Often the best way to experience a country is through aspects of the culture, whether that be through food, music, traditions, or customs. Each gives a secret into the soul of that country, giving the visitor a deeper understanding and impression. While I had been to London twice before this visit, I had never truly experienced the country through its food. Sure, I had had the country staples, but Eating London gave me a better understanding of the history of London by way of my taste buds.
Let’s face it, England is not necessarily known for its food, but there’s so much more to it than is often given credit for. Eating London takes you to a small neighborhood, known as the East End, that has a lot of history; history can be told through the various cuisines left in the area. Eating London uncovers it for the small group, leading you to places you would have never known existed otherwise .
At the end of the almost four hour tour, you’ll be educated on the many groups that called the East End home, entertained by your guide, and full from the copious amounts of food that you will have sampled. It’s one of the best tours I have ever experienced, and I’d gladly go back for more.
Starting in Old Spitalfields Market, the group met in the back of a coffee shop. There, we introduced who we were, where we were from, and what we were most excited for. Immediately, I connected with our guide, Nicole, who had a passion for what she did, one that got us all excited for the next few hours together.
Our first stop was across the street to St. John Bread & Wine where we were introduced to our first sampling, a bacon sandwich. It may sound simple, but it was so much more than just that. Not only was the bacon thick and cooked to perfection, the bread here was equally as good, and the sauce just made the sandwich. Starting off here, we all knew the standard was high, and we looked forward to what was to come.
Right from salty, we went to sweet, and my stomach was immediately happy. Our next stop was a quick walk over to The English Restaurant for banana bread pudding with custard. While after a trip to Thailand turned me into a lover of bananas, I still am not crazy about banana bread. But, travel allows me to stretch myself and expand my horizons, so I had to give it a chance. I am so glad I did because it was another favorite of the day. The crust was crispy, while underneath was moist and warm, add the custard on top and this was a meal perfect for any rainy day. I could have sat in this environment eating bread pudding all day, but our other stops were calling our names.
After indulging a bit, we walked around, touring the area and giving our stomachs a break. From here, we walked around the surrounding area and Nicole pointed out important historical buildings and events that had happened over time. Just as my stomach was ready for another sampling, we headed back to Old Spitalfields Market and right to Androuet London for some cheese sampling.
At Androuet, you get to sample three different kinds of cheese, and with each you get an explanation. I browsed around and admired all the surrounding cheeses as well; it was paradise. The smells were enticing, and I wanted to take the whole shop home with me.
But, instead, it was back into the rain, but what better to warm us up with than good old-fashioned fish and chips? On my first trip to England, I had to have the English staple, but it was not even close to as good as what I had on the Eating London tour. After a little stroll to Poppies Fish and Chips, we sampled the dish, a light, delicate batter covering flaky fish, the way it’s meant to be, and this was probably the best version of it that I have ever had. They even served us homemade mushy peas, which I have loved ever since my first trip to Ireland. Poppies was the true experience and the food, along with friendly environment made warming up an easy task.
Back out into the cold we headed, but luckily we were on our way to some serious warming up, inside a local pub. Inside, we sat in a cozy space by the fire, enjoyed the company of the pub’s cat, and sampled beer and cider out of shot glasses.
After some liquid gold, we headed to Brick Lane, a favorite street of mine in London. Brick Lane is a place I had visited on both of my previous trips to the English city. In fact, it was the place where I tried Indian for the first time back in 2006. Since then, I have sampled a good amount of Indian food, and still find some of the best to be located on this street.
When I knew we’d be heading to Brick Lane on this tour, I could barely contain my excitement, and Aladin didn’t disappoint. Here, we tasted three different types of curry: vegetarian, lamb, and chicken, varying in levels of spice. Each was delicious, especially paired with naan. Curry on a cold day is never a bad idea.
By this point, I was already beginning to feel full, which is why it was great that we stopped to admire some of the East End’s street art before our next stop. Having never really explored this area of the city, I was pleasantly surprised and immediately gravitated toward the art and feeling of the neighborhood.
While my stomach wasn’t necessarily ready for the next meal, the group was and we headed to Beigel Bake. Now, growing up in New Jersey, raised by parents who were from New York, I wasn’t expecting much from the best bagel that side of the Atlantic, as far as I was concerned, it wasn’t even spelled right. Still, this 24-hour shop was not only packed but the line was constantly flowing, proof that it had to be good.
Putting all judgements aside, I grabbed my hot salted beef bagel, gave it a try, and was not disappointed. In fact, it was probably one of the best bagels I have ever had. This was one of those meals I didn’t want to end, even if my stomach was screaming how full it was.
But, as you know, there is always room for dessert, and that’s exactly what our last stop was all about. For this, we headed to Pizza East, not exactly a name you’d think of when dessert was on the agenda. Still, as soon as we entered the building, I knew it was special, and that feeling was confirmed as soon as our salted caramel tarts were placed on the table. Our once talkative group was suddenly silenced by the arrival, and the plates were practically licked clean, it was as if we had all forgotten just how full we had been.
With tea to wash it all down and bellies full from our delicious meals, it was almost hard to say good-bye. We had all bonded over the East End’s culinary treasures, and created friendships in the short time allotted together. But, we had all gained a new knowledge full of London’s best kept secrets.
Even weeks later, I dream about all that I ate on my experience with Eating London and would recommend a tour with them without hesitation. It was one of the greatest experiences I have had, and well-worth the money for what you get.
What to know:
When: Tours run daily starting at 10am except on Sundays
Tour Length: About 3.5 hours
Price: Adult: ₤59 Adolescents: ₤50 Children (under 13): ₤40
Attire: Comfortable shoes and layers. Don’t forget your umbrella.
Although, I was a guest of Eating London, that in no way affects my opinion of the tour or establishments we visited.