A tour of London that involves EATING.
Well, call me Great Aunty Mabel if I don’t take this opportunity to scoff the delicious delights of the East End of London!
I was invited to go on this brand new tour that has opened up in a very neglected niche in the food capital of the world. This my friends, is Eating London Tours.
I met the beautiful tour guide, Nicole, an enthusiastic Australian with a penchant for embellishing the scrummy food into great detail to have you salivating into your best shirt, in the heart of Spitalfields Market (Tube Connections: Central Line – Liverpool Street, Overground – Shoreditch High Street). This is where food heaven starts.
Asking what we were expecting from the tour, I simply replied I wanted to sample food unique to the East End reflecting the history of this 2000 year old city. And she didn’t disappoint.
St John Bread and Wine (@StJBW)
Morning has broken and I’d yet to have breakfast. Crossing the road from the Market, a special bacon sandwich awaited us. This is the breakfast of the working man. But what’s so special about this dish? Came complete with their homemade bread, the triumph was the special sauce to layer your thick and slightly crispy bacon. No one knows what’s the secret ingredient of the sauce but I tell you what, it definitely got the day started.
The English Restaurant (@EnglishRest)
Stepping in to the luxurious homely feeling of a traditional restaurant and smelling the whiff of English cream teas may hark you back visiting your grandmother who fussed you over why you haven’t settled down with a girl yet. The Banana Bread and Butter Pudding came in a quaint dish to help yourself to with a small jar of thick and creamy custard. I was hesitant, I’ve never liked bread and and butter puddings in my life. Taking a small bite, I was amazed how the texture and the taste compliments each other. Perhaps it was the banana taste or the fact it wasn’t overdosed with raisins.
Back into Spitalfields Market, we were to enter Androuet, an old French Huguenots store that started life as a market stall when the Huguenots fled religious persecution to come to London. Today, they are a cheesemongers in their very own store specialising in cheeses from around the world. Samples of Cheddar, Stilton and Brie were presented to us by the very informative Staff who showed us their range. But they didn’t need to try hard, they just had me at cheese.
An old English tradition that harks back to my childhood in Hull is to eat fish n chips every Friday. However, this award winning establishment and rated as the best fish n chips restaurant in England, Poppies, has an American diner atmosphere presenting their meals with a hefty portion of chips and a big dish of Mushy Peas. They had a lot to live up to, I am a huge Fish n Chips fan. The filling moist and flaky haddock was a joy to eat under the gaze of the old restaurant owner who built this from scratch. Do I think it was the best fish n chips dish I’ve ever tasted? No. Even though it was brilliant, nothing can compare to the shops in Hull.
Pride of Spitalfields
Walking on the historical monument of Brick Lane, we took a detour to a side street where an old man’s traditional pub, The Pride of Spitalfields, awaited us with samples if Real Ale and Cider. This was rather refreshing as my stomach was already fit to bursting from four delicious courses. Many beers and ciders at imported to London from other English regions such as the Cornish Ciders we tried out. This may seem a cop out as we are on an Eating Tour of London itself, but the capital is a hotbed of cultural and regional influences that makes the selection apt. If you’re still not happy, opt for the London Pride Sample. Murmurs of cockney gruff old men and a meowing cat that curled itself round my leg, you know you are in the heart of the East End.
Not to be confused with a magic carpet and Jasmine, this Bengal restaurant serving curries of every flavour reflects the history of the East End. A huge migration from Bangladesh arrived in London during the 1960s and 1970s bringing them their cultural dishes that has transformed British tastes to this day. It has even encouraged British made dishes such as the Chicken Tikka Masala. However, in true Bengalese style, we were presented with three dishes of curries with varying degrees of spicyness. Also, catering to vegetarians, the curries were a revelation. On Brick Lane, Aladin definitely brings you the modern taste of London’s East End.
Still on Brick Lane, we were taken to a bagel bakery store that has unarguably the best bagels on this side of the Atlantic. Open for 24 hours a day for 364 days with the owner often undertaking 28 hour shifts, the most popular dish is the salted beef bagel. Cuts of this meat is embedded in the perfectly shaped bagel that will have you wanting more. I know I did. This dish was incredible and easily my favourite of the day without a doubt. So why is this part of the East End? In the first half of the 20th century, many Jewish communities fled Europe in fear of persecution and, like the Bengalese, brought their exquisite dishes to London. Well, Continental Europe’s loss is our gain. Now if I could just order 10 of these bagels to go.
Pizza East (@pizzaeast)
Just short of the Shoreditch High Street Station, I was brought to the corner warehouse like building of Pizza East. We weren’t here for Pizza, but rather a London delicacy to go with the pots of English Breakfast Tea that awaited us – Salted Caramel Cake. If you have a sweet tooth like me, you will definitely enjoy the melting of the caramel in your mouth delighting your taste buds to have a party down your gullet. However, I couldn’t grasp why this dish was important to the tour of the East End but I was just glad to be given such a delicious dessert. This was where the tour ended.
Outside the Bites
Not only we were treated to food as we walked around with fattening stomachs in the East End, but Nicole also told us the history behind the important sites through the buildings, street art and the ever changing customs seen on the roads. Examples are the Artillery Passage where Jack the Ripper killed or the Jamme Masjid Mosque that has seen it be a Christian church and a synagogue before reflecting the changing cultures in the East End over the 20th Century.
This three hour ‘eating’ tour is definitely something you should undertake in London whether you are a visitor or a local. Opening your eyes to the treats in London’s East End, a burgeoning place rivalling the West End for the best place to be, this is where you need to be if you want to get away from the heavy tourism that surrounds the Golden Mile on the banks of the Thames. However, this tour is not suited for budget travellers looking to experience everything in the capital of Britain as the price is a eye-wateringly £60. An unmissable treat perhaps, but for the locals looking for an alternative tour of their city or luxury travellers this is definitely for them. Would I go on this again? Perhaps, as Nicole explained that there would be a rotating menu several times a year. But all I ask next time is to show the character of the East End of London is the must have food…Jellied Eels.
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