How to make the most of the 5 Incredible Fast Food Restaurants in Croydon, Surrey
When you can’t figure out where to go to find fast-food joints, make sure you cover, Central Croydon and South Croydon. This is where all the restaurants are, not to mention many others in Centrale and Whitgift Shopping Centre. However, most restaurants and cafes are situated in the high street.
Introduction to 5 Incredible Fast-Food Restaurants in Croydon, Surrey
The best thing about Croydon is its various fast-food restaurants scattered in every corner of Croydon. Situated in Surrey, Greater London, Croydon has many cheap eats you can try, from world foods like Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, and Indian on the high streets, several mini units in the busy and vibrant Box Park located next to East Croydon Station, the choice is endless. There are Halal, Eastern European, and Caribbean supermarkets and restaurants, fried chicken take-away shops, McDonald’s and KFC, not to mention the various coffee shops, and mid-range restaurants in South Croydon. Fast food is a good option if you’re on a budget, so go for fast food joints in the £5 – £7 price range that can fill you up.
1. Rio’s Piri Piri Chicken
Rio’s Piri Piri Chicken Croydon is a fast-food joint and serves everything chicken. On the website, it does say it has “authentic flavours”. Well, it has kept its promise. From classic chicken burgers, lean grilled chicken, wraps made with lettuce and mayonnaise, chicken wings, veggie options as well as their unique fizzy drinks from mango, cola and lime, there’s always something for everyone. I love it here because this is where I go to get a quick fix after a night out or something to fill my stomach. The portion is huge, the price is great, and it will surely fill you up.
Set in the heart of Central Croydon, Rio’s Piri Piri Chicken is not hard to find. From George Street tram stop, turn left, and walk straight on. Once you see the huge Spreadeagle Pub, it will be right next to it. You can also jump on a few buses and stop outside the Spread-Eagle Pub in the corner.
I feel the location is in a great place because if you walk down, you will end up in South Croydon where there will be more mid-range restaurants, cafes, shops, and supermarkets. If you walk the other way, Whitgift and Centrale Shopping Centre (malls as the Americans call it) are great places to shop for your essentials. So, the location is 10 out of 10 for me.
The service in Rio’s never disappoints me. Since I’m a regular there, they know me very well. There’s usually a few people working at the back in the kitchen. They’re always busy preparing people’s food and there’s never a time when Rio’s is incredibly quiet. You order at the counter and they give you a ticket with a number and wait for them to call your ticket number out. I assume it’s because it’s always busy. That’s a good sign. There’s also around 6 booths and 2 tables, so it is quite small.
The great thing about Rio’s is that you can have the flavours your way. You can have lemon and herb, mild, hot, extra hot, or extremely hot. It does make a difference to your taste buds. I always get the Grande Chicken Burger with medium peri peri chips.
The spicy sauce put in the chicken fillet makes the taste different to any other chicken shops. It has this aromatic, succulent sweet and spicy taste to it like no other and the peri peri chips make the spice that extra hot.
It costs £6.49 for a soft drink, chips and grande burger. It’s standard price for a fast-food meal, and its authenticity and quality rivals KFC. I would rate the food 10 out of 10.
German Doner Kebab is £4.99 for mixed chicken and beef doner with cheesy chips. Taco Bell is the same price as Rio’s Piri Piri Chicken but compared to German Doner Kebab, Rio’s and Taco Bell have bigger portions.
Rio’s Piri Piri Chicken is a fast-food outlet, just like KFC. Compared to any chicken outlets out there, I like that you can choose how spicy you’d like the chicken and chips, or not spicy at all. If you want something different from KFC, I recommend Rio’s Piri Piri Chicken. From the menu you can also get a salad, kofte kebab (wrapped in pita bread), chicken breast, thighs, and legs as well as a selection of desserts to choose from. I also love the location, because it’s a short walk away from many hotels in Central Croydon, and it’s also a few steps away from George Street Tram stop and the two shopping centres.
Check out their website for more information about their outlets around London.
2. Nando’s East Croydon
Nando’s East Croydon is one of the new kids on the block since 2019, so I decided to try out this new Portuguese fast-food restaurant. You can tell it’s a restaurant because of its prices. The people that come here are usually locals. In Nando’s, you’d have to order at the bar once you’ve been given a table number, one serving at the bar, one doing table service, one in the kitchen (which you can see them cook), and one to bring out the plates.
At 1 pm, it was already busy, people sat by the entrance to wait for take-aways and the restaurant was packed, noisy and lively with kids sitting for lunch too. I didn’t have to wait long for them to take me to my seat. You just have to be lucky, sometimes, you might have to wait longer. Although it’s busy, there were enough seats for everyone who comes through the door.
You can refill your drinks as many times as you like, and Portuguese and Samba music usually blares in the background, which fitted the Portuguese theme.
I love the decor and the seating areas in the middle, and all around the restaurant, we sit on sofas against the wall. In the middle, there are around 9 booths, each can sit up to 6 people, and against the windows, you can fit around 40 – 50 people on the sofas.
I loved the décor. The middle booths were in tall steel boxes with green and beige lampshades. That’s the most descriptive I could be. Just imagine yourself inside an opened aired steel box. On the far end of the wall, small, red-framed paintings scattered and connected on the wall. The lampshades were as shaped as a bathtub, and painted orange, the long cable holding the lightbulbs hung down above the people eating. Since I love interior design, I thought the décor here was very eclectic and stylish.
I had a ¼ of the chicken with with peri peri chips, and I must say, all Nando’s chicken tastes very crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. What I love about Nando’s is its marinated chicken with pepper, made to suit different taste buds. I added a medium peri peri sauce and lemon and herb sauce to it, and I opted for the medium-hot chicken, and it had a sour chili taste to it with a perfect balance of moderate spice, lemon, and garlic.
The chips with the peri powder and peri medium chili sauce had a good blend taste, especially when you blend the two sauces together. I don’t know, maybe because I can’t eat chips without sauce. Hey, each to their own.
The ¼ lemon and garlic with medium spice chicken with a side costed me £4.25. A refillable drink was £2.80, considering you can take as much as you want, £2.80 is cheap. I also ordered a side of garlic bread. I had 2 pieces of garlic bread for £2.60. They did taste good, but nothing special, but it tastes like what a garlic bread should be.
I love Nando’s and the different choices of sauces. Like Rio’s Piri Piri Chicken, the chicken can be tailored to your liking. You can have Extra Hot, Hot, Medium, Lemon and Herb, Mango and Lime or Plain…ish. That’s a British term to estimate something. I love the service. Moe and Lemar were, the two waiters that served me were lovely and I didn’t have to wait long for my food. I think peri chicken and chips all tasted like one another in different food outlets, but Nando’s made the chicken extra special in the ingredients, the marinade, and the different types of sauces. Great food. Great atmosphere and great service. Outside, there’s a board that says, “Guaranteed great service”. It has lived to its name!!!
3. German Doner Kebab
German Doner Kebab Croydon opened its first store in Berlin, now you can give it a try here in Croydon. German Doner Kebab is a healthier option than the normal kebab takeaway shop you’d find in the local high streets. From low-calorie kebabs, original kebabs made with flatbread and salads, wraps, quesadillas, burgers, Doner boxes, which contain chips and nibbles, each type has a unique taste of its own. I don’t think any kebab takeaways make their kebabs the same way as they do.
Set in the heart of Central Croydon, the location is in a perfect place. A short minute walk will take you to German Doner Kebab if you are staying in one of the hotels nearby. If not, take the tram and stop at George Street, it will be a few steps back from the tram stop.
It’s very convenient and walking distance to major hotels, and it’s also helpful if you’re staying near East Croydon Station. Just walk ten minutes to your right from the station, pass Box Park and Nando’s, cross the road and walk straight on, you’ll be there in no time. The location is 10 out of 10.
Since German Doner Kebab is a fast-food outlet, the atmosphere is like McDonald’s and KFC, and it’s always clean. Alongside Taco Bell, it’s a good place to grab a quick fix if you’re running short of time. There were around 6 plastic tables and chairs, and there’s never seating available, but the service is 5 stars, as they bring it to your table.
When I go there to order food, all the staff seems to be genuinely friendly. I don’t expect to get the same service at a restaurant because it’s a fast-food chain, but they would tell you to take a seat, and they’d bring the food to your table.
Compared to a lot of doner kebab takeaways (which you can find in every corner of the high street), German Doner Kebab has a lot of choices in their menu.
The taste of the meat is the same as the takeaway shops in local high streets, but what makes this outlet so special is that you can add extra flavours and sauces on top. I usually order mixed chicken and beef together with chips and melted cheese. That usually fills me up already. It tastes completely delicious!
I would rate the food 8 out of 10, only because the meat tastes the same as any doner takeaways in and around London.
I rated a high 8 because of its creativity other ingredients together. There’s a good selection of dishes on the menu, and there are a lot of unavailable seating. It’s good for business, but if you want somewhere to sit, you may have to get a takeaway, and eat in benches in the shopping centres or the high street.
The price I paid for the cheesy mixed chicken and beef doner box is only £4.99, with a bottle of coke. That’s a bargain compared to other fast-food outlets around Croydon. Rio’s is around £5 – £6 and Taco Bell is around £7 – £9. I think it comes down to the portion sizes in terms of filling.
Compared to many fast-food outlets in Croydon, German doner Kebab is good value for money, and it does fill you up. Since it is a fast-food outlet, I’m not expecting a high-class service, just as long as my food comes on time (which it does 99.9% of the time), then I’m happy. What’s so special about this outlet is that there are a wide variety of dishes compared to the takeaway kebab shops scattered in every corner of the high street.
It’s a completely different outlet altogether. It’s creative with its ingredients, there’s more seating spaces compared to takeaway kebab shops (usually there are 1 or 2 tables), and cheap compared to other fast-food outlets in Croydon.
So, there you have it. German Doner Kebab is on my list for recommended places to eat in Croydon. Click here for the website.
4. Smooth Bean Cafe
The atmosphere during brunch
Smooth Bean Cafe is a vegan restaurant open Monday to Friday serving cakes and biscuits, breakfast, brunches, lunches, and dinners. Every week the menu changes but the breakfast menu stay the same. Don’t expect the same thing if you’re staying there for more than a week.
The atmosphere here was busy the second time I visited. There were mothers with their babies in their prams socialising, businesspeople chatting amongst themselves, ladies meeting for late breakfast and lunch and solos on their laptops. The café is quirky, small, and crowded, yet clean and professional, but it has a great selection of food.
On a rainy day, staring at the gloomy Box Park on the opposite side, I wanted to try out their breakfast and lunch. In the corner, there’s a very comfy leather sofa with around 9 cushions, and seating outside with large parasols when it rains. The environment does look comfortable.
Inside there’s heating and a nice and calming jazz music, low in volume. Great start. I ordered my meal at the counter and I saw various vegan cakes and biscuits on the shelves. Too many to mention. I sat down and my tea were served in seconds.
The lady that served me was welcoming and informative about the selection of dishes and asked me whether my tea and breakfast was OK, in which I replied with a yes. The staff wasn’t as interactive as Fish Lab, but I guess, it was busier here and more chairs to tend to, I understood they can’t make conversations with everyone they look after. Being attentive to people’s needs was enough for me. I didn’t have time to make conversations with them anyway. The lady recommended the Red Thai Curry, so I gave it a go.
Breakfast included two poached eggs, two toasts, two slices of salmon and basil leaves with two blocks of butter. It was tasty, really!! The eggs and salmon tasted like any other eggs and salmon anywhere, but the toasts were something different. It was crunchier and firmer than any other toasts I’ve tried. It also had seeds in them, which was a plus for me. I don’t normally have grained bread but this one was something special. The basil gave it that push to the taste.
I then had the moderately spicy Red Thai Curry, and it also had a mild salty taste to it. The ingredients are mentioned under the dish, which included rice with parsley, chicken (optional), carrots, baby corn, and red peppers served in soup. It was genuinely nice.
The English breakfast tea in this country is served with milk. When I ordered my English breakfast tea, it tasted ordinary but with the brown sugar that I mixed with, it had that special aroma taste to it like no other tea I had tasted.
I saw their selection of herbal teas. I opted for the flowery fragranced jasmine tea. It was quite impressive, never seen anything like it. The idea is hot water is poured into a wine glass and a flower cocoons out of the hairy shell in seconds. When you move the glass, it looks like the flower’s dancing. The waiter explained how to drink it, which made the service extra special. The aroma of this green tea was quite strong but was lovely to smell.
The price I paid for the poached eggs and English breakfast tea was £12 and Red Thai Curry and the jasmine tea came to £14 altogether. It was quite expensive, but I wouldn’t recommend paying for both breakfast and lunch if you’re on a budget.
I remember the first time I visited Smoothbean Cafe, the first month I started my blog, so I didn’t review it properly. I didn’t know how to and what to write since I focused more on the image of the blog than focusing on posts.
The atmosphere had an intimate, family friendly feel to it, and it’s the best vegan and gluten free café around Croydon. Although it can be busy, it’s warm, friendly, and cosy. It’s open from Monday to Friday and closed weekends. The owner said that they plan to extend their opening hours soon and would post it on social media. We’ll see about that. I’d be happy if they did extend their hours, because this café is a must. Click here for their website.
5. Fish Lab
This small unit only serves three tables and quite a tight space, but you’re more than welcome to sit at the Box Park tables if you want space. Situated next to East Croydon Station, Fish Lab, Box Park offers fish dishes from calamari to fish and chips, to salmon, and many others. The atmosphere screams out fish meals and ingredients and the members of staff were very friendly, including Stefano, the owner. Chiara, the waitress stood by the door as she explained what fish they had on the menu. I asked her about the ingredients and was familiar with it straight away. The little quirky starboard and anchor furniture stuck on the wall of the small unit, which I loved. Painted blue, the wall matched the feel of being in a seafood restaurant.
Stefano chatted to everyone in the restaurant and encouraged everyone to taste his dishes. He made friendly introductions to me and the man sitting opposite me, just small talking and making us feel comfortable and at home.
The first impression was excellent because Stefano was welcoming, and Chiara knew her menu. If you want space, go to Chilango instead and opt for a Mexican. The restaurant seats are great if you don’t want to sit with the rest of the crowds in Box Park, but overall, the service is 10 of out 10.
I ordered calamari with chunky chips for £9.50 and a can of Diet Coke for £1.50. Again, it’s the standard price for a restaurant in and around London, even smaller outlets like Fish Lab. I didn’t have to wait long for my food though since they didn’t have that many people to serve. The deep-fried calamari covered with breadcrumbs and parsley has a lemon taste. Placed on top of the chunky chips, the calamari tasted delicious, plus it’s also a favourite of mine. The chips looked overcooked but together, the calamari and chips really did go together.
I was full, but £9.50 for the quality of the food, it was dearer than a normal high street fish and chip shop, which would cost me £3 less for the same quality but for a restaurant price, it’s quite decent. I wouldn’t mind having that again.
Even though it’s a tiny unit in Box Bark, Stefano and Chiara were very attentive. They are both from Italy and I did feel welcomed by both so, despite the price, I will be back again just for the service. Check out their website since they have a unit in Shoreditch too. I have never been there but will post back on it in the future, once COVID restrictions have been lifted. Fish Lab, is rated “No. 1 of 35 things to do in Croydon” on Tripadvisor. From experience, it’s kept its promise.
Although I would get a cheaper deal for calamari and chips elsewhere, I would come back here because of the service. I guess for that price, there is more on the plate in terms of quantity. Then again, an average taste for calamari and chips is good enough for me. I enjoyed interacting with Stefano. The food was average, but it was unbelievably delicious.
Alternative Restaurants to try
Other restaurants include the European French-themed Little Bay Croydon, which has great reviews on Tripadvisor. Try Park Grill Restaurant, an Anatolian, Greek, and Mediterranean restaurant. I can’t fault the service and the menu choice in Park Grill Restaurant if you want to opt for Greek. If you prefer an Indian taste, try Adeena’s Kitchen, dishes found from Hyderabad.
If you don’t want to eat in any of the above restaurants, South Croydon has many rows of restaurants and cafes found in the suburbs, the local area of London, and it’s a great way to get away from Central London, and mix with the locals.
If you like traditional British dishes, check out the Spread Eagle Pub, the Market Tavern, and Milan Bar. Milan Bar can be claustrophobic, but this is where the locals meet for a pint and a basic meal. The menu has a great selection, but all restaurants in and around Croydon or London can be relatively busy. There’s no mid-range and high-end restaurants that are quiet pre COVID, so when travel picks up, we’ll be back to normal, then it’s business as usual.
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But for now, stay safe and take!!