Top 4 'I-may-be-broke-but-I-got-style' Cheap Eats

Written by: Eleanor Mitchell

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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

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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

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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

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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

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