Lunch at the Indian YMCA: The Best Bargain Meal in London

selection of curries, onion bhajis and chutneys

Looking for the best bargain meal in London? The Indian YMCA in Fitzrovia is open to the public and serves up home cooked food for a fraction of the price of its neighbours.

I’m very much a bring-in-your-lunch sort when it comes to my one free hour in the office each day. I love to cook and often have delicious leftovers for the taking, and of course, it helps on the purse strings when my bank account is feeling a little light. I work in central London which means there are some amazing places for lunch, but you’re looking at an average of around £7 for something fulfilling (and even a minimum of a fiver for a bog-standard sandwich and crisps situation) which adds up over the weeks.

entrance to indian ymca london

I’d heard rumours of the Indian YMCA’s restaurant being an amazing place for a cheap-as-chapattis lunch, but kind of felt stupid going there. I mean, it’s a hostel, and a charity at that. Who am I to go to someone’s accommodation and help myself to their bargain spread? But lunch-goers are openly welcomed; card payments taken and they even do a collection service if you want to take food back to the office! It’s very much a canteen setting, and you’ll need to get there early to ensure you get a seat, but as soon as I saw the menu, I was already panicking about how I’d whittle the choices down.

selection of curries in canteen

Watch my food Instagram Stories highlight to see what else I’ve been eating!

Each main dish costs between £2 – £4 and you can help yourself to whatever you like. There were options of lamb, chicken and fish curries, with a chapatti that cost just pennies on the side. My lamb curry had huge chunks of meat in it and a sauce thick with the taste of cumin which I loved. No watery tomato bases, but also no searing heat to make up for not knowing how to use the right balance of flavour. A touch of chilli here and there, but this was really a exceptionally accessible meal for lovers of all sorts of Indian food.

queueing at indian ymca canteen

The side orders were my downfall when it came to keeping to a lower budget: crunchy okra, which I’ve only ever experienced in Caribbean cuisine before and was a total delight. Slightly al dente chickpeas swimming in cardamom and coriander seeds , and then lentil dhal, a dish I cook at least once a fortnight at home, a little thinner than I usually like it, but delicious all the same. We had flaky onion bhajis (three to a plate for just £1.50), plus raita and mango chutney for 50p a pop, and plain or pilau rice to bring it all together.

selection of curries, onion bhajis and rice

See what else I’ve been eating over on Instagram #DistractedEats

It felt like the world’s best school dinner. Clanging of the giant metal cooking pans in the corner, the old-school till ringing through endless orders, sitting elbow-to-elbow with my colleagues as we all swapped and shared dishes to try a bit of everything. My share of this feast cost £8 and I couldn’t even finish it all, opting to take my leftover bhajis back to the office for a late afternoon snack (which I didn’t even need because I remained super full for the rest of the day!). This is the kind of food I am beyond excited about eating in India: no airs and graces, just flavour and simplicity. But I don’t go there until next year, so the Indian YMCA will be getting a few more visits from me in the meantime!

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Lunch at the Indian YMCA: The Best Bargain Meal in London

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