I spent my day Eating London
I always believe that walking is the best way to see a city. A city is like a living being, with a vibrancy and a mind of its own and walking makes you feel a part of this harmonious existence. While on a walking tour with Eating London I felt East London come alive. Peppered with trivia and facts we followed our tour guide the vivacious Emily around East London.
East London has always been a hotbed of immigration since the 17th century starting with the Huguenots who settled in and around Spitalfields. They were followed by the Irish weavers, Ashkenazi Jews, Bangladeshi immigrants in the 20th century and the more recent settlement of artists and other creative professionals. The Eating London tour involved the history and livelihood of all these people and we were going to eat our way through history.
Our first stop was St John’s Bread and Wine where we had Bacon Butties for breakfast, which is very traditionally English. Unlike the very traditional breakfast that we had, their menu consists of a very eclectic list of items.
Our next treat was another traditional restaurant and bar named quite obviously The English Restaurant! We were served their famous bread and butter pudding made out of 30 days old bread. Their much loved bread and butter pudding has even graced many a wedding instead of a traditional cake. The rum and vanilla custard to go with the pud gave it stiff competition.
I appreciated the traditional restaurant choices that Eating London had made because East London to me, before the well researched tour, started and ended in Brick Lane with its numerous Bangladeshi restaurants vying to be the best.
We then walked through the Spitalfields market which derived its name from the cockney pronunciation of Hospital Fields. The Old Spitalfields market, which is similar in structure to the Borough Market, was a fruit market until the ’90’s. In 1991 the fruit market moved to New Spitalfields Market and the Old Spitalfields Market is a vibrant market which sells everything from vintage to cheese.
Androuet , a French cheese shop was our next shop, where the proprietor kindly gave us a brief on the types of cheese available and said that as British Cheese is equally important we would be tasting stilton, cheddar and Cgleshield. The cheese tasting, for me, was the favourite part of the tour and unfortunately we didn’t have time to shop.
Where would British cuisine be without fish and chips? So we strolled along to Poppies, one of the finest fish and chips shops according to Timeout London (it is one of the top 100 places to eat in London). In an American style diner with a love of risque cockney we were served the fish in the lightest batter and the non-greasiest chips. Suitably impressed we marveled at the newspaper printed in edible ink that Poppies’ had printed to serve their fish and chips in.
A food tour in Britain without boozing it up would be blasphemous! so we tripped along to The Pride of Spitalfield to taste a deep and dark ale, which is true to the recipe developed by the Old Truman Brewery. Truman’s Brewery or Black Eagle Brewery is part of East End’s legacy and the Brewery warehouses now house artists, galleries and people or businesses of other creative pursuits.
While walking down the streets of Spitalfields Emily pointed out the beautiful Georgian houses with the large weavers windows above. These are what the Huguenots, who were silk weavers, left behind.
I was looking at East End with new eyes at every turn and on every street. Some of these were streets I had walked before, and in my haste and obvious ignorance had not noticed the cultural richness beyond the lure of curry and spices.
Of those generations of settlers, the Jews have mysteriously erased themselves from the East End leaving behind two derelict synagogues and two wonderful bakeries. Their bagels with salt beef and a pickle each was a taste sensation I’ve never had before.
The only part of the tour that I wasn’t very happy about was the Bangladeshi restaurant we visited. Despite its numerous awards it failed to impress me. The food wasn’t exceptional and certainly failed the authenticity scale. However on a positive note, the Americans and the Brits in the tour loved it, so they must be doing something right.
We ended our tour with tea and tart in the very trendy Shoreditch. The tart was a revelation to me. Can you guess? I would suggest you go on the tour or go to Pizza East to find out why.
The Eating London walking tour is one of the best ways of exploring the East End. It is certainly off-beat and an enriching experience.
Also it is not just about the food. It is about the people who lived, loved and died there. The generations of immigrants who left their indelible mark in the history of London. Out of the ashes like a phoenix rises the culinary history of East End and it lives on.
Three reasons why I recommend it?
1. Londoners are usually bored of taking their friends and family to visit the same tourist destinations. This tour will be popular and enjoyable to both residents and tourists.
2. It is an useful gift to give your friends and family.
3. All the good food, secrets and walking is good for you.
Have you been on a walking tour?
Disclaimer: I was invited by Eating London to review their tour. I was not asked to provide a favourable review. All opinions and pictures are my own.
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I love to travel, discover new things, experience new cultures and then I get back home and experiment with the new food and recipes I discovered on my travels. My blog is about all those life experiences. If you’ve enjoyed this post, keep in touch with Drifting Traveller on Twitter and Facebook or by adding my blog to your RSS feed. Follow my blog with Bloglovin or Networked Blogs! If you really like reading the Drifting Traveller why not share it with people you know who'd like to read it too.