The past few years I've been on several two-day trips to London, England with my dad, but never with my mom. She'd been wanting to go back to London for quite some time and so in July the two of us hopped on the Eurostar to spend not two, but four days in the city of musicals.
I'd planned everything beforehand and mapped the sights we wanted to see out on a map so that I could check how we could most efficiently use the tube to get from one place to the other.
One of the activities I'd planned for us was an East End food tour with Eating Europe. I went on a food tour with them earlier this year in Rome and had such a good time that it was a must on our London program.
Our East End food tour
Eating Europe offers two food tours in London: one during the daytime in the East End and one in the evening in Soho. We took the East End food tour, which concentrated on the area around Old Spittalfields Market.
Our guide Olly awaited us by one of the market stands and after everyone in our group had introduced themselves, off we were.
Our first stop was at St. John Bread and Wine. This place is known for using animals from head to toe. They don't want to let anybody parts go to waste and so you can eat things there like pig's tongue. Now, it's not that I wouldn't have tried pig's tongue, but I have to admit that I was relieved to hear we'd have a typical English bacon sandwich. By the way, St. John Bread and Wine bakes its own bread and makes its own ketchup. What makes their ketchup so special? They add a bit of apple to it.
St. John Bread and Wine, 94-96 Commercial Street, E1 6LZ
Bread and butter pudding
After this hearty start, it was time for something sweet. The English Restaurant only serves British classics made with locally sourced and grown ingredients. The interior of this place is actually a collection of interior elements from other places like the nearby church, the Savoy Theater and so on. Don't worry: they've acquired all these things in a legal way!
We went to The English Restaurant for bread and butter pudding. Bread and butter pudding is also known as “poor man's pudding” as it originated in the 13th century as a way to “save” old bread. I'd never had it before and being the sweet tooth that I am, I suspected this would be my highlight of the tour. I know we haven't reached the end of this post yet, but let me already tell you that it really was. The pudding itself was delicious, but when I added the creamy sauce that came with it, it became irresistible.
The English Restaurant, 50-52 Brushfield Street, E1 6A
From very English food to very French food as we were suddenly standing in a cheese store! Mom and I started sniffing around almost immediately as we both love cheese. My parents regularly do “cheese platter nights”.
When I lived back home, those were the funnest dinner nights. It was the only time we would eat on the ground, at a low table in front of the television. The television would be on, but it served more as a background noise than as anything else as we would sit there for about two hours eating cheese and talking.
Really cool about The House of Androuet, the cheese place we visited, is that it's actually run by two French brothers. They know their cheeses!
The House of Androuet, 10a Lamb Street, Old Spitalfields Market, E1 6EA
Fish and Chips
After this continental intermezzo, it was time for the food that is probably most associated with England around the world: fish and chips. I'd had fish and chips before when I visited a friend in Cambridge and I'm not such a big fan. The fish and chips at Poppies did surprise me, though, as it came with mashed peas. I'd never had mashed peas before! I'd had mashed potatoes with peas, but nothing like this and I really liked it.
By the way, did you know that there's actually nothing British about fish and chips? The combination of fish and batter comes from Portugal while fries come from Belgium (duh!).
Fun fact: when the food crisis hit a couple of years ago, Poppies wasn't allowed to wrap their fish and chips in newspaper anymore as the authorities believed the ink of the newspaper could run out on the food and poison people (true story). But Poppies was creative, and so the owner had his own newspaper made with eatable ink! I kid you not.
Poppies Fish and Chips, 6-8 Hanburry Street, E1 6QR
Beer and cider
We flushed down our fish and chips with beer and cider at the Pride of Spittalfields (but I must note that we got water practically everywhere during the tour as well). The Pride of Spittalfields is an independently run pub. As it doesn't depend on any brewery, the prices here are still fairly low and when you walk in, you feel as if you've entered someone's living room. I didn't want to ruin this ambiance by taking photos, so you'll just have to go check it out for yourself!
Pride of Spitalfields, 3 Heneage Street, E1 5LJ
I know I said earlier that fish and chips is the best-known English dish around the world, but in London fish and chips is being pushed to a second place by… curries! London has more Indian restaurants than Mumbai or Delhi and a lot of them can be found on Brick Lane. What one was a rather dodgy and scrubby looking street is now the curry lover's paradise.
A lot of people will look at me funny now, but I'm not a big fan of “real” curries as I'm not that fond of spicy food. Luckily, we got to try out three different curry dishes during the tour: a mild one, a moderately spicy one, and a hot one. I could do mild and moderate, but apparently, I'm not made for hot stuff. Food-wise, of course.
Aladin, 132 Brick Lane, E1 6RU
A nice surprice
When we were walking from Aladin, where we had the curries, to our next stop, we came along a sign saying “free sorbet”. I immediately jumped up, but didn't dare to say anything. Luckily, someone else in our group had spotted it as well and he went: “FREE SORBET! Can we have some?”. Olly quickly asked the place if they had enough for 11 people and a few moments later we were all holding a sorbet. It was the perfect thing to cool our mouths after the curries we'd just had.
“The place” was actually a pop-up bar/clothes store where almost everything was black. Even the sorbet we got was black, but I can assure you it tasted great!
The feeling in my tongue returned just in time for a historic bite: a meat and pickle bagel from Beigel Bake, a Jewish place that makes authentic bagels, boiled in water. Olly told us that the owner of Beigel Bake runs two 24-hour shifts a week. Two! Just because he loves being in the store so much and because he feels that the most interesting people come in at night. I'm sure they do.
I have to admit this was the only thing we tried during the tour that both mom and I weren't a fan of. The bagel was so heavy and greasy! Everyone else seemed to love it, though.
Beigel Bake, 159 Brick Lane, E1 6SB
And for dessert…
Our last stop of the day was at a trendy pizza place. Was this where we were getting dessert? It was. Pizza East serves one mean salted caramel tart. Together with a nice cup of tea, it was the perfect way to end our tour.
Pizza East, 56 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6JJ
Our Eating London experience: it's in the stories
During our tour, we got to taste an ample selection of British foods, but that's not all this tour is about. What made it great for me was that between every dish, Olly took us around the East End and told us all about its history, the people who'd lived there and the buildings we saw. He had a story for every street and we gladly listened to them.
Now those of you who read about my Eating Europe food tour in Rome are probably wondering which tour I preferred. Well, I really don't know because I liked the Italian food better but felt that I got even more background information on the area during my London food tour. I guess it's a tie and you'll have to try both to compare for yourself!
Book your own London food tour
You can book your own London food tour directly on the Eating Europe website.
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My mom and I were invited on this tour by Eating Europe. As always, all opinions expressed are my own. Some of the link in this post are affiliate links. If you book anything through them, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting the site!