‘Cheap eats’ is a relative term in London, where a meal in a smart restaurant may cost 100 pounds ($153) a head and inexpensive food is often found in chains.
Here are 10 quality venues where you might enjoy a dish -- or even a meal -- and a glass of wine for less than 25 pounds.
Cay Tre Soho: This Soho outlet of the original Vietnamese restaurant in Hoxton opened last year. Nothing on the lunch menu costs more than 10 pounds. Try the Pho anytime and for dinner, don’t miss La Vong Grilled Fish at 7 pounds a head. http://www.caytresoho.co.uk/ or +44-20-7317-9118.
Chabrot Bistrot d’Amis: This authentic French bistro, near Zuma, was created by experienced restaurateurs. It’s low-key, yet the food and wine are something to shout about. Don’t miss the warm starter of duck pate with a Comte cheese pastry like a Yorkshire pudding. It costs 8.50 pounds and you may struggle to leave the place for less than 25 pounds. http://www.chabrot.co.uk/ or +44-20-7225-2238.
Delhi Grill: I am a regular at this Indian cafe, or “dhaba,” on Chapel Market, in Islington. It’s one of my favorite places to eat in any price range. The Rogan Gosht is a particularly fine dish, the fresh, individual spices discernable in the slow-cooked lamb and its rich gravy. It’s 8.95 pounds. Roti are 1 pound each and Tarka Dhal is 4.50 pounds. http://www.delhigrill.com/ or +44-20-7278-8100.
Ducksoup: This offshoot of Mark Hix’s restaurant group serves inventive dishes at a counter in Soho. Lunch is 12 pounds including a glass of wine, and the standard of cooking is high. It’s enjoyable and you may eat very well for less than you would pay in a bog-standard chain. Chef is Hix veteran Julian Biggs. http://www.ducksoupsoho.co.uk/ or +44-20-7287-4599.
Hereford Road: This West London restaurant serves uncomplicated British food and aims for maximum flavor with minimum fuss. It’s the trademark of chefs such as Hix and Fergus Henderson. The weekday set lunch -- with dishes such as grilled sardines and fennel salad -- is 13 pounds for two courses and 15.50 pounds for three. http://www.herefordroad.org/ or +44-20-7727-1144.
Jose: This is a tiny, corner tapas venue in Bermondsey where you might drop in for a plate of ham and a glass of sherry. Chef Jose Pizarro has now also opened the bigger Pizarro nearby. http://www.josepizarro.com/ or +44-20-7403-4902.
Magdalen: This understated French restaurant near London Bridge punches above its weight in terms of food and wine: It’s unfussy and inexpensive. While it barely squeezes into the sub-25 pounds category for dinner, the weekday set lunch is 15.50 pounds for two courses and 18.50 pounds for three. http://www.magdalenrestaurant.co.uk/ or +44-20-7403-1342.
Restaurant at the Royal Academy: Oliver Peyton is known as a judge on “The Great British Menu.” He’s also the man behind restaurants at London galleries such as the National. This venue on Piccadilly may be my favorite, for the Lentil, peas & toasted cashew burger (14.50 pounds) and the beautiful room. http://bit.ly/f7uLS7 or +44-20-7300-5608
Trullo: This Italian restaurant in north London can be a difficult place to get a table and there’s no point showing up without a booking. It started serving lunch only recently, so things may be getting easier. It’s worth the effort to try the fresh-rolled pasta and the meat and fish from the charcoal grill. Pappardelle with beef shin ragu (8 pounds) is a favorite. http://www.trullorestaurant.com/ or +44-20-7226-2733.
Zucca: More than once, I have sat at the counter -- my favorite seat -- at the popular Zucca and watched group after group of would-be diners turned away. If I went to south London only once in a year, it would be to this fine Italian restaurant, where the chef Sam Harris’s pasta dishes alone are worth the journey. There is also an outstanding wine list. http://www.zuccalondon.com/ or +44-20-7378-6809.
Honorable mention: Rosemary Lane: You might spot this restaurant near Tower Gateway on the Docklands Light Railway and it’s worth a special journey. Chef Cristina Anghelescu describes her style as French-Californian. The dishes in this former pub are light and fresh. http://www.rosemarylane.btinternet.co.uk/ or +44-20-7481-2602
(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. He is U.K. and Ireland chairman of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Opinions expressed are his own.)