How I ate for free in central London

Nothing is cheap in central London, except perhaps public mores. Food is plentiful, diverse, delicious but expensive. These last two weeks showed me that there are some ways that free food is to be had in central London and you only have to be the right person at the right time. Happily enough, this right time is easily gaugeable. Here is what I did to eat for free on three different occasions this month:

1. The PRET chain doesn’t only herald the “à manger” in the title, but also a certain “à profiter”, especially if you walk in some of its venues after 5pm (mine was the one down Southampton Row near Russell Square) when they are about to close and their policy requires that they evict all sandwiches, salads (including fruit salads) from the shelves. They would put it all into a bag and throw it to the bin if it weren’t for scavengers like me who happen to be there when they do it, in which case they kindly asked me to feel free to take whatever my greedy heart desired. Everything with “no expiry date” is up for grabs which means that you might end up with a meal fresher than the one you normally get in an average restaurant. Mind you, different PRETs close at different time, so check that before putting the above tip into practice.

2. On Saturday, some friends took me out for dinner to a Chinese restaurant called Stick and Bowl on High Street Kensington. I ordered something on the menu, the place was crowded, the lady brought the dish but didn’t check who it was for, I dove right into it only to realise a moment later that it wasn’t what I had ordered. I liked it nevertheless; I mean, what’s not to like in most Chinese dishes?! After a couple of minutes, as the plate was getting lighter, the waitress comes, apologises for having given me the wrong course, takes the plate away, brings me my order and only charges me for my order, naturally.

3. About 5pm, I only walked into We are Tea for a… tea. On the counter lay a delicious-looking quiche. I ordered my tea and a slice of heaven. The nice waitress only charged me £2.10 for the tea. I let her know the oversight. Then she told me that the quiche was for free because it was a leftover from the lunch menu and they couldn’t charge customers for it past a certain time. I then had my doubts about quality but they all vanished as I tasted it. It was perfect, hot and it even came with a side salad, all for free.

Conclusion. To eat for free in central London, one must:

1. Coordinate the time one enters a restaurant.

2. Assess the stress a waitress has stockpiled through the day and mine it

3. Dose inquisitiveness with carelessness.

4. Be lucky. Fortunately, one only need be lucky once. Then the precedent becomes custom.

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