It’s common knowledge that British food frequently gets a bad rap as bland and uninspiring. At one time (i.e. at the height of the British Empire) I can see this being the case. But in the 21st century, British food is anything but that, especially when you consider how many of its former subjects have come to the “motherland” and since fused their native cuisine with Britain’s. I had seen enough wonderful blog posts over the years about London food tours complete with drool-worthy photos to know that a food tour was a must activity during my time in London.
While there’s a bevy of food tour companies in London to choose from, I went with one I had previously “food toured” with, Eating Europe, during my epic five hour food tour in Prague, the Czech capital. They had a tour that was totally in the East End, where I would be staying, so the idea of being able to walk a mere five minutes to the origination point in a city as large and sprawling as London appealed to me immensely. And also, I had spent barely any time in the East End on my previous two trips to London, so I was most anxious to explore this slightly less touristy area of the city.
Lauren was my tour guide and let me just say she was utterly fantastic, especially after learning she had only been on the job for a month! I’ve been on numerous food tours with terrific guides (especially Czech-mother type Eva in Prague), but Lauren was simply phenomenal, perhaps the best. She was so spirited and you could see she totally loved her job and loved sharing her passion for both food and London with visitors.
There were a total of seven tastings (which I’ll detail below), six of which were sit down. There was a bit of walking but honestly, with almost all of the stops being sit down, you didn’t get fatigued at all. I thought the tastings were a terrific variety (five savory and two sweet) and did a great job showcasing not only typically English cuisine but also the cuisines of various groups who have settled there over time.
Bacon sandwich @ St. John Bread and Wine
The tour started off with a traditional British breakfast item. As an American, I will say that the bacon featured in the sandwich was more Canadian bacon style but that suited me just fine as it was delicious. This was a neat place, as I learned they cook and serve ALL parts of an animal’s body, nose to tail! The bread was also divine (I could have feasted on that alone).
Bread & butter pudding @ The English Restaurant
Heaven is where bread pudding is a common staple. Apparently this is also considered a breakfast item (news to my American palate) but I was on vacation so I only felt a smidgen of guilt over eating something so decadently rich early in the morning. The restaurant’s building was also incredibly cool to behold-it dates from the 17th century and I can only imagine what it must have been like 150 years ago (most likely with a lot fewer women…)
Two cheese tastings @ Bedales
We had a cheddar and a blue cheese here; I liked the cheddar a lot more. I dig cheese more later in the day, preferably with a glass of sangria (I heart my Manchego).
Fish & chips & mushie peas @ Poppies
Coming in from the airport, I inquired about the best place to go for fish and chips. The taxi driver recommended Poppies, a local institution that’s been around for a long time, he said. Well, I didn’t get to Poppies on my own but laughed when I found out the place on the tour where I’d be trying fish and chips was Poppies. The quality of the fish was definitely superior. I’m not a huge fish person but they were quite good. However, I’m not going to lie, I really enjoyed the mushie peas too, even if most of the people on the tour (almost all Americans) turned up their noses up at them. The interior was also wonderfully retro (think late 1950s/1960s).
Indian food @ Aladin
As an ethnic food lover, I was super excited that I’d be going to the world famous Brick Lane, home to London’s huge Bangladeshi population. We dined at Aladin, which is considered one of the best places in London for Indian food. Ironically, this might have been the weakest spot on the tour for me, although I think I might have liked it more had I been doing the ordering myself. Here we tried three dishes- one vegetable based, butter chicken, and one with lamb. All had varying spice levels.
Salt beef beigel sandwich @ Beigel Bake
So the whole time Lauren was talking about having a “beigel” I just thought to myself, oh, this must be the British way of saying bagel. Nope. Beigel is actually the Polish spelling of that scrumptious bread product (bagel is the German spelling). This was the only “eat on the run” stop. Beigel Bake has been an East End institution for more than 40 years and when we were there, the line to order was quite long. I never thought salt beef could be tasty but paired with a beigel and hot spicy mustard, it truly was.
Salted caramel tart @ Pizza East
So yes, the tour went to a place with pizza in the name and we had a dessert and no pizza. I didn’t mind as the tart was truly decadent. Served with our own individual pots of Earl Gray tea, I was quite in heaven. And it was the perfect way to end the tour.
I had a fabulous time on my East End food tour. It was a great neighborhood to discover through its many unique dining establishments. Thankfully I was not as full as I was after my Prague tour, but Eating Europe still does a good job of filling you up. I can’t recommend this Eating Europe’s East End food tour enough. Especially since exploring London’s East End will undoubtedly be a highlight of your trip there.
All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. I wrote a review of the tour simply because I wanted to.
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