Singapore Laksa at C&R Cafe Restaurant, Rupert Court
Tucked down a little alleyway, C&R Cafe Restaurant looks like your typical Chinese restaurant, but actually it specialises in Malaysian food. Infamous petai beans, off-puttingly stinky but ultimately delicious, are served here—one of the few places in London where you can find them.
The Singapore laksa at around £7 is a bowl brimming full of prawns, tofu puffs, fish cake and rice vermicelli. Spicy and rich with coconut milk, with a little additional chilli sauce, it made a cheap and cheerful dinner. It was washed down with a frothy teh tarik; a strong tea sweetened with condensed milk and poured at a height to create a frothy head.
Salt Beef Sandwich, Gaby's Deli, Charing Cross Road
Gaby's Deli, established in 1965, got a good bit of attention when it was recently threatened with closure from their landlords, with plans to replace it with a chain restaurant. A successful campaign was launched, supported by famous thespians and lovers of their salt beef, and their lease was extended until May 2013—so get it while you can.
For around £8, you get warm, juicy salt beef in caraway seed-studded bread, with a pot of mustard to slather as you see fit. The beef, sliced finely is plentiful, its richness tempered by a sweet and sour pickled gherkin. Their falafel are also well regarded, but I had eyes only for the beef.
Pho at Viet Noodle Bar, Greek Street
This cheerful cafe is not only cheap and tasty, it's also BYOB. Their pho broth is heady with the scent of star anise, the noodles slippery. I also love their banh xeo, a frequent light lunch for me.
Viet Noodle Bar: 34 Greek Street, London W1D 5D (map)
Udon at Koya, Frith Street
Koya is probably the furthest of my recommendations, but under a 10 minute walk—it's the restaurant I visit most often, and certainly worth the walk. The udon have an addictive chewiness when cold, and a contrasting soft, slippery quality once dunked in some hot broth.
Interestingly, the vegan option (mushrooms with walnut miso hot broth) is one of the most expensive at £11.50, but it will change your life. It did mine.
Avoid peak hours as there is usually a queue for this no-reservation restaurant. The queue moves quickly, though.
Burgers at Byron, Charing Cross Road
While Byron seem to be taking over London, they still manage to keep each of their sites looking different and interesting. My favourite of their burgers comes with a processed cheese slice—essential on a burger, I feel—and the courgette (zucchini) fries are addictive. They often have seasonal specials, such as the Chilli Queen that they created for the Jubilee this year (pictured).