The canteen with blue tables has a standard deli selling fancy baguettes and a canteen with all the normal lunch grub (boxed sandwiches, crisps, etc.).
Pieminster sells gourmet pie and mash. A little pricey but sometimes they do discounts so look out for those. They offer a range of gravy, including vegetarian and red wine flavoured. Apparently, “the mash is lit” – not my words.
I pretty much survived off the steamed buns that Far East sold for £1.80ish during first year. Cheap, filling, and healthy. So popular that it always had a ridiculously long queue at lunchtime filled with loyal customers. I am sad to say that Tanpopo has now replaced it, which is good in its own right, but just not the same. The snacks, such as Gyoza (Japanese dumplings), will set you back about £2.50. For a more filling lunch you can pick up some Katsu curry or teriyaki salmon, which of course is more pricey than the snacks, but perhaps worth it if you’re a big Katsu fan. Tanpopo also display their menu on TV screens: how high-tech of them.
2. LIBRARY CAFÉ
One of the few locations on campus that actually serves barista coffee. Perfect for those all night study sessions when the instant (well, automatic-machine produced) coffee that is most commonly found on campus just doesn’t satisfy the needs of the caffeine addicts. They are easily spotted in a crowd: look out for the people that walk around campus like zombies if denied their daily fix. Thank God the Library Café is open until 23:00 on weekdays. Lots of last minute lab reports and group work would suffer were it not.
Their range of sugary treats is also surprisingly good. My personal favourite is the red velvet cheesecake. It is, however, deceptively named: it is in fact a (delicious) red velvet cake with the buttery biscuit base of a cheesecake (subtle throwback to that vintage meme). Admittedly, the name ‘red velvet cake:cheesecake hybrid’ may be too long to fit on a label, so I’ll forgive the mislabelling on this occasion and praise the culinary creativity instead. The triangular chocolaty, nutty, fruity, caramelly things are also yummy.
If you find yourself staying back unexpectedly late on campus (poor you), you may be heading to the Library Café to fill a hole in your rumbling stomach. For best value for money, opt for a jacket potato. Warming, filling, and cheaper than buying a sandwich if you choose to only have butter with it (costing just over £1). The full meals are far more expensive, costing in excess of £4.
Shout-out to the staff who make an effort to decorate the place for special occasions. This week you will find a real Halloween pumpkin on top of the dessert glass cabinet and spider web paper chains hanging up. Cheers for that.
People are still bitter about the removal of cooked breakfast.
Just for postgrads, so sadly I have never eaten here. Apparently, the lecturers eat here to avoid bumping into their students over lunch. Fair enough.
5. SAF CAFÉ
A popular lunch venue for students of all disciplines, not just the medics and life scientists (yes, it is their building too). Although, this is mainly due to the lack of needing an ID card to enter the building and the comfy sofas hidden behind the staircase. Its popularity has led to massive queues at lunchtime. So a word of advice, buy your food before the stampede of medic freshers descend the front staircase at 12 o’clock and please, oh please, have your ID card ready at the till. The coffee machines have had an upgrade since last year and with it comes an upgrade in prices too. Personally, I think the fancier machines are worth the slight added cost. The coffee tastes better and the cappuccinos have better foam. Plus, the hot chocolate, weirdly named ‘dark chocolate’, is very rich and therefore better than most machine hot chocolates, which can be tasteless/taste of powder, if powder can have a taste. For the healthier amongst you, the SAF Café also sells a range of smoothies. One of them features kale. No surprises there really. A friend of mine made the following bold claim, “the cheese Cornish pasty is better than Greggs.”
6. FARMER’S MARKET
Unfortunately, the farmer’s market only takes over the area around the Queen’s Tower on Tuesdays, but I thought it deserved a mention regardless. Calling it a “farmer’s” market is a bit of a stretch as it doesn’t sell very much fresh farm produce i.e. fruit and veg. Instead, it sells fancy lunch street food (similar to the food markets found at Camden Lock and by the live music venue on Portobello Road), which we all probably prefer anyway, so no harm done. Like most trendy markets, there is a bias towards organic, vegan, and gluten free food. It can at first seem a bit expensive, but most of the portion sizes for meals are big, particularly for the curries, paella, and other foods cooked in a wok. So either go hungry or share with a friend is my advice. It also offers seasonal food, for instance the autumnal pumpkin lasagne, which has an oddly sweet edge but is balanced with savoury parmesan cheese which somehow works. The pizza is tasty but messy, so get a paper plate and sit down; otherwise, you are going to end up with toppings all over your t-shirt.
Similar to the union but with a classier vibe and a bit more expensive. If you fancy a break from the chaos of the union and have the urge to eat somewhere with a more defined restaurant-like ordering system, then Eastside may just be the place for you.
8. QUEENS TOWER ROOMS
2-course meal for £6? Queens Tower Room is famed for its value for money – where else could you get a main, a side, a drink and a dessert/soup for under a tenner? There are several counters: Wok, Main, and Copper Pots, where they sell differently themed food. Quick review: Wok is edible but meh, rice from Copper is disgusting, criss cross fries are amazing. The desserts are the best part – all the cakes and fruit bowls you can choose from. QTR’s daily menus are posted on Imperial’s website and a great way to try to stay awake in a boring lecture is browsing through them. Thinking about lunch will keep you awake. Wait, maybe that’s not such a good idea…
9. FUSION 54
What’s that queue for? You might have never heard of it before, but I bet you’ve seen the long queue snaking out of a little outlet right opposite the Union shop, squeezed between JCR and SCR. Aptly called Fusion, this shop sells a variety of Western and Eastern food with a heavy Indian note. Meal options include pasta, fried rice, and biryani rice. If you’re a vegetarian, fret not: vegetarian dishes are served every day, varying from arrabbiata penne to pilau rice with lentil curry. The menu changes every day so you’ll never get bored! A box costs £3.95 and you can mix and match whichever dishes tickle your fancy, even if it’s pouring a spoonful of chicken curry over the creamy pasta. No judgement at all. Sandwiches and wraps are also available and will be toasted on order. Favourites include beef pasta bake, coconut rice, and shashlik wraps.
10. COLLEGE CAFÉ
The overflow café for business school students when they want to branch out from their underground Business School Café next to the metal cylinder. It has outside seating on Dalby Court, which is well-used when the sun is shining and therefore not very often. Good barista coffee.
11. BEIT: 568/UNION BAR
They sell a large range of food from curries to burritos. The cheesy curly fries have a cult following. Members of arts societies that rehearse in Beit practically live off them. It was actually suggested that I write “An Ode to Curly Fries” to accompany this article; not this week I’m afraid, but watch this space. The nachos come covered in a mountain of dip and cheese. I am rarely able to finish the nachos-for-one myself, and usually end up sharing it with friends who eagerly reach for the bowl when I admit defeat, so I can’t imagine how big the nachos-for-two is. How do they fit it in a bowl?
Remember your table number when you go to the bar to order and bring your ID card. They will ask to see it and it is no fun pushing back through groups of people in order to fetch it from your bag, just to dive back through the throngs to return to the bar.