London is a city with a diverse range of restaurants, from Michelin-starred fine dining to streetfood stalls. But if you're looking for cheap eats, there are plenty of those too. In this guide, we'll focus on restaurants in the South Bank and Waterloo areas, which are both popular tourist destinations and home to many local businesses. Whether you're looking for a quick bite or a leisurely meal, read on for our guide to the best affordable and budget-friendly restaurants in South Bank and Waterloo.
Guide to budget-friendly restaurants in South Bank and Waterloo
In this guide
Cheap eats in South Bank and Waterloo
- Crust Bros – Build your own pizza
- Mamuśka! – London's biggest Polish restaurant
- Okan – Straight from the back streets of Osaka
- Honest Burgers – At honest prices
- Maries Café – The best of both worlds
- Wahaca – Doing good for the planet
- Fishcotheque – Waterloo's classic chippy
- Roti King – The best roti in town?
- Island Poké – Say aloha to your little bowl
- Ping Pong – Low-sum dim sum
- Marugame Udon – Named Best Value Restaurant Group in 2022
- The Steam Engine – Part cosy pub, part lively hostel
- Passyunk Avenue – Genuine American dive bar
- Tortilla – Tortillas and tacos and burritos, oh my!
- Yamagoya – Hearty and affordable
- GAIL's – Ideal for a quick lunch
Cheap eats in South Bank and Waterloo
Build your own pizza
Crust Bros have come a long way since opening their first market stall. They now operate several restaurants around London, offering a range of pizzas. You can get classic tomato, white, or pesto sauce pies with tasty toppings, but the real joy comes in creating your dream pizza. Go ham and choose your base, sauce, cheeses and toppings to build the pizza you've always wanted.
London's biggest Polish restaurant
Mamuśka! brings a traditional Polish milk bar cafeteria vibe to South Bank, boasting a large, sociable dining hall. The menu is slanted towards affordability and features Polish classics such as the Schabowy pork schnitzel or the bigos sauerkraut stew. For a quick and cheap meal, the handmade pierogi - traditional Polish dumplings with various fillings - are a good choice as well.
Straight from the back streets of Osaka
The South Bank branch of Okan serves authentic Japanese dishes in a relaxed setting. You can start your meal at this traditionally decorated eatery with one of the Japanese tapas-style small plates, including gyoza and onigiri, then continue with one of the famous okonomiyaki pancakes, fried noodle, curries and more. The affordable dishes are available in a variety of flavours, and you can even customise them with your choice of toppings.
At honest prices
Committed to championing sustainability, high-quality ingredients and transparent sourcing, the Honest Burgers joints can be found all over the city, including two in the wider South Bank area. Choose between flavourful chicken, beef or veggie burgers, served in simple, unpretentious settings and at budget-friendly prices. Sides and drinks are available too, and there are monthly and location -specific exclusives as well. Head to the South Bank branch if you want to sit outside by the river.
The best of both worlds
Maries Café is known far and wide for its low prices that don't come at the expense of the portion sizes. It's also one of the few places in London where you can get a proper full English in the morning and pad Thai in the afternoon. The casual, simply furnished Waterloo eatery Maries Café offers stir fries, rice and noodle dishes, prawn toast and other Thai staples. With the friendly staff helping create a welcoming atmosphere, it's no wonder Maries Café is a local favourite.
Doing good for the planet
The first carbon-neutral restaurant group in the entire country, Wahaca is committed not just to great food, but to sustainability and protecting the environment as well. There's a ton of choice on the menu, ranging from casual Mexican street food such as tacos, to set menus designed for sharing. The vibrant and colourful joint also offers vegan, gluten-free and children's menus.
Waterloo's classic chippy
Fishcotheque is a well-established destination for fish 'n' chips, sourcing fresh fish from Billingsgate Market every day. The restaurant uses high-quality ingredients, including specially selected Maris Piper potatoes for the chips. You can enjoy your battered comfort food in the smart restaurant area with tables, booths, and a striking mosaic. Takeaway is also an option, and the desserts are definitely worth a look – you'll even find the legendary deep-fried Mars bar here.
The best roti in town?
Roti King Waterloo is another expansion of the Euston original on the south bank of the Thames. The queues for the rotis filled with cheese, chicken, or accompanied by a selection of kari, are less daunting here, with the 50-cap venue offering both dine-in and takeaway options. Notably, the Waterloo location highlights a range of plant-based choices.
Say aloha to your little bowl
The Island Poké chain was born in 2016, when founder James Porter noticed London's street-food market could use a burst of Hawaiian freshness. At the tropical eateries, you can enjoy ready-made bowls packed with fresh, nutritious ingredients, for example the classic ahi tuna topped with pineapple chilli salsa, wakame seaweed and sesame seeds. Alternatively, you can head to the pick-and-mix counter and craft your own poke bowl of goodness.
Low-sum dim sum
You can choose from a stacked range of dim sum at the Ping Pong restaurants around the capital. All sorts of dumplings, gyoza and bao are available at different prices, meaning you can compile the right assortment for your budget. Another budget-friendly option is the all-you-can-eat dim sum menu on Sundays. The Southbank branch of Ping Pong also has a heated terrace for alfresco dining.
Named Best Value Restaurant Group in 2022
The Marugame Udon restaurants are counter-service eateries where you can try traditional Japanese food, particularly udon noodle dishes and tempura. You can watch the chefs prepare the noodles and the mounds of crispy-fried deliciousness right in front of you. Grab a tray and load up on udon and rice bowls with various toppings, omusubi rice balls, and various tempura pieces. Grab a tray at this casual spot and head to the counter to get started.
Part cosy pub, part lively hostel
The Steam Engine is one of PubLove's combination pubs and backpackers' hostels, aimed at youthful international travellers on a budget. The in-house Burger Craft kitchen is therefore budget-friendly and well-versed in the flavour arts, serving proper burgers such as the Cheesus Christ with a beef patty, a grilled cheese slab, burger sauce and lettuce. If you prefer soaking up the sun to hanging out in the vibrant pub interior, there's a spacious beer garden as well.
Genuine American dive bar
The largest US dive bar in London, this buzzing Waterloo venue brings the sights, smells and flavours of Philadelphia to the city. The lively destination, covered in memorabilia and full of character, serves Philly-style cuisine such as buffalo wings, platters, cheesesteaks and more, perfect for soaking up the various booze served by the bar. Prices at Passyunk Avenue are on the affordable side of things, but cosy up to your wallet even more with the help of the many different deals that are offered regularly.
Tortillas and tacos and burritos, oh my!
Serving up a quick hunger fix in the form of flavourful Mexican food, Tortilla offers street-style staples such as burritos, tacos and quesadillas. The group's restaurants features a range of fillings and sauces, so you can dress up your meal to your liking. At the Southwark branch of this popular chain, you can enjoy your meal inside, as takeaway, or on the outdoor tables, if the weather is right.
Hearty and affordable
Behind a façade that instantly brings Japan to mind, Yamagoya is a casual, semi-self-service restaurant for casual Japanese dining. The focus here is on ramen, with an assortment of regional recipes to choose from, including a vegetarian tofu miso broth. Some other classic Japanese dishes, for example katsu curry, or small snacks such as edamame, are also available. You can also get your food as takeaway.
Ideal for a quick lunch
The Gail's Bakery is a fixture all over London, sourcing the finest ingredients from small business and using them to bake its own bread, pastries and cakes. In addition to the baked goods, however, they also serve a breakfast and lunch menu comprised of seasonal snacks such as spiced cauliflower and pickled aubergine sandwich, or soufflé egg and cheddar sliders. All Gail's Bakeries are bright and fitted with front counters displaying the tasty treats of the day.