was traditionally based in Hammersmith. But that has changed with the new wave of Polish immigration to the UK in recent years and you will not have a problem finding Polish groceries anywhere in London these days especially East or West. I have a Polish/East European grocery store near me close to Finchley Rd tube station. I saw a big one on Stoke Newington High Street (I think) some time back. Some of the supermarkets have Polish food sections. Romanian may be more tricky but check out the link below, stuff is available, you just need to get out of the centre and once again will likely find yourself in mixed ethnicity nabes.
                                                                            *South Asian is going to be your best bet, check out the two linked posts mentioning a good and cheap Pakistani snackhouse (central and yes it is still going to answer my own question) and katlama and other takeaway options from Tayyabs.

                                                                            One final thought, you may be on a tight budget but it won't cost you much to actually fly to Poland or Romania on a budget airline and, if you're a single guy, you can lick your lips over there at more than just the food options.....

                                                                            1. re: oonth

                                                                              I'm going to sound really negative now, but I just don't think London supports the sort of street food/groceries typical of NY where I've lived and Singapore where I'm from. I've not often found interesting things in small ethnic places, and I do good wanders whenever I'm in a new neighbouhood. in fact for unusual ingredients, it's tended to be fancy places like Borough Market, or the food halls of one of the big departmental stores (Selfridges has a particularly diverse selection, if pricey. Don't know anywhere else you can dependably get brains and sweetbreads for e.g.) I suspect it's because of high import costs, and lack of a casual eating out culture -- which may be due to high overheads. So recent immigrants tend to cook at home, I suspect. And probably bring food into the country... well all the Spanish people I know carry in preserved meats whenever they travel back for example. Take bakeries, for example, there really are very few decent ones around, which is usually the front line of viable commercial food enterprises. I've only seen rugelach once, and it was pretty bad; the chinese ones wouldn't get any custom in the Far East; there's a dearth of quality French patisserie (ameliorated by Paul's and Maison Blanc); the recent wave of bread places are pretty good, but at 3-4 pounds a loaf, they should be (double that for Poilane...). Anyway, a few more suggestions to help people along... Edgware Rd and surrounds are pretty good for Middle Eastern groceries (restaurants I've found much more mediocre), though there is an Egyptian place near the station that does something similar to stuffed parathas, the name of which escapes me now, freshly baked with your choice of ingredients for 3 pounds or so. There's a great sushi/sashimi takeout near selfridges called Atariya I discovered via chowhound -- Japanese groceries from Japan centre on Piccadilly or various shops on Brewer St (centrally anyway, more around Finchley Rd, and further north and west if want to travel). I remember a good Jamaican lunch stall in Chapel Mkt, but it's been a while... and as suggested, you might be better off exploring south London which I've hardly done for central/southAm food. As mentioned above, there are some Caribbean stores and butchers near Finsbury Park. Oh there's a little row of Portuguese (with the odd Brazilian product) shops and restaurants in Camden, where you can get all sorts of cheap tinned seafood and Brazilian beef and other tasty stuff.

                                                                              1. re: oonth

                                                                                I'm heading there this summer, actually. Romania to be specific. I know what you mean ;)

                                                                                1. re: oonth

                                                                                  Pan de yuca and pan de bono are two different things. Pan de yuca is round cakey yucaing thing which reminds me of milk in flavour (weird for a bread) while pan de bono is basically a sweet/salty cheese ball that's actually bread. Cheesy and bready in balance. They've got them at Las Americas in Brixton. It's a somewhat pricey place (maybe I'm being cheap again) but I think it's definitely worth a stop if you're hitting Brixton Market or Brixton in general on a day. They've got some good fare; check what people are currently ordering and judge your order by that. Don't get the sausage;they overcook it to DEATH. The arepas are excellent and made to order. I buy bags of arepas from there to eat for breakfast each week as well. They're still totally convinced I'm Colombian! My Spanish is good! Muhahaha! Then again the pan de bono lady in Jackson Heights thought I was Colombian too... and sexy.... and she told me both.... BTW, pan de bono is usually written pandebono but the meaning is more easily noticeable if you chop it up.

                                                                                  I was told that Elephant and Castle is "a wasteland of tower housing and basically absolute crap" <<< exact quote. Is it worth my while?

                                                                                  1. re: JFores

                                                                                    Elephant & Castle is a bit scary to some people, and I should admit that I'm biased, as I live there, but it's really not that bad. It's got a large non-white population and it's not a wealthy area, which is what intimidates some people, but this is London and that's par for the course. The tower blocks are being knocked down so it'll be a construction site for several years yet! Go for a wander down the Walworth Road and check out East Street market (everyday except Monday). There's a colombian place under the railway arches opposite the shopping centre (I think called Los Arrieros?) which is pretty hidden away but maybe of interest to you?

                                                                                    1. re: babybat

                                                                                      Much thinks I'll check this while I check a Vietnamese place and another Hispanic place that I was recommended. So many recommended day trips and no unlimited bus oyster! Argh! Brixton is my favorite area so far (and I think it's a cake walk compared to many places back home...) so the usual fears won't be an issue.

                                                                                2. re: JFores

                                                                                  We stay in Jackson Heights when in NYC, I'm no expert but I agree with oonth that in London our South Indian communities each live in separate neighbourhoods, whereas in Jackon Hts they seem to be all together. Maybe not everyone lives there, but it's definitely a cultural/commercial hub. As a Londoner, I find the Jackson Diner overrated. Can JFores be more precise about the street food please?

                                                                                  Another thing that nobody seems to be analysing. Regardless of the exchange rate, I have observed over the years that it's always been cheaper in London to buy ingredients to cook than to eat out, and that this is less true in NY. Could this be because of overheads? (more space/land, cheaper labour, both in the city and production and scale of ingredients).
                                                                                  It would be interesting to know if anyone has studied this phenomenon, and come up with some kind of ratio.

                                                                                  1. re: jofoster

                                                                                    When you say, 'NY,' I think you'll have to perhaps be a bit more clear about exactly which area you're talking about. I lived 30 miles north of Manhattan, and it's difficult to generalize about prices of food. Unlike England, prices vary from neighborhood to neighborhood, even for the same supermarket chain.

                                                                                    That said, I think it's almost always cheaper to buy ingredients and make a meal at home rather than buy a meal in a restaurant using the same ingredients. Overheads are extremely high in both cities.

                                                                                    After living here for quite awhile and always comparing prices (even with the lousy exchange rate), I still think food in the UK costs a lot more for the same item than it does in the States. There will always be an exception here or there, but in general I think it's true. No one would think of paying over a dollar for a small lettuce in the States. I paid £.85 for one in Tesco today - highway robbery!

                                                                                    1. re: jofoster

                                                                                      Actually Jackson Heights is overwhelmingly Bengali/Bangladeshi. There's virtually no presence left from any other South Asian group, they all just happen to own the jewelry stores and quite a few businesses, but all the staff is Bengali. JH is pretty much the mecca of Bengali's in NY and anyone having a wedding in the north east. Onto the food

                                                                                      JH Diner is nothing special. I would never eat there. Spicy Mina's is quite good nearby, but it's inconsistent and you have to stick exclusively to Bengali specialties. Given that, I'm annoyed that she has no ilish dishes at all. The street food I refer to is entirely Hispanic and it dominates Roosevelt and it's side streets from about 78th all the way to Junction. JH is by far the best food location to live in all of NY. Actually no, Flushing can challenge that. Depends on what you like, but I definitely want to live in JH when I move back.

                                                                                      As far as ingredients go, it's much much much much cheaper in NY if you go to proper areas. Brixton is the only place the makes food prices here reasonable. Well, Southhall too and various other outer London destinations. Croydon, etc. Same for NY. Price varies heavily by area and you can bargain in certain places too. The currency is murder here. The labor in NY is definitely FAR CHEAPER, but if you only look at #s not the exchange, then it's similar. The wages paid to students in London are disgraceful. Also, I definitely don't see how a packed in island with boroughs has more land than a city which can perpetually expand (but has chosen not to, leaving it highly underdeveloped and causing you to wonder if you're in Long Island whenever you go past zone 3.)

                                                                                      1. re: JFores

                                                                                        Sorry to interrupt, but we'd like to keep this board focused on UK chow and we see that things are starting to veer away from UK chow to topics that are exclusively wages and Queens, NY, which are off-topic for this board. Please continue further discussions on Jackson Heights, JH Diner or Spicy Mina's on the Outer Boroughs Board. Thanks for helping us keep the boards organized, so that tons of lurkers and readers can use this resource effectively.

                                                                                3. They threw me to the wolves. I'm housed in MAYFAIR. The price of food around me is astounding. The Arab markets nearby aren't bad, though.

                                                                                  19 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: JFores

                                                                                    have you been to green valley yet?

                                                                                    1. re: howler

                                                                                      No. Where is it? I don't see it on my map.

                                                                                      1. re: JFores

                                                                                        its on upper berkeley street, very close to where you are.

                                                                                        1. re: howler

                                                                                          I think I know where that is. I'll go check it out. By the way, none of the Arab stores post prices on their produce and I really don't know what to offer. I desperately need plum tomatoes in order to make a red sauce and I can't find them. I've never used anything but plum tomatoes and my mother scoffed at using anything else when I asked her about it over the phone. We're Italian... Are beef steaks a viable substitute or does someone know where to get them? I'd also like other Italian vegetables like fennel and such; which I've seen none of. I have a nice list of places to go to which I'll check out this week end. The free hare krishna food is acceptable, but I turned to a lamb serving Indian spot near my school instead. I get a nice portion with rice and an appetizer for 3.50. The lamb itself is actually quite good. The spinach is eh and the rice is nothing special, but I was able to have my meal from there for lunch and dinner today. I got nice packets of specially mixed loose leaf tea at a random church market from a nice Indian woman who was a student at another uni. She gave me 50% off after we talked about my financial damnation so I got literally months worth of exotic tea for 5 pounds. DRINKS ARE EXPENSIVE AT CLUBS HERE!!!

                                                                                          1. re: JFores

                                                                                            a) booze in pubs, not clubs. better still, enjoy some wine at home before heading out.

                                                                                            b) if green valley doesn't have its produce priced by weight, ask someone! anyway, they'll weigh it at the register, and feel free to refuse to buy if you think its too much. by the way, its the single best spot for cheap eating there is - a whole roasted (small) chicken sets you back a few quid, lather with extra toom (garlic sauce, make sure you get it) and enjoy. ditto with the freshly made pizzas at the back - the lamb pizza is SENSATIONAL. dont miss the wonderful ice creams or the killer sweets either.

                                                                                            1. re: JFores

                                                                                              You should be able to find fennel in every supermarket. It's a popular item over here (one I've added on to my repertoire in a few dishes - with fish, beets). I buy some all the time.

                                                                                              1. re: zuriga1

                                                                                                My locals have neither fennel nor plum tomatoes. I'm hitting Green Valley this weekend.

                                                                                            2. re: howler

                                                                                              Green Valley is the only store in my nabe that I like. I keep getting the shame cashier and she says hi and so forth now so that's good. I do most of my shopping in Southall or Brixton atm though.

                                                                                                1. re: howler

                                                                                                  Nope. I've been getting groceries there, basically. I made my own pizza the other day though!

                                                                                                  1. re: JFores

                                                                                                    treat yourself to an ashta ice cream then! or try a large date maamoul.

                                                                                                    1. re: howler

                                                                                                      I got a life time supply of dates there for damn cheap.

                                                                                                      1. re: howler

                                                                                                        You've inspired me to ask a Syrian friend of mine to get her mother's toom recipe!

                                                                                          2. re: JFores

                                                                                            Welcome to London. No they didn't throw you to the wolves, they put you in one of the most desirable neighbourhoods in the city, I know lots of people who would be delighted to be living where you are :-) But yes it is expensive so now's the time to be mobile and imaginative and follow some of the leads in this thread as well as finding some of your own, London really need not be as expensive for you as you've been told. In NYC, I lived in TriBeCa most of the time, not the hood you want to be doing your everyday shopping in and so, even though I didn't have budget issues, I spread my wings - like I said before, discovering a city's food culture is a great way to discover a city.

                                                                                            Another tip for you. Get the jubilee line to Dollis Hill. Walk down Dudden Hill Road and High Road, Willesden and you will come across a plethora of ethnic shops and restaurants on both sides of the two roads. In an approx 1km stretch, I counted 2 Brazilian markets (one of which has a cafe and garden in the back and does a rodizio on the weekends, it's called Armazem Brazil, I bought some tins of Guarana), 2 Polish markets, at least 2 halal butchers, a Romanian restaurant, a Persian restaurant, 2 Indian snackhouses (with some very cheap Indian sandwich and snack offerings), 1 Indian restaurant (again with some cheap options), a Moroccan cafe, a few Pakistani general shops (in one of which I picked up a superb box of honey mangoes for £3.49), I may have forgotten some other options but you get my drift, at least a couple of them have to be worthwhile and they're all cheap.

                                                                                            Have you bought an A-Z yet?

                                                                                            1. re: oonth

                                                                                              Absolutely awesome man. I'll check this place out either tomorrow between my orientation meetings or the day after. I'm disgustingly free until classes start.

                                                                                              That box of mangos is sounding GOOD. That's a good price for NY.

                                                                                              The thing is, in Brooklyn and NYC I usually ate for about 5 dollars a meal. If you want my restaurant guide thing I'll send you it.

                                                                                              1. re: JFores

                                                                                                Yep the mango scene is much better here than in NYC. In fact the exotic fruit scene in general as, amongst other things, we don't have all the health and safety limitations.

                                                                                                Btw, I was a student in London in the early 90s and remember being disgustingly free even after classes had started :-)


                                                                                                1. re: oonth

                                                                                                  Yeah I'm still disgustingly free. I trek out to Latimer Road (not a nice spot and I've walked it for food. Just not too nice an area) for MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) in a gym that looks like it came out of some 1980s fighter movie (oh it's bad.) I have a list of trips put together now and the one you just suggested is DEFINITELY going to be done soon. I need to get to the Brazilian place. I haven't gotten a walking to obscure places buddy yet (my girlfriend in Brooklyn used to walk anywhere with me. We walked all of Bedford Avenue on a whim, the entire Flatbush part was walked at night too. Good walk. All of B'way in Bkln and the city too. Long walk.)

                                                                                                  It's nice that you can walk anywhere in London. I walked to Brixton on a whim by following my usual bus route. I've also walked as far east as Whitechapel. The farthest west I've been was part of Southhall and Ealing, but I didn't get to do or see enough besides what was on the bus routes. I saw some intriguing Somali stuff in a strip on the way.

                                                                                              2. re: oonth

                                                                                                Is their rodizio Sat and Sun? I've got a friend who definitely wants to come along for it (FINALLY.)

                                                                                                1. re: JFores

                                                                                                  I´m afraid I can´t remember whether they said it was on both weekend days or just one of them. I found their number for you - 020 8830 1395 - so give them a call and ask. I hope that it proves to be a good tip and that you find some other good stuff on that walk between Dollis Hill to Willesden stations. I think that you´ll like some of the stuff around Kingsbury station but note that it is all Gujurati, nothing Bengali in sight.

                                                                                                  Btw keep meaning to reply to your post above, I´ve been out of the country and moving around a good deal. Suffice to say that I have enjoyed your contributions and think that this thread is adding some useful extra dimensions to this board. Anyway will post a proper reply with some more ideas and thoughts when I next have time.

                                                                                            2. I made the same move to study at UCL 11 years ago.. lived two blocks from Euston Station (Gower Place). I am sure that the dining scene around there has changed a lot since then, so I will leave the restaurant recommendations to others. I actually did a lot of cooking while I was there, for the first time in my life.There was a pretty good supermarket just a few short blocks west of where I was, across the street from a large UCL building.. sorry, I can't recall the name. If I recall correctly, there is a great bakery right in Euston Station, with good breads and pastries.... anyone know which I am referring to? Have fun, JFores!

                                                                                              1. Where is Momo's Kitchen in Brixton? I was wandering there yesterday and I bought enough food to last two weeks (with meat and fish) for 14 pounds. I just made a jerk marinade and bagged my chicken with it for tomorrow. I forgot to put vinegar in it completely! It smells and tastes right, but will it be OK without vinegar, some onion, allspice and orange juice? I did manage to find and use scotch bonnets or it. Yay. Great shopping in Brixton. My favorite area aside from Southhall and Bricklane now (Deshi bias.)

                                                                                                6 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: JFores

                                                                                                  Glad to hear that you're finding nabes where you can get your goods at sane prices. Are you amazed at the difference in pricing between central and outer London? I keep saying that there is some value to be had in London but very little of it is central.

                                                                                                  What have you found to your liking in Southall and on Brick Lane? You should check out Kingsbury (see my recent posts) for Indian produce and snackhouses, you could combine this with Willesden/Dollis Hill, same tube line, not so far apart. Also Green Street in East London is worth a visit, it's a long old street with plenty of food and other options.

                                                                                                  Have you had a chance so far to check out any Latin American options in South London?

                                                                                                  1. re: oonth

                                                                                                    I'll definitely check out all o the above listed. The only Latin American that I've had was at a Colombian store in Brixton as well as a Colombian butcher. I have Colombian friends here who plan to show me a lot more. I want to check out the Brixton football field food scene; apparently it's like Red Hook. I also need to get to Holloway and Green Lanes. I'll probably do that next weekend. The fact that I need to attend classes and cook three meals a day keeps me pretty sedentary during the week (excluding literally nightly club adventures, parties in East London, common room drinking, etc.)

                                                                                                    1. re: JFores

                                                                                                      If you're craving Colombian food, there's a place on the Old Kent Road (http://www.streetmap.co.uk/newmap.srf...) called Paradillos del Sur (sp?) that's very good and not expensive; and after lunch you can stroll up East St to the market (closed monday). There's also a latin place in the Elephant & Castle shopping centre (1st floor). I'd echo what other posters have said that there *is* good food in London, but it'll feel very expensive given the exchange rate, and there isn't much of a street food culture here yet. But there are lots of great places to buy stuff to cook at home, and great restaurants for every spectrum of budget!

                                                                                                      1. re: babybat

                                                                                                        I'll take a look. I was at one on Electric Avenue that has excellent arepas.

                                                                                                      2. re: JFores

                                                                                                        I was up on Green Lanes in Haringay this weekend -- it may have already been mentioned but there's a Turkish grocery/fruit & veg/deli called Yaser Halim with a connected bakery next door, both excellent. (Piccadilly to Manor House. The parade of shops is about a 10-15 minute walk north of the Station; or you can hop on a bus.)

                                                                                                        1. re: qnseats

                                                                                                          I need to get up there. I'm trying to plan it via a bus route. I've been nagging my family back home to give me money for an unlimited bus pas but until now I need to keep my bus travel to a minimum. I'll hopefully get out to Green Lanes Sunday if I'm not too destroyed from all the partying which will ensue after England beats South Africa in the world cup. Not to mention that I have to go to Brixton every Saturday for my groceries for the week and follow that up with the rugby game at a nice pub between Clap and Battersea. Once I free my Saturdays up I should get a lot more mobile.

                                                                                                  2. I was at UCL 1977-1980 and it was more expensive than $6-$8 even then

                                                                                                    Suggest you forget your bike, increase your carbon footprint and scuttle off to Ryanair.com and off to Bratislava or Tallin each weekend for 1 pound.

                                                                                                    At least at UCL you will get a decent education so you will be less prone to making such absurd comments about the food of a whole nation

                                                                                                    You remind me of the chef at Citronelle in Washington DC who quotes the wine expert Robert Parker as follows:

                                                                                                    "A great chef, who is cooking at a level which far exceeds any Michelin three star chef in France"

                                                                                                    So Mr Parker has eaten every dish every night at all of them has he?

                                                                                                    I hope you actually try a few good restaurants whilst you are here as otherwise you will probably regale everyone with tales of the unspeakably bad food in England but with a few years of experience rather than a few days!

                                                                                                    By the way, Grits and Denny's and "coffee" at Starbucks aren't all you get in the US are they?

                                                                                                    15 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: kphilbin

                                                                                                      Actually Bratislava is a nice idea and a nice city. After a month here, the prepared food that I've found has still been pretty disappointing. I can afford basically nothing, but Brixton market has been serving me very well; I've been cooking three meals a day almost every day. My Eid haleem did last for a damn long time though.

                                                                                                      When I generalize about the UK I am making a generalization directed at... let's see...

                                                                                                      The almost total lack of proper street food here, the complete absence of anything both reasonably priced and good in what I've seen of central London, the fact that I have to travel to Brixton or South Hall to do my shopping and the fact that the Bengali food in Brick Lane has thus far been VASTLY below what I get in Jamaica at 169th or in Jackson Heights. The food here has been awful and I am absolutely appalled by the "good food, high price" culture that dominates what I've seen of London so far. Prices aren't even reasonable as far away as Shepherds Bush. Prepared meals in Brixton are even quite steep with 4.50 being about the average for plated food.

                                                                                                      I could easily find three meals (all of which I would enjoy more than any prepared food I've yet had in London) for $12 in New York City. Hell, I could have 5 meals if I restricted it only to street food. Congee for breakfast, hand pulled noodles for lunch and ma po do fu for dinner would easily come in under budget. I may be generalizing about an entire country, but what I've seen so far is horribly bleak. I still need to get to the Gujarati sections of North London, a Thai community above London, Green Lanes, etc. It's just that what I've seen in Brixton, Vauxhall, Shepherds Bush, Clapham, Battersea, White Chapel, Brick Lane (actually I'm being unfair. There was a pretty good bagel shop in Brick Lane), New Gate, Southall (didn't get to sufficiently explore as it was more of an in and out shopping trip for spices and such), South Kensington, North Kensington, Mayfaire, Bloomsbury, Islington, Camden, Holborn, the City, etc has been sorely disappointing. Oh yeah and the China Town here is a joke and the place I was taken to with "food that all my Chinese friends rave about" was horrible. Not to mention that a bowl of congee was 4.50. How can you even begin to justify selling boiled down rice with some shredded pork and a preserved egg for $9? It's insulting. Ok rant over. PLEASE DO NOT TAKE THIS AS AN ATTACK ON ALL OF LONDON'S FOOD! I still need to hit a load of desi areas on the outskirts (Brick Lane left me so disappointed though. I had high hopes for some reason. I'm really fanatical about Bengali food and I need to find another large Bengali community) and the judgments which I made above are directed ONLY at restaurants. The markets in London are VASTLY superior to those in NYC (though I still can't find escarole to save my life.)

                                                                                                      With my entire grocery budget for the week including meat and fish being under twenty pounds, I can't just throw away five pounds on a dissapointing meal. I need to be sure about these things and I can never ever ever ever spend more than about 7 pounds on a meal. That would really screw me for the week.

                                                                                                      1. re: JFores

                                                                                                        I'm sorry to hear that you're struggling to find decent food - I assure you, it is out there! I think the dollar/pound comparison can be misleading though - while £4.50 may seem expensive in terms of its dollar equivalent, most people in London earn enough for this to not be extravagant. After all, the minimum wage is £5.52 ($11) and for me £4.50 is equivalent to less than 20 minutes work at my current job, which isn't exactly huge. This probably doesn't help as you're a student, but it's worth bearing in mind that you simply won't find food as cheap as in NYC, because we earn more. Try "Turnips" in Borough Market for escarole, btw.

                                                                                                        1. re: babybat

                                                                                                          Jfores -- Welcome to London! You knew it wasn't going to be easy :-)

                                                                                                          I agree with you that generally the quality of food in the average supermarket here is much better than you would find in New York.

                                                                                                          But nothing is cheap, especially take-away -- even for those of us who are paid in Sterling. I'm a big beliver in adjusting to one's circumstances so that meant, for me, a big compromise in the number of times I'm able to go out to eat per month. You just have to get used to it.

                                                                                                          I've become a big fan of Yaser Halim grocery and bakery on Green Lanes. I mentioned them before. The closest tube is Manor House where you can walk north or catch a bus. Went this weekend and bought a load of fruit, veg and bread for under twenty pounds -- this was more than enough to last the week for two people.

                                                                                                          Babybat -- I have yet to find escarole in the 2+ years I've lived here, even at Borough Market, though maybe I'll try Turnips (again).

                                                                                                          Do you really think Londoners earn more than New Yorkers? That hasn't been my experience, in fact, for me it's been quite the opposite. I find the cost of living here essentially the same as New York but what makes it so expensive are the miserable salaries.

                                                                                                          1. re: qnseats

                                                                                                            As with most things in life, it's difficult to generalize about anything, including sallaries. Some people earn more than they would in NY (I do) and some earn less. It depends on what one's job is. What makes London expensive is not the price in ££ but what the dollar is now worth. If were still using $1.50 as our standard, prices in London wouldn't seem as bad at all. But, sadly, that's not the case.

                                                                                                            My neighbor is a British cartoonist who works for Marvel. The poor guy gets paid in dollars and has two kids. I think he must make a lot of dollars to live the way they do, plus he has a flat down the road in which to work. Maybe he has some super powers.

                                                                                                            1. re: zuriga1

                                                                                                              I find it difficult to get away from the fact that London (in particular) and the south east (in general) is expensive.

                                                                                                              Significantly more expensive than the rest of the country in a number of aspects, not just food. I'm also aware that, often, Brit salaries do not adequately reflect that. It's a particular problem for public sector workers who are generally not well paid in the UK and who often have national pay deals (I used to be one).

                                                                                                              Now I'm retired and on fixed income, I often find myself having a sharp intake of breath at menu prices, when I visit "down south". They are often 25% higher than "up north". But I'm also aware that a little bit of research finds you reasonably priced restaurant good food. I don't have any particular sense that there are regional differences in fresh food purchases in shops/markets/supermarkets.

                                                                                                              1. re: Brit on a Trip

                                                                                                                It still surprises me a bit how chain stores (M&S, Boots, Tesco etc. etc.) have mostly the same price for an item nation-wide. That, as you probably noticed, doesn't happen in the States.

                                                                                                                1. re: zuriga1

                                                                                                                  Yes - "fullsize" branches have more or less nationwide pricing. One of the current issues though is the differential pricing between, say, a fullsize M & S and a town centre M&S "Simply Food" (the latter being more expensive).

                                                                                                                  I think there's also an issue of differential shelf-stocking. For example, the branch of Sainsbury on the outskirts of an industrial town, near where I worked, stocked a "value" sparkling water (not mineral) that cost 17p for 2 litres. It was always in stock. Tasted fine.

                                                                                                                  My local home branch, in the leafy suburbs of North Cheshire, only stocks it very rarely but always offers own brand mineral water at something like 49p. I know these are small financial differences but I think a clear case of taking advantage of a generally more affluent customer base.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Brit on a Trip

                                                                                                                    The only nearby M&S is the M&S on Oxford St which is literally right across the street and in constant annoying view of my window (it does provide me with a good clock among other things though.) We've found it to be far too expensive compared even to the Sains down the block, though we did rob all of the "Do no display past..." goods from their garbage every Saturday... Yeah we're students...

                                                                                                                    As far as prices go, Tesco on Edgeware is the cheapest "normal" supermarket near me, though I try to get absolutely all of my shopping done at Brixton on Saturdays, using Green Valley to fill in the blanks.

                                                                                                                    1. re: JFores

                                                                                                                      JF - sounds like you live within walking distance of berwick street market which does extremely cheap fruit and veg monday-friday. It's not always top quality, and has to generally be eaten within a few days but you can get big scoops of cherry toms on the vine, avos, peppers etc for £1 a go. Much cheaper than any supermarket, although these days the amount of traders there seem to be shrinking. There's also a much bigger choice of fruit, veg etc if you hop on the 73 bus to angel and go to chapel market which is a quick and pleasant journey. There's a cheap fish stall there which has bargains of the day - and, if i remember correctly, the jamaican street stall someone mentioned, is still there. Its much nearer than brixton for you, although you won't get as wide a range of ethnic foodstuffs. but from angel you can get another bus to Green Lanes as recommended by the poster above. and 10 mins walk away is a latin american cafe called La Piragua which used to do cheap and tasty food.

                                                                                                              2. re: zuriga1

                                                                                                                I know different people will have different experiences but the statistics I’ve found put the average salary in London at around £30K. In New York it’s almost £50K. Without converting, if I’m paying in units of currency roughly the same in London as I did in New York, which in my opinion I do – Ouch – it’s been a struggle to adjust, but hey that’s life. You just have to be creative and go out of your way to find good deals. All I say God help the people who have to convert dollars to pounds! I'm glad I don't have to.

                                                                                                                Getting back to food: If anyone does indeed find escarole in the coming weeks let me know!

                                                                                                                1. re: qnseats

                                                                                                                  I'll hit borough for it ASAP as escarole and beans is probably my soup of the week next week. I do one soup or stew per week so I don't have to cook every single day. It gives me about 3 days of food which is nice. My Eid haleem lasted from Sunday until today. Mmmm stews thickened by fat and marrow yummy. My dorm calls me "the chef" now. It's pretty funny. I've actually been SELLING FOOD to a few people which is great too. It's only an extra 4 or so pounds a night (a small plate for a pound) but it's still nice to get some back.

                                                                                                          2. re: JFores

                                                                                                            Dude, you totally have to close your eyes and not convert. I know that's hard (if not impossible) as a student. But I'm going to echo something someone else suggests in another post--people pay for things here in pounds, and they EARN pounds. I only vaguely remember my class in International Economics about purchasing price parity, but I remember that the cost of labor was a factor in what goods were priced at. You have the misfortune (financially) of being from the US, but living abroad at a point where the USD is at a huge low, but Brits are still earning the same and paying the same in GBP. Heck, the Canadian dollar is at a 30 year HIGH against the USD, just to put things in perspective. Maybe. (And I am so not an Economist, so please, be kind in any critiques of my economic theory.)

                                                                                                            What type of student visa are you on? Maybe it's worth taking on a few hours of work somewhere (Green Valley! Imagine? We'd all come visit you and beg for free baklava.) to ease the difference? (I know you're probably busy as a student and this is not possible.)

                                                                                                            OK, other thoughts...have you been to Tayyabs? That's cheap. And have you tried TopTable.co.uk and other discount sites, or is that still priced a bit too high? The Camden Lock market food stalls? (I love the arepas from Arepa & Company, right by the little foot bridge that goes over the lock.)

                                                                                                            1. re: kristainlondon

                                                                                                              Is there an arepa place there? I've been buying packets of arepas from Las Americas in Brixton every week. It's a Colombian bakery/butcher. The meat and prepared food is OK but too expensive for Brixton, however the arepas are very good. They're the white flat variety.

                                                                                                              Haha I'd love to work at Green Valley. The only jobs I've ever held though are waiter jobs, a job as a dish washer and a job as a line cook last summer. Those are all REALLY harsh when it comes to hours so I've been looking, but I'm apprehensive. I have some Italian friends here that are working as cooks, but I'm protective about my weekend nights. At the same time, waiter hours are even steeper here. Many of them have to work past the closing of kitchens as drink waiters. Oh well...

                                                                                                              So my good finds so far have been Las Americas in Brixton, Beigel Bake on Brick Lane and Green Valley (THANKS) for prepared foods. I get a dessert from Green Lane sometimes if I have 2 pound coins lying around (my 1 pound coins are dedicated to the God forsaken laundry machines we have.)

                                                                                                              1. re: kristainlondon

                                                                                                                "(And I am so not an Economist, so please, be kind in any critiques of my economic theory.)"

                                                                                                                Excellent economic analysis, IMO. A couple of us Brits have been saying exactly this on another thread.

                                                                                                                The ONLY real relevence is to compare one place's price/quality against another. Bring in international comparisions and the discussion becomes meaningless.

                                                                                                              2. re: JFores

                                                                                                                I'm afraid I can't help you with the impressive detail of local international cuisine provided by other posters, but I wanted to chip in as another student - not an ex-pat, London born and raised (although with American parents, so I've spent a lot of time over there). We simply do not have the same culture of eating out that you get in NYC, it is just not something that people on low incomes do. I'm always astonished by how frequently people eat out or get take away in the states, I've grown up to consider it a luxury. Those of us who are low on cash cook, or, as has been mentioned by others, take advantage of the huge selection readymeals available in supermarkets. I appreciate that you have high standards, but it's pointless venting vitreol at such a deeply ingrained cultural difference. As a student, I wouldn't recommend M&S. It may have the swankest food (and nigh pornographic adverts) but I don't know a single student who can afford it without a trust fund. Sainsbury's is good - as high end as you need - and Tesco does just fine. You joked about nicking food from supermarket bins but it's actually quite widely done, certainly in Cambridge (where I'm studying) and very cost-effective! I'm sorry not to have contributed to solving your search for good food sources, but I thought it was important to stress the patience and respect you need in order to acclimatise. If you are only interested in replacing exactly what you had at home, you will always be disappointed, because you will miss all that is unique to your new environment. Remember that it will not sit well with anyone to have an 18 year old American rocking up with the attitude that we've been getting it wrong all these years. My mum was a New Yorker for many years (and quite the foodie), and she fell in love with London. Give it time, explore, and keep an open mind.

                                                                                                            2. I've just come across this website whilst Googling. It may be useful in comparing supermarket prices


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                                                                                                              1. re: Brit on a Trip

                                                                                                                The currency issues are definitely especially hard on me as an American, but pretty much everyone I know here is suffering. The entire Euro group in my dorm is also doing badly and our couple of Northerners aren't doing too hot either. The northerners were actually the first to get jobs out of all of us.

                                                                                                                BTW, in regards to the escarole at Borough Market. Is it in the very large organic vegetable stall? I didn't see it in there a few weeks ago. Maybe I missed it. I was getting plum tomatoes there before I found them for about 1/3 the price in Brixton. Literally 1/3.

                                                                                                                1. re: JFores

                                                                                                                  I found it before at Turnips, which is the large veg place near Roast in the main part of the market, but I think it might've been called curly endive? Go on a saturday close to closing, or a thursday morning and you've got a better chance of getting a lower price. Maybe it's worth trying to get a job at the M&S foodhall - more cash and staff discount on food!

                                                                                                                  1. re: babybat

                                                                                                                    I'll go check it out again. I'll keep an eye out for the curly endive bit, I definitely didn't see anything marketed as escarole and I was just looking for the name. My real targets that day were plum tomatoes as I was desperate to make sauce.

                                                                                                              2. You've had loads of great advice already, and have had your own adventures but for what it's worth, here's my opinion on the places in my hood:

                                                                                                                I live near Brick Lane and wholeheartedly agree that the famed restaurants along this stretch are best avoided. However, there is an option in this area - you could try Maida, just around the corner from Beigel Bake (it's on Bethnal Green Road) http://www.maida-restaurant.co.uk/

                                                                                                                It's heads and shoulders above anything on Brick Lane - their parathas are to die for (IMHO). I'm not Bengali so I won't profess to be an expert but I'm guessing it's a hit with the local Bengali community as I'm usually in the minority when I visit. I do also have a soft spot for Tayyabs (pakistani), especially for their dry meat curry and their mango lassi's, though I do love all of their veg dishes as well. I especially enjoy sailing past the touts outside the Brick Lane restaurants as I walk down to Tayyabs - when I tell them where I'm going, they stop hassling me to take advantage of their discounts and wine offers. They know they can't compete :


                                                                                                                Also in the area, I love Green & Red - not only for their tequila menu and their michelada's, but also for their tacos. Their bar menu more than satisfies if it's hard to get a table (it's heaving on a Friday or Sat night) but if you can sit down, we usually indulge in the birria (meltingly tender), carnitas or carne asado. They also do £1 tacos monthly on a Sunday night (downstairs) but I'd rather go for the normal menu. The bartenders (see Myles) are excellent and can make you anything you might want on a whim. They're a great bunch - some complain about the table service but I've always found them brilliantly cheery. If anything, they're run off their feet on busy nights and need more staff on these occasions.

                                                                                                                Also closeby, there are loads of Vietnamese restaurants on Kingsland Road and some on Mare St (Hackney). I don't have any one favourite - it depends on the dish I hanker for on the day that determines which restaurant I visit….however, in general, if you are after pho then Song Que on Kingsland Rd has the best selection (they offer the variety of tai, chinh, tendon and tripe) and their goi cuon and cha gio are top notch also. I also like Cay Tre on Old Street - their pho ga uses corn fed chicken which I find makes a huge difference - the servings of pho are smaller than Song Que but I do like their broth in the pho ga better. They also do cha ca la vong which is hard to find elsewhere, and a half decent version of bun cha (which isn't a patch on what you get on the streets of Hanoi…but no-one else comes anywhere near as close). Am sure you can find dozens of other threads where people debate their various favourites in the Vietnamese restaurant game - everyone has an opinion! But in general one thing is true - you definitely don't get the jungle of herbs and greens to accompany your dishes, like you do in Vietnam or the US. They're just so much more expensive here.

                                                                                                                My vietnamese friend (from the US) has taken us to a hole in the wall place in Deptford (Café East) for what he has judged to be the best Bun Bo Hue he has had outside of his mother's place. Check it out!

                                                                                                                On the whole, London has a different style of eating that you are used to in NYC/Brooklyn and the surrounding boroughs. I've just come back from a week in NYC and had an absolute ball checking out places on cheap eats lists, and some of those nominated in the Vendy awards for 2007. Even the concept of street vendors serving quality food on a daily basis is so different from here. (No way would I eat anything from the majority of mobile carts around London. Definitely from market stalls but only from selected mobile carts serving quality food) And I loved all the food at the Red Hook weekend ma & pa stalls (dammit - the memory of those Salvadorian loroco pupusa's are making me cry!) but I heard from locals when there that even these are under threat.

                                                                                                                However, it is possible to find lots of good food here in London in your budget. You just have to look a little harder than you are used to. London is a different blend of cultures than New York, something also reflected in the availability of cuisines you are looking for. But keep up the intrepid reporting and most importantly: happy eats!

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                                                                                                                1. re: baconbuttie

                                                                                                                  I actually made pupusas recently on a whim. They came out kinda close, though sloppy looking and lorocoless. Great post. Much thanks and I'll look into the Deptford Vietnamese spot for sure. I've heard of the glories of Tayyabs and I plan on getting there.

                                                                                                                2. El bumpo so I can access the post more easily.