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
Carouse founders Chris, Theo and Ben – the charming folk behind Kentish Town’s Rose and Crown – have a new venture afoot and we couldn’t be more bloody excited to see it. We’ve been creeping in their windows, peering through the paint and sneaking glimpses at builders’ bums for a few months now (okay, maybe not the last one), watching these guys transform this cosy corner of Crouch Hill into a rather cool little boozer. Now they’re opening and everyone is invited. Come one, come all, and try all 20 of their beers on tap with us.
Last month I decided to try clubbing again. I don’t quite know what came over me, but I actually (brace yourselves) enjoyed it. I went to Body Hammer’s monthly party in Manor House and I’m here to tell you to go too, whether you love clubbing, hate clubbing, or really couldn’t care either way. #notspon
Rich, fried, buttery, potato-y vessels loaded with flavor combinations that go down rather well with craft beer, late nights and good times. Ha, who am I kidding, EVERYTHING goes down well with beer. You heard that right buddy, loaded potato skins are back with a bang (and a generous portion of bacon) and are currently being served at Old Street's The Magic Roundabout by street food pop-up Skins and we could not be any happier. Well, unless they were to stuff it with, say, Mac and Cheese or risotto. Oh, that's exactly what they do? Well paint me green and call me a cucumber.
Magical gifts, wonderful gifts, marvellous gifts, beautiful gifts, gifts, glorious gifts glo-ri-ous giiiiiifts. Please Sir, I want some more. It’s that time of year again and whether you love it or loathe it gifts will be purchased and presented into expectant hands. Stroud Green's very own Pretty Shiny Shop have compiled a gift guide to help ease the shopping shock. Imagine only having to trot to your local gift shop and tick off your entire shopping list in one fell swoop. Done, finito, terminado! To make it that little sweeter, it's also all very affordable... so you won't even have to pick a pocket or two.
Alright guys, it’s happening. The frosty charm of December is, once again, being beaten to a pulp by the capitalists’ wet dream: Christmas. The hideous twinkling of artificial outdoor lighting is starting to appear, with tourists flocking from far and wide to watch D-list celebrities press a button. Invitations to Christmas parties flood in from your multiple part-time jobs, ensuring you make bad decisions bi-weekly til next year. Supermarkets are selling 12-day advent calendars containing confetti, cookie cutters and candles for a flawless £50. And oh, how the mulled wine flows.
Who doesn’t love a cheeky statistic, correctly sourced? You know we do. Well, did you know that for every £1 spent with a small business, 63p is re-spent in the local area, as opposed to a measly 40p in every £1 re-spent locally with larger businesses? An absolute travesty, am I right? That 23p has to mean something, right, guys?! Guys? Guys, where are you going? Wait, there’s freebies involved too!
By gum there are a lot of winter markets this year. Fueled by sickly sweet mulled wine and overpriced pulled pork sliders, we’ve managed to wade our way through the murky waters of winter markets and find some decent looking ones round this here part of town. Don’t let our Grinch-esq vibes put you off (I’m more of a Pancake Day person myself) because, if you’re into markets, you’ll probably like these. Read on, if you’re merrier than us.
Take a short walk along Finsbury Park’s own sunset strip and you’ll find MoseyHome, an interiors retailer and styling consultancy who have invited us to collaborate with them on an exciting new series titled 'Style My Shop', in which they invite some of London's most talented interiors experts to quite literally style their shop. Interiors porn at it's finest.
Why was the snowman sad? Because he had a meltdown. Much like us, every year, when winter comes. It’s cold, it’s dark, and we know Christmas is on its way. But hey, it’s not all bad – the events round this time of year can be pretty swell. So don your scarf-shawl-blanket and get your frolic on, it’s time for fairy lights, scarfing mulled wine and stuffing your face!
Touch, taste, smell, hear and create art. Smith & Sinclair, purveyors of the Edible Cocktail, presents The Flavour Gallery: a multi-sensory adventure that’ll seduce your senses and tickle your taste buds beyond all imagination. Ooh matron!
Brush the cobwebs off your sexy banana costume; it’s that time of year to make a tit of yourself in fancy dress again. We’ve rounded up the most spine-chilling Halloween happenings in North London and, trust us, they sound horrendous. Be afraid, be very afraid.
God bless the Queen... of Hoxton. Or, more specifically, their rooftop - which happens to be one of our favourites in this here city of London. These guys are well known for creating beautiful, seasonal pop-ups which have included the Nordic Viking themed 'Skye Halla' and the Neverland inspired 'Bangarang'. This winter make way for 'The Moroccan Medina', a sky high hideaway inspired by the romanticism of the beguiling ancient city of Marrakesh.
Next time you need a caffeine hit why not take it from a cup brewed from Jamaican beans grown under a canopy of rainforest-preserving trees, whilst eating a home made vegan banana bread as you sit among an array of sweetly scented blooms. Welcome to Mento, Finsbury Park.
Pilgrim, the newest kid to Hackney's pop-up scene, is a unique dining experience inspired by the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. This six course tasting menu includes regional dishes with a contemporary twist not yet seen before in London.