After I left the UK in 2011, I kept going back. And once I started doing food tours all over the world, I thought, ‘Why not do some in London?’ Not only is the city’s F&B scene a vast one to choose from, but there would always be hidden gems I’d know nothing about.
Separated by more than 12 months, I did two food tours with the same company, and loved both. Eating Europe has three London tours, two of which I’ve tried: the Twilight Soho food tour, and the East End food tour.
I did this tour in February 2017 with Ashley who was a powerhouse of information. As the title of the tour might suggest, the tour takes place in Soho and in the evening, and includes both food and alcohol tastings. The meeting point was right in front of the Harry Potter & The Cursed Child theatre, and we started our mega-walk from there.
What I loved about the tour is that not only did we try a lot of food and drink, we also learned a lot about the area, and the sub-culture that can be found in Soho. Following is brief run-down of where we went and what we did, but I’d highly recommend going yourself for a super enjoyable experience.
We started with La Bodega Negra, which, as we are told “imports the real stuff”, and is place where I would happily return many times. We then passed Soho Square where we were shown what used to be London’s first listed brothel, which then became a pickle factory (!!!) and then finally an office. Ashley shared a lot about the history of that square, so you’re going to have to go on that tour to find out more. Our next stop was The Gin Club, which had been open for 10 years at the time, and had a gin tasting in the basement tasting room. On from there was a Jamon Iberico tasting, from where we had a little walking break around the area. We learned more about how the district of Soho was shaped by the likes of Trident studios, the Marquis Club, David Bowie, Karl Marx and more. Then we stopped at Pix Pinxtos where we had a range of, well, pinxtos, and then kept going… until we hit Chinatown and checked out Opium. We climbed stairs up a few levels and settled in for a yum cha tasting with tea infused with rose and champagne, it was super relaxing. Then finally, it was time for dessert at the French Quarter. Even at the end, as we walked back to the tube stop, Ashley kept recommending places for us to go and what to eat. And you know what, I think I wouldn’t mind doing this tour again!
So when I was back in London at another point of time, this time with a group of friends, I knew I had to try another tour. I super selfishly said we should try the East End tour because I’d already done the Twilight Soho one. I’m not going to lie, I was petrified it wouldn’t be as good as the first one I tried, and despite the rain trying its best to spoil everything… I had a lot of fun (plus after living in Sheffield, I’m so used to it constantly raining haha).
This tour was led by Emily and guide-in-training Craig, and we started at the Spitalfields Market, where, we learned, we were standing over a mass Roman burial ground.
Again, a brief of the tour follows on below, but before that let me say that both Emily and Craig were great at leading us through a pretty miserable and wet day, both cheerful and extremely knowledgeable. Throughout the morning, we learned about the history of East London, saw the pub where Jack the Ripper was thought to have hunted his victims (we also passed the spot where his final victims Mary Kelly was found), learned about the local Jewish community, saw the area which served as shooting range for Henry VIII, and met Lenny the cat. For a super diverse culinary experience, this one is a great shout.
So, as I said, we started with meeting in the Spitalfields Market and then moved on to St John where we started with breakfast – a good ol’ bacon sarnie! Next up The English Restaurant where the warm, buttery brioche bread and butter pudding was a warm hug to our cold bodies. Cheese was on the menu, and we ducked into the House of Androuet, back in the Spitalfields Market. Fish and chips could not be avoided, and we tried it after finding out how the meal originated (go on the tour to find out), and then tried out ale and cider in the Pride of Spitalfields. Then we ducked into one of Brick Lane’s many desi venues, Aladin, which has an over-the-top painting on the back wall that made a lot of us (Indians in my group of friends) laugh. We had a lot of food here! Be prepared! But the beigel bake on Brick Lane was probably my favourite thing on the tour – either that or the bread and butter pudding – where I could have happily stuffed myself silly. And then, we entered a place called Pizza East, and my initial thought was, OK this is weird, why are we entering this spot? Well, we ended up having dessert here (the salted chocolate caramel tart) with tea, and it was actually really good. Basically, don’t be a food tour snob.
There’s actually one more tour in the company’s kitty which goes across the docks… if I ever go on this tour, I’ll update this post! 😀
Have you done any food tours in London, and if yes, tell me more! I’d love to hear about it.