I’m frugal. I love ways to save money but still have a fun time! In London, I found this tip-only food tour run by Free Tours by Foot. This was a London’s East End food tour. It’s actually the only tips-only food tour I saw in London when I was there in March 2015 and also, the only tips-only food tour I’ve ever seen in the world.
I love tips-only tours and actively search them out wherever we go. These tours are a very economical way of getting an excellent tour and the tour guides are incentivised to do a great job to maximise their tips. You just tip as much as you can afford and you think they deserve at the completion of the tour. It works out significantly cheaper than a full priced food or walking tour.
I love food and I love understanding the history behind it. A food tour is without a doubt, much more fun than another museum, monument, church or statue! One of the best things about this tour is that depending on your budget, level of hunger, dietary requirements and sense of adventure you purchase only what you want to eat on the tour. You don’t end up paying for stuff you don’t want to eat.
OK, onto the food and all the delicious things we tried. I apologise for the lack of pictures for every stop but I was just too busy eating to think about photos!
We tried some pies at the Old Spitalfields Markets. These were tiny mini pies in a choice of flavours and just delicious! When pies were first made, the crust was really just flour and water. The crust wasn’t meant to be eaten and it’s purpose was to be the container to hold the filling. It was not until some French influence resulted in fat being used in the pastry. That’s how we get yummy buttery, crumbly pie pastry that we are more familiar with today!
Onwards towards Brick Lane which was an area favoured by the Bangladeshi immigrants moving into London. There are a lot of Indian/Bangladeshi restaurants along Brick Lane and if you walk along here in the evening, you will be approached by the restaurants with discounts, menu’s and free drinks! I love a bit of competition! It drives the price down and the quality up!
We stopped at an Indian sweet shop. It’s a shop that sells a huge range of Indian goodies. They had pakora’s with everything kind of vegetable imaginable, many different kinds of samosa’s and a massive range of barfi. Pakora is an Indian spicy vegetable fritter and barfi is an Indian confectionary made with condensed milk and with flavours and colours limited only by your imagination! I wish I took a photo to illustrate but I was too busy eating my eggplant pakora and feeling quite contented.
There is a gorgeous chocolate shop along Brick Lane run by Ghanaian owners called Dark Sugars. The owner gave us some free samples and talked us through his products. There were rustic looking chocolate truffles in a massive range of flavours and also more fancy looking chocolates depending on your tastes. We tried one of the truffles and I can attest, they were divine! The lasting impression I had from this shop is the owner who is so proud of Ghana and of his chocolates. It is inspiring to see enthusiastic people who do things with passion, pride and love.
Rustic chocolate truffles and fancy chocolates at Dark Sugars, Brick Lane
One of the ladies on the tour bought herself a hot chocolate drink. As you can see from the picture below, it was seriously indulgent and a meal in itself!
Hot Chocolate Drink from Dark Sugars
During the tour, we stopped at the highly awarded Poppies Fish and Chips store. I love fish and chips and these battered fish fillets were so flaky and tender, I don’t understand how they didn’t break apart during the frying process! I loved it so much that I returned to another Poppies store near Camden markets later in my trip. That time, I actually stopped eating to take a photo. Hence the half eaten fish!
Along Brick Lane, there is a 24/7 Jewish bakery called Beigel Bake which has a cult following. this time. They are famous for their affordable salt beef bagels. Unfortunately, by this time, there was just no more room in my tummy for something as filling as a salt beef bagel.The bagels are generously filled with salt beef, pickle and hot mustard sauce.
Salt Beef Bagels at Beigel Bake, Brick Lane
Perhaps I should have paced myself on this tour or perhaps I should’ve brought a backpack to save a bagel for later! This place is open 24/7 and is a favourite for drinkers after a big night. It has quite a following and every time I went past in the following week, regardless of the hour, there was always a queue!
The last stop on this tour was a doughnut place at the Shoreditch Box Park called Dum Dums. I prefer savoury food over sweet and at this point, I had no more room! I think the picture of the doughnuts says it all! How crazy indulgent do they look!!
Dum Dums doughnuts at Shoreditch Box Park
In addition to all the delicious food eaten on this tour, it acted as a fun orientation around the neighbourhood and it helped introduce me to an area which I otherwise might not have discovered. I returned to this interesting area a few more times in the following days for markets and some food carts. I’d recommend the Mother Clucker food cart for the most tender and tasty boneless fried chicken strips. It was parked near the Truman Brewery in March and really inspired me to try marinating chicken in buttermilk for added tenderness.
There are actually quite a few tips-only tours in London covering a range of different topics. We did a Jack the Ripper tour with Free Tours by Foot later during our stay. I definitely recommend this. It’s totally eerie wondering around dark alleyways at night discussing the gory details of an uncaught serial killer. I thought our tour guide was an expert in Jack the Ripper details and also the historical details of the time. Great tour!
If you’re feeling morbid, google “Victorian corpse photography”!
Speaking of serial killers, we passed the Cereal Killer Cafe during the food tour. It’s located very close to the Beigel Bake shop. In this shop, you can eat all kinds of cereals. Prices increase depending on the toppings and the rarity of the cereal you choose!
This blog was written about 2 months after I experienced this food tour so some things may have changed.
Hope you enjoyed this post. Make sure you check out if there are some tips-only tours in the big cities next time you go on holiday! Happy Eating!!