Valentines’ Day is imminent, yet loan drop seems so long ago… Joanna Rowse recommends some South-East London eateries fit for both a romantic date and a student budget.
Organisation skills and romance do not often seem to go hand in hand; meticulous planning can often take away from the spontaneity and excitement. Perhaps this is your excuse for why your student budget isn’t quite stretching to Valentines’ Day expenses this month. But here’s some suggestions for where to go for a romantic dinner on a budget:
There are plenty of nice places to eat in South-East London, but it is easy to get caught in the New Cross bubble and forget that luxurious eateries exist beyond the New Cross House (whose halloumi sticks and treehouse are amazing, but hardly affordable). For instance, Camberwell, which is walking distance from Peckham, or a short bus ride from New Cross, is an absolute trove of cheap and delicious eateries. While I adore Falafel on Camberwell Church Street for their vegetarian mezze platter (£4.50), and would promise my heart to anyone who took me there on Valentines’ Day, I don’t think the decor is typically romantic; it is after all, a takeaway, and when you need to concentrate on gazing into your lover’s eyes then the Lebanese television playing in the background might distract you a little. For this reason, I recommend Caravaggio, which is only a few doors down; it is a bustling Italian restaurant with a wide range of pizzas that hover around the £8 mark – not bad for a main course. The waiting staff are friendly, the inside is warm, cosy, and busy without feeling too loud or chaotic – a romantic but unpretentious environment.
If you don’t fancy pizza, and want to try something a little different, then instead consider Ganapati, a South Indian kitchen on Holly Grove in Peckham. Because the food is specifically South Indian, it differs greatly from the kind of Brick Lane curries that so many of us are used to; at Ganapati the dishes are much lighter and more fragrant, and there are lots of things on the menu that will be new to the British palat. Although the evening prices might be a little too dear if you are low on cash, the restaurant offers a lunch menu on weekdays (excluding Monday, when Ganapati is shut). There are less choices, but the options given are cheaper than on the regular menu – you can buy a main meal for under £6. The interior of Ganapati is light and colourful, with lots of kooky culinary-inspired decorations on the walls. The staff are super-attentive as well, and the whole experience feels quite luxurious for the meagre prices.
Perhaps, however, you are a particularly casual guy/gal; in this case, I would recommend a little daytime wander down to Greenwich market. The choice of market foods is incredible, and neither you nor your partner need be restricted by the other’s vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free diet. You can easily buy lunch for two here for under a tenner, and you could even go and eat it in Greenwich Park (weather permitting) and feed your leftovers to the squirrels.
Of course, it could be argued that you could just as easily and cheaply cook for the two of you. Easier and cheaper still is avoiding Valentines’ Day altogether…
Whatever you do, or don’t do, and whoever you see, or don’t see, on the 14th of February, I hope it is a good day for all, and that perhaps if you don’t visit any of these eateries then you might consider it another time.