London is obsessed with finding a bargain, but the increasing importance of terms like ‘budget’ and ‘cheapness’ brings with it some problems. What is a cheap eat: Something that costs £20 for a meal? £10 for a lunch? £5 for a snack? This fixation on price means that the “cheap eats” are often relegated to a lower rung than more feted restaurants — best of the rest, a last resort for that last weekend before pay day.
But cheapness can be suggestive of other, more important qualities too. It suggests value — a virtue in scarce supply in a city of rising rents and costs. It suggests community, for those cafes and restaurants have chosen to serve the needs of the local — often a working class or immigrant — population. It suggests generosity, and the primacy of the idea that a restaurant should leave its guests fuller and happier than when they arrived.
The Eater London 38 is a guide to the most innovative and essential restaurants in London, the restaurants that have turned London into a destination food city and the most vital place to eat out in Europe. Every restaurant in the six guides below is essential in another way: for Londoners, these restaurants span all the neighbourhoods and cuisines that define the city. They’re the places to visit two, three times a week for cooking that tends towards home and comfort.