I like food, a lot. I’m also quite fond of London. Therefore you would imagine that combining the two would prove a most satisfactory way to spend a day. You would be right!
Last weekend I was lucky enough to be invited on a London food tour with the good folk of Eating London (@EatingLondon). They were even kind enough to off a wee discount for my better half Esther and friend Richard who also wished to indulge … and indulge we did.
England gets a pretty bad rap for food. Once upon a time I might have thought such a reputation just, I mean just how many crappy late night fried chicken shops can one country house? We are a nation of fast and terrible food, ready meals, processed meats and sub par sandwiches. Yuk! I’ve been there, as a student I lived off noodles for a couple of years, it wasn’t pretty. My experience last weekend however, might just have changed my opinions of the foods both available and affordable in my homeland. Trust me when I say, last Saturday my friends and I were in no way complaining about the quality on offer as we ate our way through the east of London.
Our tour lasted 3.5 hours and by the end we were nothing less than food drunk. We waddled back to the tube station having eaten ourselves silly and put our jean zippers under immense pressure. That’s not interesting though is it? Amusing maybe, but not entirely interesting. Lets get to the good bit, the food. Tuck in (with your eyes) to this lot …
1. Bacon Sandwiches @ St. John Bread and Wine
A Saturday tradition before football with my dad, I have been bought up on the delights of bacon sandwiches. There might have been no game to watch last Saturday, but the Bacon Sandwich tradition was continued, and in some style!
‘London’s best bacon sandwich’ was devoured at St John’s Bread and Wine. St John’s is a ‘nose to tail’ establishment, meaning they use EVERY part of the animal and as a result have a very, erm, creative menu at times. Upon our visit Blood Cake was on the menu. Unsurprisingly we stuck to the bacon sandwich which included flame grilled meat covered in a very secret tomato sauce.
2. Banana Bread Pudding @ The English Restaurant
I should really have taken my dad on this tour as after bacon, bread pudding is his next favourite food. He would have been jealous no end of this serving, banana bread pudding drowned in custard and vanilla extract. Who cares if it was only 11am, desert had never tasted so good.
The English Restaurant was a pretty cool setting. A 16th century building (previously a nut factory), with a 17th century decor, some of which had been salvaged from the nearby Christ church Spitalfields.
3. CHEESE @ Androuet London
Why in capital letters? Because its CHEESE and CHEESE deserves nothing less. Its rare I go a day without eating at least a slice of this yellow/red/blue wonder.
Upon our visit to Androuet London, we were given a rather interesting talk about the cheese making process by one of the shops master cheese-mongers. He explained that all the CHEESES in store were a minimum 13 months old, and that although rapped in cling film to preserve them, any part of the CHEESE that had touched said cling film would be cut and thrown away, not sold because it’s taste would have been unnaturally altered by the cling film.
4. Chish and fips @ Poppies Fish and Chips
Another of my dad’s influences and quite often a post football match dinner (football days are never very healthy), since before I can remember he has always called it chish and fips, and now so do I. Sad but true.
It’s all about the decor with Poppies (aside from the food obviously). The American Diner look meets an old English soundtrack glenty playing in the background. If a design freak like myself you’ll probably let you food go cold for being too busy looking at all of the neat decor such as an old diner style jukebox, milky bar vending machine and even a model of Rupert the bear.
5. Curry @ Aladin’s
Ah the traditional English dish, curry. Don’t tell anyone, but once upon a time I was not a fan. When first introduced to curry I just couldn’t handle the heat. I am ashamed to say that even a mild Homepride sauce was too much for my delicate taste buds. I have now though learnt the errors of my ways and love a hot curry. Brick Lane is the Curry capital of London, and to be labeled not just Brick Lane’s, but the World’s best Curry House is no small feat. Whether or not the sign on the door to Aladin’s is true we are unsure, but the different curries we tried were pretty tasty and left a few of our group with tingling lips. I’m sure upon his visit, Prince Charles had the same pleasant experience.
6. Bagels @ Beigel Bake
I before E except after C … and when spelling beigel the Jewish way. One of two bagel shops within ten feet of each other along Brick Lane, Beigel Bake is open 24hrs a day, 7 days a week. Perfect for the late night munchies. Be sure to recognise that their beigels are the real deal though, not just some stodge to chomp on after a few too many drinks, these beigels are boiled not steamed like those you’d find pre wrapped in a supermarket. One word of warning though, watch out for the mustard, tangy!
Web: Beigel Bake
7. Pizza @ Pizza East
Its on pretty much every writing profile I have ever written, I am a pizza fiend. See my addiction to CHEESE above and you will understand how I would eat Pizza every single day if I could. So imagine my shock then when our tour group arrived at Pizza East to find that pizza was not on the menu (it was and is on the menu, just not for us). Our visit to Pizza East would see us instead nibbling on a very trendy dessert. Sitting down in what used to be an old biscuit factory, the staff at Pizza East served us a combination of old English tea and salted caramel cake. A very rich dessert but my sweet teeth were more than happy to tackle its salty charms. For a second I even forgot about the pizza.
Eating London Tours
All in all our morning upon the Eating London Tour was extremely enjoyable. Good food always goes down well, but the tour undersells itself on its own website by not mentioning the history that is taught by the guides along its route. Our guide Nicole was full of fun facts and images/photos of London scenes past, and helped us all understand how east London and its eating trends have developed over the years. She was also really good at pointing out cool street art which made a few of our group, including I, very happy.
At 3.5 hours the tour sounds quite long, but the time honestly flies by. Is there room for improvement? Well nothing is perfect is it, but I am struggling to think of too many changes I might make to the itinerary. As an tour of east London I did wonder why there was no pie and mash on the menu, or jellied eels, as they are both what I would consider quintessential east London foods … then again, jellied eels actually don’t sound very nice do they? I think I’d need a few more beer and cider samples (hint – you visit a pub too) before working up the courage to try eel.
As mentioned in the opening couple of paragraphs of this post, my food tour last Saturday was courtesy of Eating London. If this post has whet your appetite and you wish to book your own tour, or just find out a little bit more about Eating London please just follow the links below. Happy eating.
Twitter: @Eating London
Facebook: www.facebook.com/eating london
Instagram: instagram.com/ eating london