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
Staying in a hotel one mile from where you actually live feels strange enough, but doing it on your own is even stranger. These photos are a visual record of me wandering the lonely corridors of a new boutique hotel between the hours of 10-12pm. I would describe the decor as handmade but not cheap, minimal but not clinical. It has the feeling that money has been spent on the things that matter.
The rumours are true: a cheese festival exists and it’s coming to North London. This Sunday. Be there or be … cheese-less I suppose. But you’ve gouda get there early: If you’re as keen as brie and one of the first fifty fromage fondlers to show, you’re in the running for a free bottle of Black Cow’s pure milk vodka. Traders will be setting up stalls along Islington’s Chapel Market: from the Raclette Brothers and Mac to the Future to La Fromagerie and The Cheese Truck.
Dream Talk. It’s like Dream Phone, but not at all. Artist Emma Alonze and musician Andy Becker have joined forces to collaborate on a (possibly prophetic) new sound art project. Londoners are invited to take a moment out of their daily commute, routine or journey and immerse themselves in a narrated collection of dreams. Taking three years worth of forty winks, Alonze has gathered and narrated a chosen few to be set to an ambient soundtrack by Becker.
Holy smoke, her nipples are on fire! Somebody pass the woman an extinguisher. Wait, why is she climbing into that giant margarita glass - does she not know it's highly flammable? She's going to need to be doused with a sizable portion of aloe vera gel at this rate, the poor lamb.
If there's anything the new moon today has told us, it's that it's time to be our true selves. That's what my horoscope told me today anyway. But what does that mean exactly? It means that if you want to eat honey loops for lunch, you 100% can. It means if you feel like learning how to make a bouquet instead of working on your tax forms, you 100% can. It also means if you want to learn how the deep throat (singing technique) you don't have to explain yourself. You're keeping it .
Our exclusive meeting with Eroc: the Beyonce of the skateboarding dog world. Eroc the french bulldog is making waves. With fans like Tony Hawk, BBC Radio and over 30k followers on Instagram (and counting), Eroc has also become something of an online sensation. His viral status comes and goes, randomly popping up on online social media channels every now and again to generate hundreds of thousands of views and clicks via the likes of Buzzfeed, Time Out and rogue iPhone filmers.
We all have our own ways of dealing with life when things get shitty. Having a big cry and getting it all out can be incredibly therapeutic, and even more so when we find ourselves repeating the same line over and over through the tears. “He’s a dick!” or “I’m not a bad person!” These little lines of reinforcement help us push through the crappy feeling. Sometimes we might even revert to a hearty little stamp on the floor / kick of some unsuspecting object. It feels surprisingly satisfying when the rage sets in and we feel helpless.
This Friday sees the release of Malian master musicians, Trio Da Kali’s new album Ladilikan. Fusing rich, expressive vocals with traditional instruments like the balafon and bass ngoni, this is a beautiful mix of ancient Mande culture and contemporary Malian sounds. Luckily for us North Londoners, we have the opportunity to see the trio play live in the rather fitting ethereal surrounds of Stoke Newington Church next month.
Walking along Monsell Road in Finsbury Park, we spy the charming exterior of a shop looking like something out of a children’s book circa 1932. Beneath a green and white striped awning, a whimsical new world of mini animals awaits. Once inside we stumble about the store in hushed awe, reaching over a book of minuscule carpet samples/ family of miniature otters to tap a tiny bell.
Whether you’re looking for something to entertain your kids, your friends’ kids or that particularly large man child in your life, you might just have lucked out. Snug are hosting an open air screening of The Incredibles next Saturday evening. There will be tasty sourdough pizzas from Sodo Pizza (Upper Clapton) and ultimate authentic curries from Rice n Spice, Northwold Road.
Coming soon to a Tufnell Park near you is a whole new vegetable patch of delights / wheat field to run vicariously through. It’s time to get excited for Ceremony: a brand new bar/restaurant serving modern British veggie cuisine. Although the website remains tantalisingly mysterious, you can glean more info from their well stocked insta.
Sound baths, pit parties, fake cheese and nipples, these are a few of our favourite things, said no one ever. Bored of drinking down the pub every evening? Unlikely, but bare with me. Sometimes you just want to let down your hair, shake it off and do something down right odd of an evening... followed by a pint at the pub.
It’s been a few months since the last instalment of Online vs Offline. I deleted Bumble, Happn and Tinder, flirted with the idea of match.com, went to a friend’s wedding, heard the vicar call my name instead of the Bride’s and reflected briefly on the crushing inevitability of my own spinsterhood before realising everyone was laughing in the pews and I should probably join them.
Gluten-free cake consumers, vegan cheese enthusiasts, craft beer connoisseurs, lovers of pies and drinkers of tea; your time is now. Buy food of a quality & variety you can’t easily find in the shops, from organic meat to vegan cheese, fish caught that morning to pickles which have been fermenting for months, at Stroud Green market.
Who’s up for free entry, free cake and free folk (except for a jaunty little hat that is passed around for donations)? Get down to The Finsbury this Wednesday eve for a little mid week hootenanny and celebrate some of the best in new live music from the ‘acoustic, singer-songwriter & indie-folk scene’. Host with the most, Zoe Konez (“Ridiculously talented, Konez handles her guitar like she was born with it” - For Folk's Sake) will be deftly introducing each act from gin soaked folk popster herself, Penniless Cove to German indie band, Kalon.
What if you could mix the joys of your local Sunday car boot and all it’s dog perving potential with your favourite vintage clothes shops and high end antique markets? Within the sparkling depths of Dalson’s former ABC cinema, you’ll find The Big London Flea: London’s largest indoor vintage market.