Lunch for £5? No problem, right?

Lunch for £5? No problem, right?

The first blogs from the new East End Influencers

Over the summer we asked local people to share their experiences of East London, challenge assumptions and be part of our fight for a fairer London, by becoming East End Influencers.

The Influencers will be asked to blog, vlog and create a range of online content for Toynbee Hall that reflects all aspects of life in East London as well as some of the challenges in the area.

The first blogs are based on a challenge we set the Influencers on their initial training. We gave them £5 each and told them to go and get themselves some lunch. At first, this seemed very straight forward as £5 should be more than enough for lunch, but as this rapidly changing area is seeing a host of cafes and eateries of all kinds pop up all around us, this seemingly generous lunch budget suddenly doesn’t quite get you as far as you might think. These blogs demonstrate the growing concern for many about the increasing costs of living, but also what options are available.

Why I don’t eat out at lunch

By Samira Johnson

We were given a £5 lunch budget challenge.

Rules – spend no more than £5 on your lunch and bring back your receipt.

I wanted to avoid the most obvious of choices based on where we were located at Toynbee Hall – the £3 meal deal at Tesco opposite the road, which comprises of a sandwich, drink, and a packet of crisps. I rarely frequent at Fast Food outlets so cheap chicken and chips was definitely off the menu..

So with that in mind I knew there was a Crisis cafe further down Commercial Street that I was yet to visit and an old regular spot from when I worked in Brick Lane several years ago – Mama Thai’s. Surely they might still do their £5 thai food lunch menu?

So Michelle and I set off ready to ace the challenge. Interestingly enough she accompanied me, but I wasn’t the one who ended up parting with my cash.

The reason I didn’t order is because it felt too pricey, even for a charity café. I understand that there is a lot of overhead costs and perhaps I did leave too hastily – but the Crisis cafe reminded me of the cafés that are gentrifying the common East End streets and honestly I just couldn’t justify paying £4.50 for a small focaccia sandwich even if the staff were pleasant.

I made my way to Petticoat Lane Market – I should get lunch here for £5. Right? I came across 6 food stalls – which included falafel, indian and mama Gifty –  Ghanaian food. I must admit I am a sucker for jollof rice and for £5 I could afford that, chicken and salad. Win! However she was yet to finish setting up and my food would’ve taken at least 20 mins. So I promised Mama Gifty I would visit another day. Now I knew that I could visit the Arts Bar & Café, Toynbee Studios, where I had a great big colourful veggie rich plate of Moroccan cous cous for £5 the day prior on our workshop. As I made my way back, I still wondered if Mama Thai’s was still open or if they had been priced out and was now a distant memory.

(As I made my way back I did have a look through the window at 3 restaurants, 2 were not yet opened and the third a Chinese restaurant –their menu started from £6.50).

I don’t eat out at lunch because I know on average a lunch at £5 – if bought 5 days a week can cost around £1200 a year. This doesn’t include drinks. I am quite frugral and I would rather save that money to fund my goals. I am a fan of tucking into my own home cooked food for lunch. You get to eat what you want, it can be healthy and saves you time queuing up to get your lunch in the first place. Ok so maybe the odd lunch treat here and there isn’t so bad – but making it a regular thing? I’ll pass. To end on a cheerful note, Mama Thai’s is still open! Alexa managed to stumble upon it and had a hearty warm chickpea curry for £5. Hoorah!

You ready for your lunch? …Cool, let’s embark on a culinary adventure around Toynbee Hall

By Alexandra Mitrica

My colleagues and I at Toynbee Hall’s East London Influencers were given the challenge to come up with affordable options for a nice lunch in the area.

I’ve been living near Leman Street for the past year and a half, but didn’t have lunch in the area that much. So I was a little anxious on how this meal will turn out.

The Results

Despite the fact prices have alarmingly risen in the past years, search results in the area were surprisingly positive.

Prepare yourself for a culinary treat, exploring the culturally rich and diverse Commercial Road and around.

Place NameSpecificVegetarianNon-vegetarian
PIZZA UNIONItalian PizzeriaPizza Margherita £3.95

Pizza Funghi £4.95

PILPELMiddle-Eastern Eatery/Take-AwayFalafel £4.99Saabich £4.99
EFESTurkish Restaurant/Take-AwayFalafel Wrap

Lahmacun & Lentil Soup

Lahmacun & Chicken Soup
TIKKA EXPRESSIndian Eatery/Take-AwayChaana Masala with Rice £4

Taika Dahl with rice £4.5

Meat Samosa 75p & Chicken Tikka Roll £4

Chicken Tikka/Kurma with Naan £5

SALAD BOXRomanian Eatery/Take-AwayToscana salad £4.5Boston Salad £4.95
CAFFE GRILLBengal RestaurantSpecial Biryani £4.99Sabji Biryani £4.99
DUMPLING SHACKChinese Eatery/Take-AwayVegetarian Dumplings £5
MAMMA THAIThai Eatery/Take-AwayVegetarian Noodles./Curry


Pumpkin Curry

ROAST & TOASTAlgerian Eatery/Take-AwayRegular Lunch Box £5

Large Lunch Box £5

Regular Lunch Box £5

Large Lunch Box £5

Arts Bar & Café, Toynbee Studios British eatery/coffee shopRoasted veggies Couscous £5

Vegetarian Ramen Soup £5

Sourdough sandwich £5

My choice: I felt warmly welcomed at Mamma Thai where a fellow Londoner enjoying his lunch recommended his favourite vegetarian dish: a delicious, mouth-watering Pumpkin Curry. If you’re ever been to Spitalfields market, you may have spotted them there a few years ago. Due to the market pressure, they had to move a few streets away – they’re now on the beautiful Toynbee Street. Despite having a regular clientele, they’re unsure on what’s next as the area is further changing. If around, do pay them a visit for a nice warm meal and an honest smile.

Can you think of any other hidden gems I missed on list above? Please leave a comment with your discovery.

Find out more about our Influencer’s Samira and Alexandra here.
The East End Influencers will be posting a range of blogs about the things in East London that are important to them. Check our Blogs page or our social media for the latest posts.
If you would be interested in blogging for us about the issues that matter to you, please email


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