East London has long attracted people from all over the world: silk-weaving Huguenots, persecuted Jews, Bangladeshi chefs… who have all made their fortunes on its cobbled streets – alongside the native Cockneys born and bred here. So where better to hold a heritage food tour?
The Eating London food tour lasts about 3.5 hours and is packed full of fascinating facts about Brick Lane and Spitalfields, hidden gems and visits to everywhere from a traditional English boozer to a Brick Lane curryhouse. Visit London went along to sample it for ourselves – and left with brain and belly delightfully full. Here are just five things we learned on the way…
1. St John does an amazing bacon sandwich
St John Bread & Wine knows a thing or two about meat – its founder is the pioneer of the ‘nose to tail’ food revolution after all. So it should be no surprise that its bacon sandwich is a real treat, and a great way to kick off the tour. Made using Gloucester Old Spot rashers, for once the delicious smoky bacon is the main event, not something to be smothered in ketchup!
2. How to spot a real bagel
While tucking into hot salt beef bagels at the Brick Lane Bagel Bar – juicy meat falling away, pickles sliding, mouths drooling – we learned how bagels are made the proper way. Unlike supermarket bagels which are steamed, real bagels are boiled before being baked. You can tell it’s not the real deal if it has the telltale grate marks on the underside.
3. You can get a cheese wedding cake at Androuet
French cheese shop and restaurant Androuet served up some delicious English cheeses for us to try, expertly paired with dried fruits and nuts. Our attention was also caught by the photos of giant cheese wedding cakes they supply for more savoury-toothed couples. Brie-lliant!
4. It pays to look up
Our Eating London guides constantly surprised us by pointing out street art, strange buildings or quirky signs we’d missed – despite having walked around the area countless times in the past. Many times a whole new world opened up just by looking above eye level.
5. You can still buy fish & chips served in newspaper
In the 1980s, the powers that be decided serving fish & chips in newspaper was unsafe as the ink could seep into the food. Poppies in Spitalfields has ingeniously got around this law by printing their newspaper with edible ink! It’s also just been voted Best Independent Fish and Chips Restaurant in the UK at the National Fish and Chip Awards – an award well earned, after tasting their wonderfully light cod, chunky chips and piping hot mushy peas. Well worth a look.
6. There’s always room for dessert
Filled with tasty drinks and snacks from some of East London’s finest restaurants, the tour ended at Pizza East with a slice of salted caramel chocolate tart. Sprinkled with almonds and sea salt, no-one could resist scoffing down the entire slice (despite all that had come before) accompanied by a cuppa and chatter. Well, we had been walking after all – it was well earned.