Food Friday: Take it away

by Amy & the world

To make up for the severe lack of Food Friday last week (and posts in general!), this post includes… multiple recommendations! This week, I decided to start compiling some of my favourite London spots to grab lunch if you’re in a rush but don’t fancy conventional fast food or sandwiches.

This list doesn’t include markets/street stalls (that’s for another post), or restaurants that do take-away versions of the restaurant food, for example Pizza Express. I’m starting with three of my favourites today, but will be adding further haunts, new discoveries and the many places I’ve forgotten as time goes on, too, so do leave any recommendations and favourites in the comments!

Rasa Express lunch box. Photo Credit: Ewan Munro

Rasa Express: Rathbone Street (Nearest Stations: Tottenham Court Road / Goodge Street), Euston Road (Nearest Stations: Warren St / Euston Square)
Hidden at the back of the main restaurant, Rasa Express is one of the best value eats I’ve ever found, in London or elsewhere. The Keralan restaurants initially started as a vegetarian Indian, and has now grown into a small-chain of restaurants with different specialities, such as fish. (I know I said these weren’t takeaway versions of restaurants, but Rasa Express needs writing about – and is a little different to its restaurant counterpart).

The ‘speciality’ of Rasa Express is that is serves delicious curries and snacks in meal box form, all of which cost under £5. You can choose between vegetarian and meat, and the size of meal you want. On my last visit, I chose go all out and get the two curries, rice dish, side, bread and a pudding, which sorted me out for the day. However there are cheaper and smaller options if you’re after more of a snack, such as dumplings and potato balls.

The only negative is that there’s nowhere to sit and eat it – fine for us lucky folk who work nearby, but not ideal for visitors to the area. However the benches of Bedford Square and Soho Square are within a 5-10 minute walk, both lovely spots for outdoor eating when the weather’s right. And even if it’s not: these curries are worth withstanding a bit of drizzle for.

Benito’s Hat Exterior: My Metropole

Benito’s Hat (Various Locations)
I’ve noticed a lot of burrito takeaways in London recently, and can’t claim to have tried them all. However of those I have tried, Benito’s Hat provided the best combination of good burritos and good value. Moreover, a lot of my colleagues are (very) regular visitors: high praise indeed considering us publishers aren’t exactly on bankers’ salaries, and so can’t just splash the cash on any old take out.

The food at Benito’s Hat isn’t limited to burritos, with tacos, soups and salads all making an appearance on the menu. Once you’ve chosen your meal, you then pick your base (a choice of beans), filling (veg, steak, two types of chicken or pork) and topping (various sauces, cheese or lettuce) – all for under £7, making it cheaper than a lot of other burrito outlets, and they don’t scrimp on the fillings either.

Eat in, take-away and even delivery (if you order before 11.30am) are all available.

Don’t have a Benito’s Hat nearby? Chilango is a little more expensive, but some argue that the burritos themselves are of a slightly higher quality. Try both and decide for yourself!

Oriental Star exterior. Photo Credit: The Local Data Company

Oriental Star, Finchley Road (Nearest Stations: Finchley Road / Finchley Road & Frognal)
Planning a trip to Finchley Road’s O2 Centre? Fancy something to eat? The centre itself, admittedly, is hardly short of affordable eating options, from Wetherspoons to Nando’s. However, your best bet is to leave the centre and cross the road (admittedly easier said than done – this is Finchley Road) to visit the unassuming Oriental Star noodle bar.

One of the best things about this place is the range of noodle and rice dishes on offer alongside the standard Chinese fare. The atmosphere there can vary – often it’s people in a rush, but on some evenings you will find locals shouting across the canteen-style tables to one another. Quick, tasty and cheap (most dishes are under £5 and very generous portions), this is a hidden gem on Finchley Road.