Cheap Eats in London, England: EAT, Marks and Spencer and Pret a Manger
Windsor Royal Shopping Centre
5-6 Jubilee Arch, Town Centre, Windsor, England
Even in an expensive city like London, England, there are cheap eats. And we didn’t even have to look that hard. Almost every borough had several EATs. We happened to venture into the EAT at Windsor after visiting Windsor Palace but there are EATs all over London. You can think of EAT as a higher end 7 eleven. They don’t have slurpies but they have cartons of soup and gyozas, neatly packed sandwiches, wraps and sweet treats like mini cakes, brownies and pudding. The prices are relatively low for England, around 3 pounds for a sandwich. We bought the turkey and cranberry sandwich on whole wheat bread and the Margarita baguette with mozzarella, tomato and basil along with a vanilla cake square and some parnips crisps (what we, Canadians call chips).
I was amazed at the freshness of the basil in the Margarita, still crisp and cool on my tongue. The tomato was also firm and not soggy; the cheese was also unbelievably fresh and soft, adding a creaminess to the sandwich. The baguette wasn’t bad either, chewy on the inside and flaky on top.
The turkey cranberry sandwich was almost like eating a leftover turkey sandwich after Thanksgiving. The turkey meat was moist. Upon looking at it, I realize that it’s processed deli meat but it certainly didn’t taste that way. I am unsure about the sodium content and food processing bylaws here, but the deli meat is definitely not as salty as Canadian deli meat. The cranberries were very sweet and a perfect partner to the light and mild tasting parsley in the sandwich.
The vanilla cake with frosting and shreds of white chocolate was sweet, moist and crumbly, a fantastic sweet ending to a light lunch. A little cardboard lining in the packaging kept the delicate cake from being squished in our lunch bag.
We bought the parsnips crisps because they were interesting but what a great choice. They were sweet AND salty all in one bag. And yes to sound cliche, they were crispy as well. Also in the bag were beetroot and carrot crisps, the carrot crisps were very crunchy but also retain their sweet carrot flavour whereas the parsnips and beetroots absorbed more of the salty seasoning. All in all, the chips were delicious and even pretty to look at in their deep reds and bright orange shapes.
93/95 Wardour St, Soho, London, England
Pret A Manger means ‘ready to eat’ in Italian. This is a food chain that is also open in Hong Kong. Much like EAT, Pret A Manger features sandwiches, cakes and soups. They were advertising a hot and steaming porridge while we were there but I never got to try it. Interestingly enough, even though London streets are still buzzing with people late into the night, stores usually close around 8 pm or 10 pm and restaurants and pubs typically stop serving food after those hours too. So we went to Pret A Manger before dinner to buy some little cakes for a late night snack. We settled on a chocolate cake and a carrot cake, each were only a couple pounds.
The chocolate cake, disappointingly, was a little on the dry side but still good if you want a quick chocolate fix. And the cute and convenient packaging is perfect for packing this cake for a road trip, taking to work or like us, toting around town in our purses for a quick snack later.
The carrot cake was a dream: moist, sweet, the cake was dense but the fluffy cream cheese frosting was light, salty and sweet as cream cheese should be. And I don’t even like carrots but I have now loved it in two items in this very blog post! So here’s my tip, if you go to Pret A Manger, definitely buy the carrot cake!
107 – 115 Long Acre, Covent Garden, London, England
Marks and Spencer is not just a clothing store in London. Well, actually, I don’t remember seeing any clothing sold in the Marks and Spencer stores that I visited in London, and we went to quite a few. Our server on the plane ride over had mentioned Marks and Spencer and we had looked at him like he was crazy. When we got here we understood what he meant. Marks and Spencer sells all types of food and wine: gourmet cookies, chocolates, pastries and there is even a fast food counter.
We ran in to get a quick bite before watching Chicago, the musical. Since it was after 8 pm, many of the menu items on the fast food menu board were unavailable, I didn’t get my milk shake or my panini so I settled on a grilled chicken burger combo with fries and a coke (they didn’t have iced tea available either), and my companion got the same combo but with a cheese burger.
The fries or ‘chips’ as I should call them were delicious and really hit the spot: fat, hot and not too greasy. Despite their thick cut, these fries were not starchy at all. I easily devoured almost the whole pack in less than 15 minutes. Our burgers were also pretty delectable, one wouldn’t even guess that this was a fast food counter. The chicken burger was moist on the inside. I love the grill marks on the outside of the chicken breast. I am actually pretty amazed that they used real chicken breast too. For the price point of just 6 pounds, I thought I would be getting a chunk of processed meat.
The cheese burger was also tasty, the cheese was melted just right: gooey, stretchy and warm. The tomato wasn’t soggy; I’m still not sure how they keep their tomato slices solid and not soggy in sandwiches around here. The actual burger patty, although on the thin side was still moist and flavourful, well seasoned and nicely grilled on the outside.
I wish the drinks had different lids as the bubble tops with huge straw holes were not conducive to drinking and running, which was what we did as we dashed to catch Chicago after our meal.
In general, it is possible to find cheap eats in London, and for the price that we paid, the food quality was high and the service was pretty remarkable.