This is my second post on how to save money when visiting London. The first post was on free tours and this one is on food.
The quality of English cuisine has been a running joke for decades, but the Brits are rapidly overcoming their reputation for bad food because everything we ate was delicious (although expensive). Even though we are complete tightwads, we insist on one hot meal a day when we travel. So we eat very light breakfasts and suppers to make up for our "extravagant" lunches.
We spent one to two pounds a day ($1.50 to $3) for breakfast since our rented room had a hot pot for tea or instant coffee. Tea bags and sugar were provided so we usually had a hot drink, a large muffin and a banana in the morning (food which we purchased the night before). We ate out for lunch (suggestions below) and then had a snack supper, which we bought at the supermarket. Every grocery store (and some pharmacies) had a "meal deal" for $3 pounds ($4.50). It included a scrumptious sandwich, a drink and a bag of chips. In some cases we could switch the chips for an apple or a candy bar.
Now for the other meals... Since the food was delicious in every restaurant that we tried, we did not regret skimping on the other meals. Our favorite eateries were:
1) "The Crypt" (basement of St. Martin in the Fields Church off Trafalgar Square). The main dish there was nine pounds ($15) and was large. We probably could have split it and saved room for their fabulous fruit crumble with custard topping (which was also large enough to split). Free water.
2) Nando's - a restaurant chain all over the city that specializes in spicy chicken. Their meals were about 10 pounds ($15) and were delicious and filling. You could choose your preferred side dish and also the level of spiciness of your meat. Soft drinks were included.
3) Victoria and Albert Museum restaurant. This cafeteria was a total surprise because it was so elegant and chic. We ate egg plant moussaka and fresh sourdough bread for 9 pounds each. The place was gorgeous and jammed. We loved it! Bottled water only.
4) Byron Hamburgers - Most restaurants served chicken dishes and when we got a hankering for red meat, we tried this diner that boasted a "proper hamburger." We loved our juicy burgers with blue cheese melted on top. Each burger was 8 pounds ($12) and a side of onion rings was about $5. Free water.
5) On our very last day in London we discovered a chain called E.A.T. It was the first place we found with inexpensive hot food. It was a cold, drizzly day so it was nice to get chicken pot pie for 5 pounds each.
6) Lastly, there are a lot of places to have high tea, most of which are costly. I was happy to find a French bakery (Patisserie Valerie, #50 on Charing Cross Road) that served "tea for two" all day. It cost around $20 per person (less than most places), and was perfectly delightful.
We spent around $20 to $25 each day (per person) for meals. This is where most of our money went and that was okay. We enjoyed every bite.