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Oct 1, 2013 12:50 PM

A few quick and economical-moderate meals near Covent Garden Market, The Strand, Charing Cross and/or the Embankment

I realize these areas are tourist trap central, but sometimes, a tourist needs somewhere to eat, and needs to eat somewhere nearby in a hurry.

I had booked an early dinner reservation at Nopi weeks before my visit, but I was late arriving to London. I had picked up rush tickets to a show at the Savoy the same night, and there wasn't going to be enough time for me to check-in to my hotel, taxi to Nopi, eat without rushing, then taxi to the Savoy before curtain call. I cancelled my reservation at Nopi, and started looking on Toptable for economical and moderate restaurants near the Embankment, Charing Cross, the Strand or Covent Garden Market, preferably within a 10 minute walk of the Savoy Theatre, and preferably less than 25 GBP per person. This online search was taking place around 45 minutes before we were planning to eat, so I didn't have time to post a query on Chowhound and wait for a response.

I decided to book a table at Strand Tandoori, mostly because it was a little closer to the Savoy Theatre than Dishoom, which had also come up in my search. When we walked up to the Strand Tandoori, the facade looked a little worse for wear. After I had made the reservation, despite mostly decent reviews on TopTable, I had found a number of negative online reviews on 3 other popular websites, and I wondered if we had made a big mistake, even for a quick meal in a touristic neighbourhood. I probably have a lower standard for Indian restaurants than London and British Chowhounds, but I was pleasantly surprised with Strand Tandoori. Overall, the food at Strand Tandoori was better tasting than many versions of the same Indian restaurant dishes in Canada. Our group of 4 ordered 4 pappadums (they charge for the pappadums, whereas pappadum in Canada tend to be gratis), 3 mango lassis, 2 mulligatawny soups, 1 order of Samosas (these were the weakest item we ordered, and a little overpriced), a mixed Tandoori grill (lamb, chicken, sheek kabob), aloo gobi, brinjal baigan, prawn bhuna and vegetable biryani. Our dinner for 4 came to around 80 GBP, including the 10 percent service charge the restaurant added. There is no atmosphere (not quite a hole in the wall), but by the time we left at 7pm, the restaurant was quite full, and at least one table was a table of regular customers. I'm not saying Strand Tandoori is worth a detour (and I realize there are other Indian restaurants in nearby Soho, Knightsbridge, Bayswater and Mayfair that are worth detours for other Chowhounds), but I'd still consider Strand Tandoori to be a decent, non-chain restaurant for less than 20 GBP/person in a touristic part of London which doesn't appear to have too many interesting, moderately-priced restaurant options.

The following day, we had breakfast at Kopapa, which was within a 15 minute walk of our hotel. Kopapa serves a good and interesting breakfast for less than 15 GBP/person. Superb coffee. I liked the chorizo hash I ordered.

For lunch, we were in a hurry once again. It was pouring rain, and I was hoping to get a take-out lunch to-go. I had walked up and down Villiers Street a couple times, and decided to try Fratelli La Bufala, ordering a caprese panini and two pizzas to go. While I realize Fratelli La Bufala is a chain restaurant, I was very happy with our order, and the staff was very pleasant and efficient. I thought their Neapolitan pizza was as good as the best Neapolitan pizzas I can find in Toronto. I'd certainly return.

Please feel free to add some of your recommendations for decent, economical-to-moderate options in these parts of London that are full of tourist traps!

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  1. Moderately priced places around Covent Garden:

    You wouldn't think Noodle Bar is any good based on its location (right by Leicester Square Tube) and cheap price, but their hand-pulled noodles are fantastic. Warning - it's authentic, meaning 4 stars for food, 1 star for decor. And don't get the tourist trap Chinese food they display in the window, just the noodle soup.

    Homeslice makes a great pizza.

    My Indian coworkers say Masala Zone is the best in the area. The friend prawns are fantastic.

    MeatMarket is a fine burger.

    Hawksmoor is not cheap but the express menu is a decent value, although the ribeye is small. It's made up for by the generous bone marrow.

    3 Replies
    1. re: dcfly1

      The kimchi burger at Hawksmoor Seven Dials is certainly a bargain in my opinion.

      1. re: JosefK

        JosefK - do you like it? I find it too messy to be enjoyable. And although I'm Korean, I don't particularly like the taste. The fries (not chips) are great though.

        1. re: dcfly1

          I did like it a lot, very savoury and I have gone back for it. In Sweden Kimchi is still quite uncommon, as is Korean restaurants, and I don't get to eat it often enough to be an expert on how their kimchi is in relation to other kimchis. I was however surprised the pungent, salty flavour worked so well with the burger adding juiciness and complexity. I can see that it might be messy if you insist on eating it with your hands which i know that most people think is essential. I don't mind using a fork and knife when needed though.

    2. Hi prima,

      "preferably less than 25 GBP per person"

      "For lunch, we were in a hurry once again. It was pouring rain and I was hoping to get a take-out lunch to-go"

      "Please feel free to add some of your recommendations
      for decent, economical-to-moderate options"

      London Cheap Eats & Street Markets