Jan 8 2012

Top Ten budget eateries in Lancaster

I am so far behind the times with this I might as well be espousing the joys of Abba, the pill and flares. Basically I was at my parents in Devon for Christmas and there was an article in The Guardian about the best budget places to eat in Lancaster appearing to be by someone who’s idea of ‘budget’ was whatever place he spotted on a brief perusal of the town before sodding back off to The Ivy.

I was going to write an excellent retort and link to it on The Guardian’s Comment Is Free page but I never got around to it, being too busy doing sweet FA. Apart from eating an impressive mix of carbohydrates eight times a day.

The article pissed me off because some of the places the reviewer espoused were not remotely budget for most of the population. For example, The Sun Hotel, which was mentioned, is an upmarket establishment frequented by quite loud people in suits who have no Farm Food carrier bags and do not shuffle. It is a nice place to eat but your open topped ravioli will be around eight or nine pounds and a medium glass of wine is four pounds. That is not budget. That is a first date.  Genuine budget establishments do not have leather sofas and iPad clutching clientele. A true budget establishment is somewhat sticky and has spelling mistakes more eye catching than the food. Or is just a great place that does not charge through the nose.

So anyway, a month late, here is my definitive list of the best budget eateries in Lancaster.

1.     The veggie food stall in the market every Saturday. Oh yes. Here be griddled Nirvana for only three pounds. This is the ‘veggie mix’, a calorific delight consisting of fried halloumi, falafels, freshly made potato cakes and a choice of sauces all wrapped up in pitta bread then deposited in the somewhat more downmarket polystyrene tray by an immensely cheery man. Should I ever get married, this will be the wedding fayre. Please provide your own plastic Spork.

2.     Windy Hill Bakery, King Street –Excellent bread for around 1.50 and vegetarian pasties for the same price consisting of glamorous un Greggsy fillings like spiced aubergine and feta. Run by the friendliest woman in the world who appears to be from an Enid Blyton book. An aura of bonhomie pervades.  Also do exceedingly good cakes for the magic price of 1.50 or under.

3.     The Merchants. A cosy underground pub which has the papers, good wine for under four quid for a large glass and the best chips in existence: crispy, yet also curiously soggy behemoths and a veritable steaming Everest of them for 2.50.  If you are trying to impress or have recently won the lottery then why not spend an extra three quid on the soup then you can have the endless possibilities that the soup, piece of bread and portion of chips entails. Shall one mouthful be a mini chip butty and the next a soup dipped chip? Or shall I go for the elegant tapas of the more traditional soup dipped bread before having a margarine-smeared chip? I know how to live. Oh yes.


4.     The Gregson. The main food menu isn’t enormously cheap and the veggie menu seems to have suffered somewhat since I first came here but the light bites menu with all things 4.95 has garlic mushrooms and chips where the garlic mushrooms joyously spurt out boiling hot garlicky oil when you bite into them. It is a cosy bohemian pub/community centre with an always-lit fire with a dog often slumbered in front of it, the papers, a toy chest and friendly staff.


5.     Here, I admit a grudging allowance for one of the establishments on the original Guardian list. The Sultan of Lancaster café has an excellent spicy tamarind and chickpea soup for 3.25 and pleasingly also has curly fries along with more traditional Indian fare.  Many establishments that serve Indian food and curly fries are relentlessly awful but this place manages to be classy and have one consider curly fries a traditional Punjabi delicacy.  http://sultanoflancaster.com/

6.     Sainsbury’s café. A full veggie English with free-range eggs and a slight air of misery for under four quid. See also Wetherspoons. The Sainsbury’s café features fewer alcoholics in suits sitting alone and adrift at their island like table perches with a trembling hand on an empty pint glass but more people with bandages strangely. The Daily Mail is the most popular paper here, which is why I don’t frequent it often despite the excellent value for an admittedly slightly joyless wizened breakfast.

7.     Nice Bar. Not the cheapest place in town but by far the most glamorous if your idea of glamour is wallpaper featuring a Sistine chapel fresco and literary quotes from books you have never read embedded on walls and ceiling.  A meal can be had for around six pounds, which in my book is eminently reasonable. And this is an excellent place to sit and eavesdrop on artisans, intellectuals and the pretentious. http://nicebarandrestaurant.co.uk/

8.     Verdes. For five pounds twenty five you can have a slightly forgettable pizza or pasta and snigger at the slightly lurid painted interpretations of Italy on the walls.

9.     Greenhalghs bakery. Butter pie. 1.20. Job done.

10.  Soupernova.  Another place mentioned in The Guardian, it does big bowls of good soup for around 3.50. You can feel your life expectancy rise as you eat it. Thus it then makes perfect sense to go back to the pub.