Top 4 'I-may-be-broke-but-I-got-style' Cheap Eats
Written by: Eleanor Mitchell
North London has a wealth of great neighbourhood eateries where you can dine out on a tight budget and still come away with full, happy bellies. Get stuffed for £15 or less!
Le Mercury Deuxieme
Best for: Cheap Chic
This Upper Street stalwart (and its big sister Le Mercury) has been dishing out fabulous no-frills French bistro cooking for over 30 years, but still deserves to claim top spot in any cheap eats list. All the Gallic classics are represented: terrine, moules mariniere, entrecote, tarte tatin at an incredibly generous pricing system of £4.45 for starters, £10.95 for mains and £3.45 for desserts. There’s also a great wine list, with most bottles under £20. The atmosphere is always buzzing, with locals and in-the-know-tourists coming to enjoy the relaxed but attentive service and comforting cooking.
We had: roast breast of Barbary duck, garlic potato purée, savoy cabbage with a red wine jus and rib-eye steak with a shallot sauce. The steak was huge and served with a rich thick onion-y sauce (a perfectly-dressed green salad was a mere £1.95 extra) and the duck was melt-in-the-mouth tender and complemented perfectly by the garlic mash. Two tarte tatins for dessert left us feeling like cats who had got the cream.
Pennies rating: 5/5, fantastic food, lovely service and genuine value-for-money.
Le Mercury Deuxieme, 154-155 Upper St, N1 1RA
The Front Room Café
Best for: Bargain Brunch
Tucked away off the main Stroud Green drag and a short walk from Finsbury Park, The Front Room is a community café with a staunch local following. Decked out like an eccentric granny’s living room, with trinkets galore and a collection of local artists’ work on the exposed brick walls, you feel like you’re having breakfast in your own home. The menu covers all the brunch basics; Eggs Royale to Granola to Beans on Toast, and serves freshly squeezed OJ and Allpress coffee alongside. For something a little heartier, they also have a favourites menu with Bangers and Mash, Burgers and Croque Monsieur.
We had: a Croque Madame and a Front Room Breakfast, both classic and filling. The Croque had the ultimate ‘cheese melt factor’, was pleasingly fried in butter with a perfectly runny egg on top and the most gooey-est of cheese – so rich it hides its money in an offshore account and hired Elton John to sing at its birthday party.
Pennies rating: 3.5/5, great no-frills brunch.
The Front Room Cafe, 158 Tollington Park, N4 3AD
Best for: a curry (obviously)
Rasa has a lot going for it, probably starting with its bright pink exterior that makes it stand out against the drab estate agents of Stoke Newington Church Street. But Rasa is also one of the few places that serves truly authentic South Indian food. It’s also completely vegetarian, but manages to make going meat-free the most natural and delicious decision you’ve ever made. The menu is huge and varied, but the standout dishes are the Dosa, served with vibrant coconut chutney and sambar (lentil and vegetable sauce). Rasa is the perfect place for a can’t-be-arsed-to-cook night out, and will leave you full to bursting and still with change from £30.
We had: obligatory pre-meal snacks and pickles – top choices being the Achappam (crunchy fried rice flour and coconut) and a zesty lemon pickle. We then shared a classic Masala Dosa and Masala Vadai, which are spiced lentil cakes served with chutney. For mains we had Thakkali curry, which is a tangy mix of fresh tomatoes, yoghurt, ginger and coriander and a Uzhunappam – flatbread with roasted coconut and cumin.
Pennies rating: 4/5, cheap as chips and curry sauce, a perfect antidote to those CBA evenings.
Rasa, 55 Stoke Newington Church St, N16 0AR
Salvation in Noodles
Best for: Crippling Hangovers
Not sure about everyone else, but Vietnamese food really cures a hangover. So it was a real blessing when Salvation In Noodles opened on Blackstock Road in Finsbury Park, serving up bowls of steaming pho and virtuous noodle salads. Their authentic Vietnamese offering has a modern twist in the form of an excellently crafted cocktail menu and a happy hour, for those times when only the hair of the dog will do.
We had: Pork and mushroom fried spring rolls (Cha Gio) to start, addictive crispy fried coating with a succulent pork filling. The summer rolls are also highly commended, but sometimes only a bit of deep fried action will hit the spot. To follow, Bun Bo Hue, rare beef and prawns in a fragrant hot and spicy lemongrass soup. The chilli hits the back of your throat with a punch, but soon burns away the lingering fogginess of the demon drink. The Pho Dac is also delicious; rich oxtail broth hides the holy trinity of pork, beef and chicken, when you need to satiate a horrible hangover.
Pennies rating: 4.5/5, food is just under £15 but the cocktails soon add up if you aren’t careful, so hands where we can see them drunky.
Salvation in Noodles, 2 Blackstock Road, N4 2DL
“Only last night I found myself lost / by the station called King's Cross. / Dead and wounded on either side / you know it's only a matter of time.” [Pet Shop Boys - Kings Cross] It’s the night after the play and I’m standing at the bar of ‘The Big Chill House’ on Pentonville Road in Kings Cross. It’s ‘Throwback Thursday’ (#TBT) and happy hour is definitely over.
Ceramics with charisma. Local pottery genius, Laura Bird has of course graced the digital pages of It’s Nice That, sold out in Anthropologie* and taken her seat at many a London ceramics stall since just recently starting her career in ceramics. It’s no surprise she is well loved: her unique and gentle humour exudes from every jar, planter and candlestick holder, adorned with cheeky expressions and impish grins.
Having worked in hospitality with a keen artist’s eye, the Arts Building knew Emma was perfect to take over the space. They were after a morning to night eatery for the neighbourhood, one for local residents and workers alike. Knowing the street’s reputation as a bit of a foodie strip, the menu had to be up to scratch for it’s discerning super-taster of a community. Yes, we’re a hungry bunch in Stroud Green.
At the time of writing this the menu has just been released for Food by Feast’s new supper club. I imagine, however, that by the time you read this every dining space will be swiftly filled. If you aren’t acquainted with the duo yet (tsk), they’re the genius collaboration of Cordon Bleu chef and food writer Olivia Potts and Guardian food writer and cook, Kate Young. Having successfully completed the likes of a Gilmore Girls supper club to rapturous applause and smacking lips recently, the latest menu experience is Twin Peaks inspired and looks equally witty and delectable.
Sound healing in Stoke Newington. This Thursday 18th May, The Mystery School of Sound are running a de-stress gong bath experience in Stoke Newington Ramadan Mosque. Alongside guided meditation, healing process and gong performace, you’ll get a mini intro to healing traditions of the druids and hermetic teaching.
Patron Cave a Manger’s pop up cinema are shacking up at The Rose and Crown in Kentish Town to screen The Artist. Soak up the atmoshpere of the Festival du Cannes with swanky popcorn and elegant cocktails. Get red carpet ready for this special screening of The Artist - the ridiculously popular award winning silent French film that everyone fell in love with.
Unfortunately rising rents are affecting community spaces in Stoke Newington and their availability. St Mary’s Centre currently provides a space for projects including the Foodbank, Hackney Migrants centre and the Night Shelter but they're at risk of losing their space. To help raise funds to redevelop the space and increase awareness, they are organising a weekend food market in Stokey. The pop-up food market is a launch event for their huge fundraising drive to rebuild the community rooms attached to St Mary's Church in Stoke Newington.
Healthy chocolate mousse and sexing up your smoothie with Kate Oates. We have found ourselves a yoga guru in Kate Oates, a healthtastic yogi based in Crouch End. When we met her last year she hinted at a few of her own culinary creations and boy were we intrigued. Asking for an exclusive recipe for you health conscious readers, we received a taste sensation of an idea for chocolate breakfast.
“All My Single Cylinders, All My Single Cylinders”. Two girls, sick to the back teeth of Tindering and Bumbling about the bars of London, decided to create their own speed dating night. Involved in the biker community of East London they have created a special series of nights combining live music, motorbikes and speed dates. Bolt Motorbike Shop of Stoke Newington is their latest venue, providing a more intriguing backdrop for your date night and quashing the usual awkwardness of sparse, brightly lit speed dating scenarios. You can admire the motors, enjoy your free drinks and listen to some live music with some top notch handpicked company.
In case you’ve never had a piirakka, (also known as Karelian pasties, pies or pirogs) they’re a delicious Finnish treat that you need to try immediately. Whether savoury or sweet, they’re basically a light pastie made with rye flour and a pretty unique variety of filling options. Meet Aapo Nieminen, a native Finnish local who grew up with piirakka. After getting tired of asking friends and family to bring him these naughty little pasties whenever they visited he came up with a plan. “They are an important part of everyday finish life. One day I thought why not just make them yourself?”
The lycra is optional. Coffee however, isn't. On Friday 197 cyclists descended on Sardinia to compete in the 100th edition of the Giro d'Italia. For those of you that don't have wardrobes filled with lycra you might never of heard of it but Think Tour d'France but in Italy. Still drawing a blank?
Naked Dough have appeared like a pair of beautiful fairy godmothers to lead me to an actual edible cookie dough dance party. Plus they didn’t even tell me what I should wear, they genuinely don’t care. Naked Dough is a new restaurant serving edible cookie dough from tubs, cones and even carry home pots. The ingredients are raw egg free and the flour is heat-treated so you need not worry-like-Edwina-Currie about salmonella and stomach bloat (unless you’re gluten free of course. In which case I’m sorry you’ve stumbled upon this torture page of an article).
Ten years ago MINT Vintage first opened in Covent Garden before moving on to the more creative surrounds of Stoke Newington, pioneering fashion forward vintage. Every piece is hand selected and sourced from all over the world, ensuring every garment is trend driven but timeless and always unique. This May they’ve decided to transform their world in to an “oops we were trying to make corduroy and came up with denim” dreamland*.
Finding myself wandering around Limehouse Basin craving a pint and perhaps even a slice of pizza, I needed to get home to my local Crate Brewery sharpish (they do the freshest craft beers and have award winning pizzas). But how to get there? Stumbling in to Limehouse Station and towards a huge sign saying CLOSED, I consider walking there instead. A short meander riverwards, I reach the canal and begin to notice a group of people donning chunky waistcoats stretching their arms around. I pause for a second, swaying slightly on the spot, watching this mesmerising circle of humans yielding huge double ended spoons.
"Ooh they’re doing a psych night at Moth Club Tina!” "What, again?” It’s a familiar sentence. Fast becoming a buzzword for young musos and Beyond Retro dwellers alike, psych music is no longer just for the suede fringed waistcoat wearing Acid Jazz lovers who curse their parents they weren’t born in 1966. No no. The psych music spectrum has spread it’s bendy wings and shaken off it’s lava lamp skin to embrace a whole host of musical genres. From William Burroughs to Pet Sounds to Thee Oh Sees, the genre’s had a birth, decline and resurgence. Nambucca in Finsbury Park are totally capitalising on this revival with their new monthly night, SIKE! This Thursday 11th May, they’re bringing four different acts who are all covering different elements of the psych scene.
Back in 2014 The Good Egg was hatched, mixing Californian sunshine with Tel Aviv traditions to bring one heck of a menu to Stoke Newington. Food critics, instagrammers and swathes of Stokey baby holders flocked to it’s doors to get stuck in to the Jerusalem breakfast, merguez sausage and indeed eggs washed down with spicy brunch cocktails.