Having grown up, studied, and worked in London my whole life, I feel like I know the best spots in the city for students on a not-too-tight-but-I’m-not-wasting-my-money-here kind of budget by now. This guide isn’t going to include the very obvious tourist traps, which are still worth visiting but everybody already knows about those. No, this is all about the food spots, pubs and clubs, the staples of the city that real Londoners know too well. For all you study abroad peeps especially, this one’s for you.
Temple Brew House
Hidden away in the basement on the Strand, Temple Brew House is a quality establishment that’s perfect to dive into after a hard night on the books on the KCL campus/Maughan Library. With a uniquely rustic aesthetic, it has everything that’s good about the traditional British pub while still finding space to add in some more modern twists. The draught selection has all the classics alongside a wide selection of crafts and IPAs to whet your taste. The food menu has something for everyone to nosh on while watching the football/rugby/croquet etc on the big screens. Definitely make sure you try the infamous spinning-wheel game at the bar, though be warned that you might end up tipping the bartender a pint of Amstel!
Pubs in London generally fall into four categories: (Wether)Spoons, Greene King, Fuller’s and Sam Smith’s (there are some independents, but those are rare and expensive like good steak at Gaucho). The Fitzroy is the latter and takes advantages of all of the best aspects of a Sam Smith. Firstly and most crucially, the beer is very cheap for London clocking in at £3.50 per pint. In a city where below-par beer can cost a week’s rent, this is not a price to sniff at. Secondly, the interior of the Fitzroy is distinctly divided into several small rooms that are perfect for a good chatter; head for the back room for a real speakeasy vibe and unleash your inner Keats/Shelley. Alternatively, head over in the spring to nurse a cold one in the outside vicinity of Fitzrovia and watch the world go by in a wonderfully-quiet and secluded corner of the capital.
Milkshake @ Ministry of Sound
Okay, so I’ll admit I’m breaking one of my own rules about spots not many people would have already heard about with this one. However, Milkshake Tuesdays at the iconic Ministry of Sound have a legendary reputation amongst students far and wide for a reason. Three rooms, each with their own unique feel, means you’re spoilt for choice regardless of the vibe you’re in without it being overwhelming. There’s plenty of space on both levels, so you can bring the entire flat on a night out out. Plus, you can dance the night away without the burden of having lectures the following morning because it’s a Wednesday!
Propaganda @ Dingwalls, Camden
For those of us who love a good indie disco, Propaganda at Camden’s famous Dingwalls is the peak of the mountain. Having previously been hosted at the legendary Electric Ballroom, Dingwalls is so close to Camden Town station that I’m pretty sure they practically have a common wall. A name-brand in its own right, Dingwalls is steeped in London’s history of indie and has enough cred to make it an absolute destination for all the greasers and band shirt-rockers amongst us. There’s plenty of room in the dance hall, meaning Propaganda is quite simply the ideal event for those of us who want to jam to some Arctic Monkeys/The Strokes/The Kooks on a Saturday night in the capital.
DAYTIME FOOD SPOTS
Britain’s love affair with all things Iberian (Benidorm, napping in the afternoon, Cristiano Ronaldo etc) has recently extended its reaches into the country’s food culture. Tapas is very much en vogue at the moment, with hotspots such as Barrafina on many people’s to-eat lists. My pick of the bunch, however, is Pix Pintxos. There’s a fair few of these, so you won’t have to make a pilgrimage to a far-flung corner of the city. The chorizo and egg combination is excellent, as is the avocado on toast. The jewel in the crown, though, is the cod croquette glazed in honey that makes them so moreish you’ll never want to eat anything else. Head over during a lunch time and take full advantage of the AYCE £15 so you can work your way through the range before the much-needed siesta ensues.
Let’s address the elephant in the room first of all: there is always a queue at Borough Market’s Padella, and a long one at that. With that said, it’s definitely worth the wait. This is partly because the interior is, by their own admission, tiny, but mostly because the food is so excellent that its developed a cult reputation for foodies looking for a quality meal worth far more than what you pay; no mean feat in the historic Borough Market. Indeed, Padella really bucks the trend of “London prices” as walking in with only a tenner will get you far here. There are no bad choices on the pasta menu, only better ones. In particular, get yourself the tagliarini before heading back to the nearby Guy’s campus where you can sit in New Hunt’s House and ponder your next visit to Padella.
LATE NIGHT FOOD SPOTS
Opposite Padella and Borough Market, the smell of Cafe Rossi fills the air of London Bridge Road each Wednesday evening after Sports Night at Guy’s Bar, and trust me when I tell you that – right there and then – there is nothing better on this Earth. It’s an illustration of the classic kebab shop that serves all the greasy staples to perfectly punctuate a night out. There is a Chicken Cottage down the road towards Borough opposite the Belushi’s, but I’d have faith in the guys at Cafe Rossi to sort you out at 2am just south of the river. Indeed, my weakness in life is the chicken burger (garlic sauce and extra onions, trust me) with chips and a drink. It’s cash only, so utilise the multiple ATMs around the place and tuck in. Divine.
While something of a left-field choice for a late night eatery, given the distinct lack of frying oil, Beigel Bake on Brick Lane is about as close to an East End institution not named Danny Dyer as you’re likely to find in the capital. Located on the Shoreditch side of Brick Lane, mistaking this for the Beigel Shop next door is not the worst choice you could ever make, but Beigel Bake is the preferred spot for a reason. A proper family-run business, this is one for the classic bagel combinations at a very reasonable price after a fun night out in one of London’s hippest districts. I’d even personally recommend the Nutella option, which is surprisingly satisfying after a night out at The Book Club. The cherry on top of the bagel? It’s open 24 hours.
That wraps it up for the Londoner’s Guide to London. Now, stay away from all of these and leave us in peace. :)