University College, London recommendations
As a UCL student I might know a thing or two about this.
Your general food choices in the area (or mine at least, I will be lunch biased as I live about as far as you possibly can from uni) amount roughly to...
- Italia Uno which is an excellent sandwich place on Charlotte St and my unofficial home in Central London. I spend much more time in there than in class or the library and I do most of my coursework in this place as well. Stick to the meat based sandwiches. You'll get better hot food at a Italian airport, tbh (I cook it all so I'm thoroughly disenchanted with their hot stuff, especially their arancini.) On the other hand, they get their cannoli off a Sicilian guy who makes them out of his kitchen and they're insanely good for London. Good coffee too. And they've usually got football on!
To home in a bit more on your Asian approach, we've got the Indian YMCA, the downstairs restaurant at Hana Supermarket on Store St, and... Japanese pickings are expensive. If you want to shell out and you don't mind walking down Goodge St for a bit then Tomoe is my favorite Japanese restaurant in all of London. It's a truly awesome izakaya and the sushi is top notch for the price.
The Indian YMCA is also on Charlotte (technically the same building as Ramsey Hall if you're getting UCL housing for some summer program or something, btw) but it runs set lunch and dinner times that you have to be there for. Lunch you order as you go and the fish curry is especially good, but dinner is generally a set price with all you can eat rice and dal. All around good stuff, but never anything truly amazing. Still, it's really good and the value is great for the area. If you want the real deal you'd have to go to East Ham or Wembley, basically.
The downstairs at Hana Supermarket on Store St close to UCL and SOAS is a more or less hidden Korean joint that's popular with the SOAS crowd, local workers, and Koreans. Hordes of Koreans. You see an almost Queens like amount in there at any given time (coming from someone who lived in a Korean internet cafe in Bayside for a year. New Yorkisms...) They only have bibimpbap and laejook. I go with the latter as I think the rice in their bibimbap comes out too cold and the lack of an egg to crack on it kills the experience for me. Regardless the laejook is pretty good for 4.50 and comes with a miso soup, kimchee, etc. Lots of food for your money. All of the choices above are roughly in the 3-5 pounds a meal range for lunch.
If you're willing to travel a bit for Thai then the curries at Muang Thai on Chalk Farm Rd are ok. The last meal I had there was pretty much awful and whenever the UCL Thai Boxing society and I go there we get really negative vibes from the staff so I'm currently boycotting the place and opting instead to convince my colleagues that Silk Road in Camberwell is actually a Thai restaurant ;) I got them out there the first time using that lie, but the food is going to bring them back the next time.
Enjoy your stay in London. Also, given your 15-20 quid limit (dinner I'd assume) you can also give Chili Cool a shot (worst service of my life outside of a Russian speaking establishment) for Sichuan Chinese food, Muang Thai falls into that range, etc. Avoid the Indians places around King's Cross as I can't think of a single one that's even acceptable. On the other hand, Patak's is a pretty good little store, but the prices are absolutely insane if you live in East London. I live so close to East Ham that the thought of shelling out that much on rice (they charge like... high st supermarket prices for basmati) is beyond comprehension. Also, you can't barter them down which is a problem for me as well.
Ok I'll stop rambling and go outside to enjoy Palermo. Great city, btw.
You could also try Tas on Bloomsbury St just along from the Briitsh Museum - good quality ingredients and tasty food.
I also like Busaba Eathai on Store St - I know some on the board will disagree but we are all entitled to our opinions and I like it for a quick lunch.
For Mexican you could head to Benito's Hat on Goodge St - although it's perhaps not 'authentic' Mexican their burritos are pretty good and you can eat for two with beer for under £20.
Indian - I love Ragam on Cleveland St. It's Southern Indian cuisine and looks like a bit of a hole in the wall from the outside - the food is just great. The dosai are huge and just wonderful. It's unbelievably good value for such great cooking - well worth checking out.
I would second Busaba Eathai. I also like Papaya in Soho for cheap takeaway Thai.
Again, second Benito's Hat on Goodge st. I also like Freebird which is a Mexican street stall just around the corner from BH, there's also a Chinese stall next to it.
Viet Grill - Greek st, Soho. One of my fav Vietnamese joints, also does a few Thai dishes, but not sure now great they are, as the owners are Vietnamese.
Stockpot. Soho - No frills British/Italian cafe, cheap as chips.
Inn noodle on Oxford Street - Chinese. Soba off Wardour Street does okay Chinese dishes for cheap prices.
Soho Japan does massive ramens and good sushi at reasonable prices